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Daniels v. Heiser

IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF ILLINOIS


May 24, 2010

LAWRENCE DANIELS, PLAINTIFF,
v.
PAUL J. HEISER, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Reagan, District Judge

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

Plaintiff Lawrence Daniels, an inmate in the Southeast Correctional Center in Charleston, Missouri, brings this action for alleged violations of his constitutional rights by persons acting under the color of federal authority. See Bivens v. Six Unknown Named Agents, 403 U.S. 388 (1971). 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 governmental entity.

(b) Grounds for Dismissal.-- On review, the court shall identify cognizable claims or dismiss the complaint, or any portion of the complaint, if the complaint--

(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). An action fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted if it does not plead "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 1974 (2007). Upon careful review of the complaint and any supporting exhibits, the Court finds it appropriate to exercise its authority under § 1915A; this action is subject to summary dismissal.

In his complaint, Daniels alleges that Defendant Paul J. Heiser, and agent with the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives, knowingly relied upon an unreliable informant. Daniels states that the informant, Yauncey Burrell, manufactured a drug deal while being monitored by Heiser, and that Heiser allowed Burrell to violate various provisions of Burrell's probation in order to manufacture this evidence. Based on these allegations, Daniels seeks $500,000 in damages from each defendant, as well as Heiser's termination from the Bureau.

What is missing from the complaint is any statement indicating how Daniels was affected by Heiser's actions. The Court can only assume, for purposes of this order, that Daniels was arrested, prosecuted, and convicted on some sort of drug charges following Burrell's drug buy.*fn1 Assuming that is Daniels's claim, this Court cannot provide him with relief.

[I]n order to recover damages for allegedly unconstitutional conviction or imprisonment, or for other harm caused by actions whose unlawfulness would render a conviction or sentence invalid, a § 1983 plaintiff must prove 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, 28 U.S.C. § 2254. A claim for damages bearing that relationship to a conviction or sentence that has not been so invalidated is not cognizable under § 1983. Thus, when a state prisoner seeks damages in a § 1983 suit, the district court must consider whether a judgment in favor of the plaintiff would necessarily imply the invalidity of his conviction or sentence; if it would, the complaint must be dismissed unless the plaintiff can demonstrate that the conviction or sentence has already been invalidated. But if the district court determines that the plaintiff's action, even if successful, will not demonstrate the invalidity of any outstanding criminal judgment against the plaintiff, the action should be allowed to proceed, in the absence of some other bar to the suit.

Heck v. Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477, 487-88 (1994). "We do not engraft an exhaustion requirement upon § 1983, but rather deny the existence of a cause of action. Even a prisoner who has fully exhausted available state remedies has no cause of action under § 1983 unless and until the conviction or sentence is reversed, expunged, invalidated, or impugned by the grant of a writ of habeas corpus." Id. at 488. Daniels may challenge the validity of his conviction in a habeas corpus action, but only after he has presented all of his claims through the appeals process in the appropriate courts.

In summary, the complaint does not survive review under § 1915A. Accordingly, this action is DISMISSED with prejudice. Daniels 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.

MICHAEL J. REAGAN United States District Judge


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