HARRIS v. BUREAU OF PAROLE CORRECTIONS et al
MEMORANDUM and ORDER Dismissing Case without Prejudice. Signed by Judge Peter G. Sheridan on 5/25/2017. (km)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
DISTRICT OF NEW JERSEY
GOLDA D. HARRIS,
Civil Action No. 16-0291 (PGS) (TJB)
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
BUREAU OF PAROLE CORRECTIONS,
This matter has come before the Court on a civil rights Complaint filed by Plaintiff Golda
D. Harris pursuant to 42 U.S.C.
§ 1983, asserting that Defendants violated her constitutional rights
when they denied her parole. Because Plaintiff is proceeding informa pauperis, the Court must
screen the Complaint to determine whether it should be dismissed as frivolous or malicious, for
failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or because it seeks monetary relief from
a defendant who is immune from suit. See 28 U.S.C.
§ 191 5(e)(2). For the reasons stated below,
the Complaint is dismissed.
In the Complaint, Plaintiff demands several forms of relief: (1) a jury trial and discovery;
(2) an order for immediate release to supervised parole; (3) a reduction of her sentence; and (4)
monetary damages. ECF No. 1 at 6. The Court is unsure on what ground Plaintiff asserts the first
relief, because there is no constitutional right to jury trials for parole hearings, and Plaintiff cites
to no state law requiring a jury trial for parole hearings.
With regard to the second and third relief, “when a state prisoner is challenging the very
fact or duration of his physical imprisonment, and the relief he seeks is a determination that he is
entitled to immediate release or a speedier release from that imprisonment, his sole federal remedy
is a writ of habeas corpus.” Preiser v. Rodriguez, 411 U.S. 475, 500 (1973). As such,
§ 1983 is
the inappropriate avenue to seek such relief.
With regard to the fourth relief, it is barred by Heck v. Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477 (1994).
As the Supreme Court explained:
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. A claim for damages bearing that relationship to a conviction or
sentence that has not been so invalidated is not cognizable under § 1983.
Id. at 486-87. In Wilkinson v. Dotson, the Supreme Court further clarified its Heck holding, finding
that “a state prisoner’s
§ 1983 action is barred (absent prior invalidation)—no matter the relief
sought (damages or equitable relief), no matter the target of the prisoner’s suit (state conduct
leading to conviction or internal prison proceedings)—if success in that action would necessarily
demonstrate the invalidity of confinement or its duration.” 544 U.S. 74, 8 1-82 (2005).
Here, Plaintiff challenges the denial of parole itself.
In order for the Court to grant
monetary relief, it must necessarily find that the denial of parole was invalid. As Heck and
Wilkinson hold, such relief is barred unless and until she can reverse the denial of parole through,
for example, an appeal to the state court. Indeed, based on the exhibits submitted by Plaintiff, she
was informed of her opportunity to appeal to the state appellate court, see ECF No. 1 at 20, but
there is no allegation that she availed herself to the appeal process, let alone that her denial of
parole was reversed on appeal. As such, the Court finds that the Complaint fails to state a claim
upon which relief may be granted, and is dismissed.
IT IS therefore on this
ORDERED that the Complaint, ECF No. 1. is hereby DISMISSED WITHOUT
PREJUDICE; and it is further
ORDERED that the Clerk shall serve a copy of this Order upon Plaintiff, and shall
CLOSE the file.
Peter G. Sheridan, U.S.D.J.
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