United States District Court, N.D. California
ORDER OF DISMISSAL
TIGAR, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
a state prisoner incarcerated at Correctional Training
Facility, commenced this action by filing a petition for writ
of habeas corpus. He asserts that prison officials violated
his due process rights when they denied him an overnight
spousal visitation. Dkt. No. 1-1 at 32-37. Petitioner's
request to proceed in forma pauperis is granted.
Dkt. No. 6. For the reasons set forth below, the Court
DISMISSES this action without prejudice to Petitioner filing
a civil rights action.
Court must dismiss Petitioner's case for lack of habeas
corpus jurisdiction because his claims do not affect the fact
or duration of his confinement. “‘Federal law
opens two main avenues to relief on complaints related to
imprisonment: a petition for habeas corpus, 28 U.S.C. §
2254, and a complaint under the Civil Rights Act of 1871,
Rev. Stat. § 1979, as amended, 42 U.S.C. § 1983.
Challenges to the validity of any confinement or to affecting
its duration are the province of habeas corpus . .
.'” Hill v. McDonough, 547 U.S. 574, 579
(2006) (quoting Muhammad v. Close, 540 U.S. 749, 750
(2004)). “An inmate's challenge to the
circumstances of his confinement, however, may be brought
under § 1983.” Id.
successful challenge to a prison condition will not
necessarily shorten the prisoner's sentence, a civil
rights action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 is proper and
habeas jurisdiction is absent. See Ramirez v.
Galaza, 334 F.3d 850, 859 (9th Cir. 2003). In addition,
the preferred practice in the Ninth Circuit has been that
challenges to conditions of confinement be brought in a civil
rights complaint. See Badea v. Cox, 931 F.2d 573,
574 (9th Cir. 1991) (civil rights action proper method of
challenging conditions of confinement); Crawford v.
Bell, 599 F.2d 890, 891-92 & n.1 (9th Cir. 1979)
(affirming dismissal of habeas petition because challenges to
terms and conditions of confinement must be brought as civil
action, Petitioner asserts that prison officials violated his
due process rights when they denied him an overnight spousal
visitation. The petition does not attempt to challenge either
the fact of his conviction or the length of his sentence.
Rather, his claims relate entirely to the conditions of his
confinement, and success in this action would not result in
his release from prison nor shorten his stay in prison.
district court may construe a habeas petition by a prisoner
attacking the conditions of his confinement as pleading civil
rights claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Wilwording v.
Swenson, 404 U.S. 249, 251 (1971), superseded by
statute on other grounds, Prison Litigation Reform Act
of 1995, Pub. L. No. 104-134, 110 Stat. 1321-71, as amended,
42 U.S.C. § 1997e et seq., as recognized in
Woodford v. Ngo, 548 U.S. 81, 84 (2006).
Nonetheless, the Court declines to do so here for the
following reasons. The difficulty with construing a habeas
petition as a civil rights complaint is that the two forms
used by most prisoners request different information and much
of the information necessary for a civil rights complaint is
not included in the habeas petition filed here. Examples of
the potential problems created by using the habeas petition
form rather than the civil rights complaint form include the
potential omission of intended defendants, potential failure
to link each defendant to the claims, and potential absence
of an adequate prayer for relief. A habeas action differs in
many ways from a civil rights action: (1) a habeas petitioner
has no right to a jury trial on his claims; (2) the Court may
be able to make credibility determinations based on the
written submissions of the parties in a habeas action; (3)
state court (rather than administrative) remedies must be
exhausted for the claims in a habeas action; (4) the proper
respondent in a habeas action is the warden in charge of the
prison, but he or she might not be able to provide the
desired relief when the prisoner is complaining about a
condition of confinement; and (5) damages cannot be awarded
in a habeas action. It is not in the interest of judicial
economy to allow prisoners to file civil rights actions on
habeas forms because virtually every case, including this
one, will be defective at the outset and require additional
court resources to deal with the concerns created by the
different filing fees and the absence of information
pertinent to civil rights claims on a habeas form.
reasons stated above, the Court DISMISSES Petitioner's
habeas action without prejudice to filing a civil rights
action under 42 U.S.C. §1983. Petitioner's request
to proceed in forma pauperis is GRANTED. Dkt. No. 6.
Petitioner chooses to pursue a civil rights action, he must
use the Court's civil rights complaint form. If he wishes
to proceed in forma pauperis rather than paying the
$350.00 filing fee, he must submit a completed in forma
pauperis application, a certificate of funds, and a copy
of his prisoner trust account statement.
Clerk of the Court shall send Petitioner a blank civil rights
form and the Court's prisoner in forma pauperis
application form along with his copy of this Order.