United States District Court, C.D. California, Western Division
ORDER TO SHOW CAUSE WHY PURPORTED CIVIL RIGHTS
COMPLAINT SHOULD NOT BE DISMISSED AS AN IMPROPERLY FILED
L. ABRAMS UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
March 27, 2018, Erik Shannon Brown (“Brown”)
filed a form “Civil Rights Complaint” pursuant to
42 U.S.C. § 1983 (“Complaint” or
“Compl.”) along with a “Request to Proceed
Without Prepayment of Filing Fees”
(“Request”). In the Complaint, Brown alleges that a
Santa Barbara County Superior Court Judge failed to
“act within the Constitutional Provisions set out in
the Safe Neighborhoods and Schools Act” of
California's Proposition 47 (“Prop 47”).
(Compl. at 5). Specifically, Brown contends that the judge
failed to reclassify each of Brown's eligible offenses
from a felony to a misdemeanor pursuant to Prop 47.
(Id.). He further states that he has learned that he
satisfies the relevant criteria for qualifying for Prop 47
relief, but that his felony convictions and enhancements
remain and the trial court “did not remedy, cure or
reclassify every Prop. 47 eligible offense even to this
day.” (Id.). Brown asserts that he is entitled
to have all of his eligible offenses reclassified and to then
“undergo a new sentencing, ” which would
eliminate every prison prior that enhanced his “prison
sentence of 8 years.” (Compl. at 6). He requests that
the Court declare this action “maintainable as a USC
§ 1983, ” and order defendant and all those acting
in concert with defendant to resentence him to the sentence
to which he believes he is entitled. (Id.). He also
requests “reasonable fees & cost of litigation,
this Suit and all other expenses related to this
reasons set forth below, Brown is ordered to show cause why
the Complaint should not be dismissed as an improperly
presented habeas petition.
HABEAS IS THE APPROPRIATE REMEDY
28 U.S.C. § 2254 empowers the Court to “entertain
an application for a writ of habeas corpus in behalf of a
person in custody pursuant to the judgment of a State court .
. . on the ground that he is in custody in violation of the
Constitution or laws or treaties of the United States.”
See 28 U.S.C. § 2254(a). Brown cannot challenge
an allegedly unlawful conviction or sentence in a federal
civil rights action. A petition for habeas corpus is a
prisoner's sole judicial remedy when attacking “the
validity of the fact or length of . . . confinement.”
Preiser v. Rodriguez, 411 U.S. 475, 489-90, 93 S.Ct.
1827, 36 L.Ed.2d 439 (1973); Nettles v. Grounds, 830
F.3d 922, 929 (9th Cir. 2016) (the Supreme Court has
“made clear that habeas is the exclusive vehicle for
claims brought by state prisoners that fall within the core
of habeas and that such claims may not be brought under
§ 1983”) (en banc), cert.
denied, 196 L.Ed.2d 542 (2017). Here, based on the
Court's review of the Complaint, it appears that Brown is
challenging the fact or duration of his sentence, and
not his conditions of confinement. Thus, his claims
are more appropriately raised in a habeas action and Brown
may not use a civil rights action to challenge the validity
of his conviction and sentence that allegedly resulted from
state sentencing error. Such relief only is available in a
habeas corpus action.
to the extent that Brown is seeking monetary damages for an
allegedly unlawful conviction and sentence, his claims are
not cognizable under § 1983 unless and until he can show
that “the conviction or sentence has been reversed on
direct appeal, expunged by executive order, declared invalid
by a state tribunal authorized to make such determination, or
called into question by a federal court's issuance of a
writ of habeas corpus.” Heck v. Humphrey, 512
U.S. 477, 486-87, 114 S.Ct. 2364, 129 L.Ed.2d 383 (1994).
Under Heck, if a judgment in favor of a plaintiff on
a civil rights action necessarily will imply the invalidity
of his or her conviction or sentence, the complaint must be
dismissed unless the plaintiff can demonstrate that the
conviction or sentence already has been invalidated.
Id. No such showing has been made here. Therefore,
Brown may not seek monetary damages for any alleged civil
rights violation if that civil rights violation
necessarily implicates the validity of his conviction.
Court also notes that prisoners filing civil rights actions,
unlike prisoners filing habeas actions, are liable for the
full amount of the $350 filing fee. See 28 U.S.C.
§ 1915(b)(1); Naddi v. Hill, 106 F.3d 275 (9th
Cir. 1997) (in forma pauperis provisions of section 1915, as
amended by the Prison Litigation Reform Act of 1995, do not
apply to habeas actions). In contrast, the filing fee for a
habeas petition is $5, which may be waived if the Court
grants a Request to Proceed In Forma Pauperis. 28 U.S.C.
on the foregoing, no later than April 30,
2018, Brown must submit to the Court his response
making clear his arguments, if any, as to why the Complaint
should not be dismissed as an improperly filed habeas
petition. All facts relied upon by Brown must be proved by
testimony contained in a declaration signed under penalty of
perjury pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1746, or in properly
if he chooses to proceed with a habeas action, Brown
shall, no later than April 30, 2018, file a Petition for Writ
of Habeas Corpus by a Person in State Custody
(“Petition”), as follows:
1. The Petition must utilize the form
petition that will accompany this Order.
2. The Petition must be completely filled out and must
clearly indicate whether Brown has exhausted his habeas
claim(s) in the state courts.
if Brown agrees that the action should be dismissed without
prejudice as an improperly filed habeas petition, or for any
other reason,  he may file a notice of voluntary
dismissal pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure
41(a)(1) (“Rule 41”). Rule 41 allows for the
voluntary dismissal of an action without prejudice and
without a court order before the opposing party serves either
an answer or a motion for summary judgment. Fed.R.Civ.P.
41(a)(1); Hamilton v. Shearson-Lehman Am. Express,
Inc., 813 F.2d 1532, 1534 (9th Cir. 1987). The opposing
party has not yet appeared in this action.
IS FURTHER ORDERED that if a response to the Order
to Show Cause, or alternatively a completed habeas Petition
or Notice of Dismissal is not received by April 30,
2018, the dismissal of the instant action will be
recommended for failure to state a claim pursuant to 42
U.S.C. § 1983, ...