United States District Court, S.D. Illinois
August 3, 2005.
MIKE PRINCE, Plaintiff,
TODD SHEFFLER, et al., Defendants.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: JAMES FOREMAN, District Judge
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
Plaintiff, currently an inmate in the Dixon Correctional
Center, brings this action for deprivations of his constitutional
rights pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983.*fn1 This case is now
before the Court for a preliminary review of the complaint
pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A, which provides:
(a) Screening. The court shall review, before
docketing, if feasible or, in any event, as soon as
practicable after docketing, a complaint in a civil
action in which a prisoner seeks redress from a
governmental entity or officer or employee of a
(b) Grounds for Dismissal. On review, the court
shall identify cognizable claims or dismiss the
complaint, or any portion of the complaint, if the
(1) is frivolous, malicious, or fails to state a
claim on which relief may be granted; or
(2) seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is
immune from such relief.
28 U.S.C. § 1915A. An action or claim is frivolous if "it lacks
an arguable basis either in law or in fact." Neitzke v.
Williams, 490 U.S. 319
, 325 (1989). Upon careful review of the
complaint and any supporting exhibits, the Court finds it
appropriate to exercise its authority under § 1915A; this action is legally frivolous and thus subject to summary dismissal.
Plaintiff states that in January 2004, while he was in the Big
Muddy River Correctional Center, Defendants Sheffler and Tate
performed a shake-down of his cell. Several items were
confiscated, including several pieces of reading material that
Plaintiff claims were religious materials approved for his
possession. Apparently Sheffler disagreed and, based on the
content of some of the material, he issued Plaintiff a
disciplinary ticket for several charges, including security
threat group ("STG") activity. Defendants Gooch and Frower
approved the ticket, and Frower then took Plaintiff to
segregation. At the hearing, Defendants Chapman and Adams found
him guilty on four of the charges, including the STG activity.
During the hearing, Defendant Kuder testified that the materials
in question were on the list of STG materials; Plaintiff claims
that Lt. Kuder failed to check his specific materials against the
list. Chapman and Adams recommended punishment of one year across
the board, to which Defendant Lambert concurred. Plaintiff then
filed a grievance, which Defendant Cravens recommended be denied;
Defendant Walker concurred.
The instant case is a challenge to disciplinary proceedings
that resulted in the loss of good time credit as well as time in
disciplinary segregation and other sanctions.
When a state official violates the Constitution in
his treatment of a state prisoner, his illegal
conduct can, at least in theory, give rise to claims
for monetary or declaratory relief under § 1983 and
to claims for habeas corpus relief under § 2254.
Although these statutes provide distinct avenues for
relief, claims brought under § 1983 are not always
independent of claims that have been brought or could
be brought under § 2254. Proving official misconduct
for the purposes of § 1983 can often but not always
involve the same factual issues that would be
relevant in a potential claim under § 2254. This
intersection between claims under §§ 1983 and 2254
can sometimes implicate the fundamental principles
controlling federal jurisdiction generally, and
habeas corpus jurisdiction in particular. According
to these principles, the federal courts will not hear
a state prisoner's § 2254 claims against a state
official until the courts of that state have had the
opportunity to identify and remedy any official
misconduct. These principles of deference and
reticence that guide the federal courts similarly
prevent the district courts from considering any
issues that could be cognizable in a § 2254 claim until the
state prisoner has exhausted his state court
remedies. If claims under statutes besides § 2254
could be used as instruments to decide issues that
would be cognizable in a potential § 2254 action, the
pursuit of such claims could promote the evasion of
the exhaustion requirement for § 2254. Consequently,
a prisoner cannot bring a § 1983 claim that involves
issues cognizable in habeas corpus until he complies
with the procedural prerequisites for relief under §
2254. A decision on a § 1983 claim brought in this
posture would create situations in which a federal
court would make an initial, and perhaps a
preclusive, ruling on an issue that should first be
addressed by state courts.
But this limitation applies only if the preclusive
effect of a § 1983 judgment is certain. If resolution
of the issue in federal court would not necessarily
undermine the state court's ability to make an
independent determination of issues cognizable in
habeas corpus, then that issue is cognizable under §
1983, regardless of whether a state court has ruled
on that issue.
Clayton-EL v. Fisher, 96 F.3d 236, 242 (7th Cir. 1996),
citing Heck v. Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477, 487 n. 7 (1994);
Simpson v. Rowan, 73 F.3d 134, 136 (7th Cir. 1995), cert.
denied, 519 U.S. 833 (1996); Viens v. Daniels, 871 F.2d 1328
1333-34 (7th Cir. 1989).
This determination [of which claims are cognizable
strictly under § 1983 and which raise issues
cognizable in habeas corpus] depends upon identifying
the injuries involved in each of [plaintiff's]
claims. As the Supreme Court has recently indicated,
the injury alleged in a claim and not the relief
sought in the claim determines whether a claim
implicates issues cognizable in habeas corpus. . . .
If the proof of any of those injuries involves the
proof of a fact that would also be essential to a
habeas corpus action, then the claim that depends
upon proof of that injury implicates habeas corpus.
Clayton-EL, 96 F.3d at 242 (citations omitted). See generally
Wilkinson v. Dotson, ___ U.S. ___, 125 S.Ct. 1242
In the instant case Plaintiff is challenging the validity of
the charges. He claims that the materials in question were
approved religious materials, not evidence of gang activity, and
that confiscating those materials and punishing him for their
possession is a violation of his rights under the First
Amendment. Proof of such a claim could invalidate the
disciplinary proceeding, which in turn would invalidate
Plaintiff's punishment of the revocation of one year of good time
credit. The proper method for challenging the revocation of good time credit
is habeas corpus, but only after Plaintiff has exhausted his
remedies through the Illinois state courts. See, e.g., Heck,
512 U.S. at 480-81. The Illinois courts have recognized mandamus
as an appropriate remedy to compel prison officials to award
sentence credit to a prisoner. Taylor v. Franzen,
93 Ill.App.3d 758, 417 N.E.2d 242, 247, aff'd on reh'g, 420 N.E.2d 1203
(Ill.App. 1981). See also United States ex rel. Isaac v.
Franzen, 531 F. Supp. 1086, 1091-94 (N.D. Ill. 1982). The State
of Illinois must first be afforded an opportunity, in a mandamus
action pursuant to 735 ILCS 5/14-101 et seq. to consider the
merits of Plaintiff's claim. Plaintiff must exhaust his state
court remedies before bringing his claims to federal court.
In summary, Plaintiff's complaint does not survive review under
§ 1915A. Accordingly, this action is DISMISSED without
prejudice to bringing his claims in habeas corpus, but only after
he has fully exhausted his state court remedies. Plaintiff is
advised that the dismissal of this action will count as one of
his three allotted "strikes" under the provisions of
28 U.S.C. § 1915(g).
IT IS SO ORDERED.