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Duffy-Thompson v. Collier

United States District Court, S.D. Texas, Houston Division

June 19, 2018

BRYAN COLLIER, et al, Defendants.



         Plaintiff, a state prisoner proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis, filed this section 1983 lawsuit against six prison officials and employees. He seeks declaratory and injunctive relief for alleged violations of his constitutional rights regarding a disciplinary conviction.

         Having screened the complaint pursuant to section 1915 A, the Court DISMISSES this lawsuit for the reasons shown below.


         Plaintiff challenges a prison disciplinary conviction he received at the Pack Unit in December 2017. He claims that the disciplinary charge was false and brought in retaliation for class action lawsuits filed by other Pack Unit inmates. His administrative appeals of the disciplinary conviction were denied by prison grievance officials.

         Plaintiff states that the conviction was for an improper telephone communication. He contends that prison officials denied him due process by not listening to an audio recording of the subject telephone call, which he claims would have established his innocence. He further contends that his counsel substitute at the hearing was ineffective, and that grievance officials failed to set aside the false conviction during his administrative appeals.

         Plaintiff seeks a declaratory judgment finding that his constitutional rights were violated. He further seeks as injunctive relief an apology from prison officials for convicting him of a false and retaliatory disciplinary charge, an apology to his mother, and a revocation of the disciplinary conviction and punishments.

         II. ANALYSIS

         This Court is required to scrutinize the pleadings and dismiss the complaint in whole or in part if it is frivolous, malicious, fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or seeks monetary damages from a defendant who is immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915A(b), 1915(e)(2)(B).

         Under section 1915(e)(2)(B)(i), the Court may dismiss an in forma pauperis complaint as frivolous when it lacks an arguable basis in law or fact. Hutchins v. McDaniels, 512 F.3d 193, 195 (5th Cir. 2007). A complaint lacks an arguable basis in law if it is based on an indisputably meritless legal theory. Davis v. Scott, 157 F.3d 1003, 1005 (5th Cir. 1998).

         A. Heck Bar

         Plaintiff seeks declaratory and injunctive relief and asks for reversal of the purportedly unlawful disciplinary conviction. In Heck v. Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477, 486-87 (1994), the Supreme Court held that a claim that, in effect, attacks the constitutionality of a conviction or imprisonment is not cognizable under section 1983 and does not accrue until that 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." See also Reger v. Walker, 312 Fed.Appx. 624, 625 (5th Cir. 2009) (noting that claims asserted in a sectionl983 action, whether for damages, declaratory judgment, or injunctive relief, that would imply the invalidity of a conviction, are not cognizable).

         The Supreme Court has extended Heckto prison disciplinary proceedings, concluding that claims for declaratory or injunctive relief or for monetary damages that necessarily imply the invalidity of a disciplinary punishment are not cognizable in a section 1983 proceeding. Edwards v. Balisok, 520 U.S. 641, 646-48 (1997). Plaintiffs request to have this Court reconsider the basis and validity of the disciplinary charge and the actions of the officials involved with the disciplinary proceeding and resulting punishment, if successful, would "necessarily imply the invalidity of the punishment imposed." Edwards, 520 U.S. at 648. Thus, such claims are not cognizable in this case unless plaintiff has satisfied the conditions set by Heck. Plaintiffs pleadings show that his administrative challenges to the conviction were denied, and he does not state or show that the conviction has been successfully challenged through habeas proceedings. As a result, plaintiff does not meet the Heck requirements and his claims must be dismissed. See Heck, 512 U.S. at 487-88; see also McGrew v. Tex. Bd. Of Pardons and Paroles, 47 F.3d 158, 161 (5th Cir. 1995).

         Plaintiffs claims are DISMISSED WITH PREJUDICE to their being asserted again until the Heck conditions are met. See Johnson v. McElveen,101 F.3d 423, 424 (5th Cir. 1996). Alternatively, plaintiffs claims ...

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