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Alonzo-Villarreal v. Maye

United States District Court, Tenth Circuit

January 22, 2014

CLAUDE MAYE, et al., Defendants.


Sam A. Crow, U.S. Senior District Judge.

On May 8, 2013, the court entered an order in which it screened this pro se complaint, which was filed by a federal inmate seeking damages under the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA). Plaintiff was ordered to pay an initial partial filing fee as well as to cure deficiencies found in his original complaint. He has since paid the filing fee in full. Plaintiff has also submitted an Amended Complaint in response to the court’s screening order. Having screened the Amended Complaint[1] and reviewed all relevant materials in the file, the court finds that plaintiff has failed to cure significant deficiencies of which he was notified. The court concludes that this action must be dismissed for reasons that follow including that plaintiff’s claim for damages is barred by Heck v. Humphrey.

In its screening order, the court found that plaintiff had named improper defendants because the sole proper defendant in an FTCA complaint is the United States. In his Amended Complaint, plaintiff has added the United States as a defendant, but again improperly names Warden Maye and Disciplinary Hearing Officer Potts as defendants.

More importantly, plaintiff has made no attempt to show that his damages claim should not be dismissed under the rule announced in Heck v. Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477, 486-7 (1994). Under the Heck rule, an inmate may not pursue a damages claim alleging that due process violations occurred during a prison disciplinary proceeding in which good time credit was forfeited if granting relief would imply the invalidity of the resulting disciplinary conviction, unless he shows that the conviction in question has already been invalidated. See Edwards v. Balisok, 520 U.S. 641, 643, 646-48 (1997)(applying Heck to judgments in prison disciplinary proceedings); cf. Muhammad v. Close, 540 U.S. 749 (2004). Plaintiff has made no such showing. As the court found in its screening order, plaintiff’s allegations “necessarily implicate” the invalidity of the prison disciplinary action under challenge. Plaintiff has not shown that the challenged disciplinary action has been overturned. The court concludes that his damages claim is barred by Heck and Edwards. See Parris v. United States, 45 F.3d 383, 385 (10th Cir. 1995)(applying Heck to tort claims brought pursuant to FTCA).

Ordinarily, a federal inmate seeking to challenge a prison disciplinary proceeding in which he was sanctioned with a loss of good time must proceed by filing a petition for writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2241. However, from the outset plaintiff has expressly pursued a money damages claim rather than expungement of his disciplinary record or restoration of his good time.[2]Plaintiff’s exhibits indicate that the only relief he sought in his administrative grievances was damages as well. He even argued that expunging his record would not provide satisfactory relief.[3] He continued to pursue damages only when he filed an administrative tort claim for in excess of $50, 000 with the Bureau of Prisons. He then intentionally brought his original complaint under the FTCA and sought no relief other than money damages. The request for relief in his Amended FTCA Complaint likewise seeks nothing other than money damages. Thus, even if the complaint could somehow be construed as a habeas corpus challenge to his disciplinary conviction, it would likely be dismissed for failure to exhaust administrative remedies.

Finally, the court notes that plaintiff has not alleged facts suggesting that he suffered any physical injury as a result of the disciplinary action he challenges. 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(e) provides, in pertinent part:

No Federal civil action may be brought by a prisoner confined in a jail, prison, or other correctional facility, for mental or emotional injury suffered while in custody without a prior showing of physical injury or the commission of a sexual act . . . .

42 U.S.C. § 1997e(e). It follows that plaintiff’s claim for compensatory damages based on alleged injury to his liberty interest and defamation is barred by § 1997e(e).

For the foregoing reasons, the court dismisses this action without prejudice for failure to state a claim. This dismissal counts as a strike against Mr. Alonzo-Villareal for purposes of 28 U.S.C. § 1915(g).[4]

IT IS THEREFORE ORDERED that plaintiff’s Motion for Leave to Proceed without Prepayment of Fees (Doc. 2) is granted.

IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that this action is dismissed, without prejudice, as premature and barred under Heck and for failure to ...

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