United States District Court, E.D. California
June 4, 2014
ARTURO FRANCO PALOMAR, JR., Plaintiff,
F. FOULK, et al., Defendants.
DALE A. DROZD, Magistrate Judge.
Plaintiff is a state prisoner proceeding pro se. Plaintiff seeks relief pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and has requested leave to proceed in forma pauperis pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915. This proceeding was referred to this court by Local Rule 302 pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1). Plaintiff has consented to Magistrate Judge jurisdiction over this action pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c). (See ECF No. 4.)
I. In Forma Pauperis Application
Plaintiff has submitted a declaration that makes the showing required by 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a). Accordingly, the request to proceed in forma pauperis will be granted.
Plaintiff is required to pay the statutory filing fee of $350.00 for this action. 28 U.S.C. §§ 1914(a), 1915(b)(1). By this order, plaintiff will be assessed an initial partial filing fee in accordance with the provisions of 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b)(1). By separate order, the court will direct the appropriate agency to collect the initial partial filing fee from plaintiff's trust account and forward it to the Clerk of the Court. Thereafter, plaintiff will be obligated for monthly payments of twenty percent of the preceding month's income credited to plaintiff's prison trust account. These payments will be forwarded by the appropriate agency to the Clerk of the Court each time the amount in plaintiff's account exceeds $10.00, until the filing fee is paid in full. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b)(2).
II. Screening Requirement
The court is required to screen complaints brought by prisoners seeking relief against a governmental entity or officer or employee of a governmental entity. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a). The court must dismiss a complaint or portion thereof if the prisoner has raised claims that are legally "frivolous or malicious, " that fail to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or that seek monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b)(1), (2).
A claim is legally frivolous when it lacks an arguable basis either in law or in fact. Neitzke v. Williams , 490 U.S. 319, 325 (1989); Franklin v. Murphy , 745 F.2d 1221, 1227-28 (9th Cir. 1984). The court may, therefore, dismiss a claim as frivolous where it is based on an indisputably meritless legal theory or where the factual contentions are clearly baseless. Neitzke , 490 U.S. at 327. The critical inquiry is whether a constitutional claim, however inartfully pleaded, has an arguable legal and factual basis. See Jackson v. Arizona , 885 F.2d 639, 640 (9th Cir. 1989); Franklin , 745 F.2d at 1227.
Rule 8(a)(2) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure "requires only a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief, ' in order to give the defendant fair notice of what the... claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.'" Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly , 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (quoting Conley v. Gibson , 355 U.S. 41, 47 (1957)). However, in order to survive dismissal for failure to state a claim a complaint must contain more than "a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action;" it must contain factual allegations sufficient "to raise a right to relief above the speculative level." Bell Atlantic , 550 U.S. at 555. In reviewing a complaint under this standard, the court must accept as true the allegations of the complaint. See Hospital Bldg. Co. v. Rex Hosp. Trustees , 425 U.S. 738, 740 (1976). The court must also construe the pleading in the light most favorable to the plaintiff and resolve all doubts in the plaintiff's favor. See Jenkins v. McKeithen , 395 U.S. 411, 421 (1969).
III. Plaintiff's Complaint
Plaintiff contends that on July 10, 2013, he received a prison rules violation report (CDC 115) for participating in a mass hunger strike. Plaintiff disputes the validity of the rules violation and contends that he was never given an order to "eat chow" and that the facility never attempted to feed inmates during the period of time at issue. (ECF No. 1 at 3.) Following a hearing on the rules violation, plaintiff was found guilty of the disciplinary offense and was assessed a ninety days loss of time credit. ( Id. at 19.) In this action plaintiff seeks relief in the form of the restoration of his time credits and the issuance of a reprimanded to prison officials for their abuse of authority.
IV. Heck Bar
A civil rights action is the proper mechanism for a prisoner seeking to challenge the conditions of his confinement. Badea v. Cox , 931 F.2d 573, 574 (9th Cir.1991). In contrast, habeas corpus proceedings are the proper mechanism for a prisoner seeking to challenge the fact or duration of his confinement. Preiser v. Rodriguez , 411 U.S. 475, 484 (1973). Here, plaintiff is seeking to overturn a prison disciplinary conviction, which resulted in his forfeiture of 90 days of time credits. Plaintiff's success in this action would necessarily call into question the validity of his prison disciplinary proceeding and implicate the duration of his confinement. Accordingly, a writ of habeas corpus is plaintiff's sole remedy in federal court which may be pursued only after exhausting all of his constitutional claims in state court. See, e.g., Wilkinson v. Dotson , 544 U.S. 74, 81-82 (2005) ("a state prisoner's § 1983 action is barred (absent prior invalidation) - no matter the relief sought (damages or equitable relief), no matter the target of the prisoner's suit (state conduct leading to conviction or internal prison proceedings) - if success in that action would necessarily demonstrate the invalidity of confinement or its duration.") (emphasis in original); Edwards v. Balisok , 520 U.S. 641, 648 (1997) (dismissing a § 1983 action for declaratory relief and money damages because successful challenge to procedures used in disciplinary hearing would necessarily imply the invalidity of the punishment imposed); Heck v. Humphrey , 512 U.S. 477, 486-87 (1994) (a state prisoner may not recover damages under § 1983 for allegedly unconstitutional imprisonment, or for any other harm caused by "actions whose unlawfulness would render the imprisonment invalid, " unless he can prove that the conviction or other basis for confinement has been reversed on direct appeal, expunged by executive order, declared invalid by a state tribunal authorized to make such a determination, or called into question by a federal court's issuance of a writ of habeas corpus).
Therefore, this civil rights action will be dismissed without prejudice. Of course, plaintiff may elect to file a federal habeas petition attacking his disciplinary conviction after he has exhausted his constitutional claims by presenting them to the highest state court.
In accordance with the above, IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that:
1. Plaintiff's January 6, 2014 request for leave to proceed in forma pauperis (ECF No. 2) is granted;
2. Plaintiff is obligated to pay the statutory filing fee of $350.00 for this action. Plaintiff is assessed an initial partial filing fee in accordance with the provisions of 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b)(1). All fees shall be collected and paid in accordance with this court's order to the Director of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation filed concurrently herewith; and
3. This action is dismissed without prejudice as barred by Heck v. Humphrey , 512 U.S. 477, 486-87 (1994) and Edwards v. Balisok , 520 U.S. 641, 648 (1997).