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Curtis v. Kelley

United States District Court, E.D. Arkansas, Little Rock Division

March 2, 2016

DEMETRIUS CURTIS, Plaintiff,
v.
WENDY KELLEY, et al., Defendants.

PROPOSED FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS

JERRY W. CAVANEAU, Magistrate Judge.

INSTRUCTIONS

The following recommended disposition has been sent to United States District Judge D.P. Marshall Jr. Any party may serve and file written objections to this recommendation. Objections should be specific and should include the factual or legal basis for the objection. Your objections must be received in the office of the United States District Court Clerk no later than fourteen (14) days from the date of the findings and recommendations.

DISPOSITION

Defendants have filed their second motion to dismiss (Doc. #22), along with a brief in support (Doc. #23). Plaintiff has responded (Docs. #25 & 26). FED.R.CIV.P. 8(a)(2) requires only "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." The issue here is whether Plaintiff has stated a claim for a constitutional violation arising from the failure to credit him with meritorious good time. For the reasons stated below, the motion to dismiss should be granted.

ANALYSIS

Plaintiff brings this suit alleging that his parole was wrongfully revoked and that he should be compensated for serving some eighteen months in the Arkansas Department of Correction following that revocation. Plaintiff does not allege a violation of procedural due process or that he was innocent of the misconduct which led to his revocation. His entire argument is that he was unconstitutionally denied meritorious good time credit for his time on parole, and that had he been given that credit, his sentence would have been fully served before the date of his revocation. Thus, he argues, the parole board was without jurisdiction.

Plaintiff's claim fails as a matter of law because it is barred by Heck v. Humphrey, U.S. 477, 114 S.Ct. 2364, 129 L.Ed.2d 383 (1994), and also because he has no constitutionally protected liberty interest in being credited meritorious good time. Either ground would require dismissal of this action, but because this is a recommended decision, I will discuss both.

Heck v. Humphrey

Defendants say Plaintiff's claim is barred by Heck v. Humphrey, U.S. 477, 114 S.Ct. 2364, 129 L.Ed.2d 383 (1994), because a finding in favor of Plaintiff would imply the invalidity of his imprisonment after revocation and the requirements of Heck have not been met. Plaintiff argues that Heck does not bar his claim because he is not challenging his conviction or sentence. That argument fails because the case is not to be so narrowly construed. The Heck Court said:

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 § 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. (Emphasis added) Heck, 512 U.S. at 486-87, 114 S.Ct. 2364

In Edwards v. Balisok, 520 U.S. 641, 117 S.Ct.1584, 137 L.Ed.2d 906 (1997), the Court extended Heck to bar a § 1983 claim brought by a state prisoner challenging the validity of the procedures used to deprive him of good time credits while incarcerated. There, as here, the plaintiff was not challenging his original conviction or sentence.

The Eighth Circuit recently applied Heck to bar a claim that parole was wrongfully revoked. Newmy v. Johnson, 758 F.3d 1008, 1009 (8th Cir.) cert. denied, 135 S.Ct. 774, 190 L.Ed.2d 627 (2014). Plaintiff Newmy sued his parole officer, alleging the officer had falsely stated that Plaintiff failed to report as required. Newmy alleged that because of the false report, his parole was revoked and he was required to serve an additional three to five months detention. The Court was mainly concerned with the question whether Heck should apply where a prisoner's alleged unconstitutional imprisonment was so short that habeas relief was, as a practical matter, unavailable, but the case does establish that the bar does apply in a situation like that here, where the prisoner is seeking damages in a § 1983 case for imprisonment following parole revocation. The Newmy Court held to the position that Heck applies to bar a § 1983 action, even if the period of imprisonment was so short as to render habeas or other post revocation relief impossible. I share Judge Kelly's concerns regarding this result, as stated in his concurring opinion, Newmy, at 1012, but the law in the Eighth Circuit is clear. Plaintiff here would be barred in any event, as he filed three habeas petitions, all of which were dismissed for failure to exhaust his state remedies.[1] He had the opportunity to seek habeas relief, but failed to follow proper procedure in not properly exhausting his state remedies before seeking relief in this Court.

Plaintiff is challenging his imprisonment following parole revocation, and a finding in his favor would necessarily imply the invalidity of that revocation and his additional imprisonment. Plaintiff cannot establish that the revocation has been reversed, expunged, declared invalid by a state tribunal or called into ...


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