October 27, 2016
from the United States District Court for the Central
District of Illinois. No. 3:13-cv-03192 - Richard Mills,
Wood, Chief Judge, and Bauer and Manion, Circuit Judges.
Whitfield spent nearly 17 years in the custody of the
Illinois Department of Corrections. He contends that he would
have been released earlier had it not been for the
retaliatory revocation of good-time credits; he lost those
credits in three prison disciplinary proceedings. Whitfield
filed a 42 U.S.C. § 1983 suit after his release in 2011,
alleging that his constitutional rights were violated by his
improperly postponed release. The district court granted
summary judgment for the defendants, reasoning that
Whitfield's claims were barred by Heck v.
Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477 (1994), Edwards v.
Balisok, 520 U.S. 641 (1997), and Burd v.
Sessler, 702 F.3d 429 (7th Cir. 2012). We conclude, to
the contrary, that those cases do not bar his action, and so
we reverse and remand for further proceedings.
three prison disciplinary proceedings against Whitfield at
issue here took place in 2002, 2003, and 2007. Combined, they
resulted in the revocation of a total of 16 months of
good-conduct credit Whitfield had earned. While incarcerated,
Whitfield diligently filed administrative grievances
regarding all three disciplinary reports and actions; the
Administrative Review Board denied each one. In January 2003
and June 2004, Whitfield also filed separate section 1983
actions challenging the 2002 and 2003 disciplinary
proceedings, each of which included a claim of retaliation in
violation of the First Amendment. The district courts
dismissed the First Amendment retaliation claims in both of
those actions as barred by Heck. Such a dismissal is
without prejudice. See Moore v. Burge, 771 F.3d 444,
446 (7th Cir. 2014) (if barred by Heck, plaintiff
sued too early, not too late, because statute of limitations
does not begin to run until Heck bar lifted);
Polzin v. Gage, 636 F.3d 834, 839 (7th Cir. 2011)
("If the district court decides that dismissal on the
Heck doctrine alone is appropriate, it should
dismiss that part of [plaintiff's] complaint without
also embarked on a spirited, if procedurally flawed, effort
to vindicate his rights in state court. In March 2004, he
filed a complaint for mandamus relief in the Livingston
County (Illinois) circuit court alleging due process
violations in the 2003 disciplinary proceeding. The circuit
court denied the claim and held that Whitfield had received
whatever process was due. He appealed that denial, but the
state appellate court affirmed. Whitfield did not petition
for leave to appeal that decision to the Illinois Supreme
August 2009 Whitfield attempted to challenge all three
revocations of his good-conduct credit through a state-law
petition for habeas corpus filed in the Randolph County
circuit court. The circuit court dismissed the complaint
without prejudice, because under Illinois law it failed to
state a cognizable theory. Whitfield moved for
reconsideration and argued that the court should
recharacterize his complaint as one seeking mandamus, but the
court refused to do so. Whitfield appealed, but he failed to
include a copy of the record (because he did not have one).
Claiming indigence, he requested a free record on appeal, but
the court denied his motion because state law conferred no
right to a free record in a civil action. He moved for and
was granted two extensions of time to file the record.
Although he still did not have the official record, he sought
leave to file his personal documents as the record. The court
rejected that motion and dismissed the appeal in June 2010
for want of prosecution (meaning only for lack of a record).
Whitfield petitioned the Illinois Supreme Court for leave to
appeal, but it denied his petition in September 2010.
March 2, 2011, Whitfield filed a federal petition for habeas
corpus, in which he again tried to challenge the three
disciplinary actions. The state argued that Whitfield's
petition would be rendered moot in July 2011, when he was
scheduled for release, and that Whitfield had failed to
exhaust his state remedies. The district court dismissed the
action as moot on July 25, 2011, because by that time
Whitfield was no longer in custody.
string of failures did not stop Whitfield, who filed the
present section 1983 action just short of two years later, on
July 8, 2013. Upon a preliminary review pursuant to 28 U.S.C.
§ 1915(e), the district court found that Whitfield
stated claims against the adjustment committee members for
due process violations and for retaliation in violation of
the First Amendment. Nonetheless, it granted summary judgment
for the defendants on the basis that Whitfield's suit was
barred by Heck and Balisok, as interpreted
in Bur A v. Sessler. The latter case requires a
plaintiff to pursue timely collateral relief while in
custody, and the district court concluded that Whitfield had
not done so. Whitfield moved for reconsideration twice; the
district court denied both requests. This appeal followed.
to a procedural hiccup surrounding Whitfield's motions
for reconsideration and notices of appeal, the state begins
with a challenge to our appellate jurisdiction. That argument
takes precedence, and so we address it first.
district court issued its order granting summary judgment for
the defendants on January 7, 2015. Relying on Federal Rule of
Civil Procedure 59, Whitfield filed a timely motion for
reconsideration of that order on January 21, 2015; the
district court denied that motion on June 5, 2015.
Complicating matters, Whitfield filed a second motion for
reconsideration that purported to rely on both Rule 59 and
Rule 60(b) on June 29, 2015. The district court denied that
motion on July 8, 2015, and properly advised Whitfield that
the June 29 motion had not reset the clock on his time to
appeal from the January 7 order. Whitfield first responded
with a notice of appeal limited to the July 8 order; he filed
that notice on ...