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Sandoval v. Director of The Illinois Department of Corrections

United States District Court, Seventh Circuit

January 13, 2014

JOEL SANDOVAL, JR., No. R30538, Plaintiff,


MICHAEL J. REAGAN, District Judge.

Plaintiff Joel Sandoval, Jr., an inmate in Lawrence Correctional Center, brings this action for deprivations of his constitutional rights pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, seeking monetary damages for days not properly credited in the calculation of his sentence and its execution.

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.


According to the complaint, Plaintiff was sentenced in 2004 on five felony DUI offense, but his pretrial time in the Cook County Jail was not properly credited by the Cook County circuit judge when Plaintiff was sentenced, improperly lengthening his sentence. Similarly, when Plaintiff was sentenced in 2007 for attempted murder, he was denied proper credit for time served. The complaint indicates Plaintiff was resentenced in 2010, receiving credit for some, but not all, of the time previously not credited, still, his sentence was still three months too long. The complaint lists all relevant case numbers, but does not describe the sentences imposed or the status of Plaintiff's sentences, or which sentence was recalculated.

Plaintiff has sued the two Cook County circuit judges who sentenced him, William G. Lacy and Dennis Derbach, but he does not indicate which judge was assigned to which case. The director of the Illinois Department of Corrections is also named as a defendant, for allegedly failing to correct the erroneous sentences, instead holding Plaintiff pursuant to the erroneous judgments.

Putting aside the sketchiness of the complaint, questions of immunity, apparent statute of limitations issues and whether Plaintiff has properly exhausted administrative remedies before filing this Section 1983 action, as drafted the complaint is fatally flawed.

In Preiser v. Rodriguez, 411 U.S. 475 (1973), the Supreme Court held that habeas corpus (28 U.S.C. § 2254) is the exclusive remedy for a state prisoner who challenges the fact or duration of his confinement and seeks immediate or speedier release. See also Heck v. Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477, 481 (1994). The Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit has further explained, "[s]tate prisoners who want to challenge their convictions, their sentences, or administrative orders revoking good-time credits or equivalent sentence-shortening devices, must seek habeas corpus, because they contest the fact or duration of custody." Moran v. Sondalle, 218 F.3d 647, 650-51 (7th Cir. 2000) (emphasis added).

Although Plaintiff Sandoval claims that Circuit Court Judges William G. Lacy and Dennis Dernbach failed to correctly sentence him, and the Director of the Illinois Department of Corrections failed to remedy the error, Sandoval does not seek immediate or speedier release. Rather, Sandoval requests monetary damages "for 3 months of illegal detention" and the resulting stress and impact upon his family life (Doc. 1, p. 6), which are not available through federal habeas corpus proceedings. Preiser, 411 U.S. at 488. Nevertheless, in Heck the Supreme Court stated:

We hold that, in 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 [Section] 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. [Section] 2254. A claim for damages bearing that relationship to a conviction or sentence that has not been so invalidated is not cognizable under [Section] 1983. Thus, when a state prisoner seeks damages in a [Section] 1983 suit, the district court must consider whether a judgment in favor of the plaintiff would ...

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