Murray v. Battles et al
MEMORANDUM OPINION regarding plaintiff's civil rights lawsuit. Signed by Judge Thad Heartfield on 3/5/2012. (bjc)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE EASTERN DISTRICT OF TEXAS
S. BATTLES, ET AL
CIVIL ACTION NO. 1:09cv133
Plaintiff Greg Murray, an inmate confined within the Bureau of
Prisons, proceeding pro se, brings this Bivens-type1 civil rights
lawsuit against Jody R. Upton and J. Richardson.
Plaintiff alleges that on June 26, 2007, he was charged with
a prison disciplinary offense.
During the initial stages of the
disciplinary process, plaintiff spoke with defendant S. Battles, a
He states that during their informal discussion, he
Discipline Committee (“UDC”), but did not waive his right to a
staff representative or to call witnesses in his own defense.
Plaintiff states he signed the upper portion of the applicable form
and was told by defendant Bates that he needed to sign the bottom
of the document as well.
He states that during their discussion,
defendant Bates specifically told him that the waiver only applied
to UDC proceedings.
Plaintiff alleges that after the discussion
concluded, defendant Battles wrote on the form that plaintiff also
waived proceedings before the Disciplinary Hearing Officer (“DHO”)
See Bivens v. Six Unknown Agents of the Bureau of Narcotics and
Dangerous Drugs, 403 U.S. 388 (1971).
and filled out additional forms stating plaintiff did not want to
call any witnesses to testify on his behalf and did not wish to
have a staff representative assist him.
Plaintiff states that at a hearing he did not attend, the DHO
punishment, including the forfeiture of previously earned good
conduct time credits. He states that administrative appeals he
filed complaining about the proceedings were all denied.
Standard of Review
An in forma pauperis proceeding shall be dismissed pursuant to
28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B) if it:
(1) is frivolous or malicious;
(2) fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted or (3)
seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such
A complaint, containing as it does both factual allegations
and legal conclusions, is frivolous where it lacks an arguable
basis either in law or fact.
Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319,
325 (1989); Geiger v. Jowers, 404 F.3d 371, 373 (5th Cir. 2005);
McCormick v. Stadler, 105 F.3d 1059, 1061 (5th Cir. 1997).
complaint lacks an arguable basis in law if it is based on an
indisputably meritless legal theory. See Siglar v. Hightower, 112
F.3d 191, 193 (5th Cir. 1997). A complaint lacks an arguable basis
in fact if, after providing the plaintiff with the opportunity to
present additional facts when necessary, the facts alleged therein
are clearly baseless or fanciful.
25, 32 (1992).
Denton v. Hernandez, 504 U.S.
A complaint fails to state a claim upon which relief may be
granted if the factual allegations are not sufficient to raise a
right to relief above the speculative level.
Bell Atlantic Corp.
v. Twombly, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 1965 (2007). Dismissal for failure to
state a claim is appropriate when the plaintiff has failed to plead
"enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its
fact." Id., 127 S.Ct. at 1974. Plaintiffs must state enough facts
to "nudge their claims across the line from conceivable to
In considering whether to dismiss a complaint for failing to
state a claim upon which relief may be granted, all factual
allegations in the complaint must be taken as true and construed
favorably to the plaintiff.
Fernandez-Montez v. Allied Pilots
conclusory allegations will not suffice to prevent dismissal for
failure to state a claim.
As relief in this matter, plaintiff seeks monetary damages.
As a result, for the reasons set forth below, plaintiff's claim
must be dismissed.
In order to recover damages for allegedly unconstitutional
actions whose unlawfulness would render the duration of a person's
imprisonment invalid, a plaintiff must prove that the imprisonment
or its duration has been reversed on appeal, expunged by executive
order, or called into question by a federal court's issuance of a
writ of habeas corpus.
Heck v. Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477, 486-87.2
A claim for damages based on an imprisonment that has not been so
invalidated does not state a cause of action.
The principle that
civil tort actions are not appropriate vehicles for challenging
actions relating to the validity of confinement applies to lawsuits
that necessarily require the plaintiff to prove facts which would
imply the unlawfulness of the duration of his confinement. Id. at
As a result, when a prisoner seeks damages in a civil rights
lawsuit, the court must consider whether a judgment in favor of the
plaintiff would necessarily imply the invalidity of the duration of
a plaintiff's confinement.
If it would, the complaint must be
dismissed unless the plaintiff can demonstrate that a proceeding
relating to the duration of his confinement has already been
If, however, the court determines that the
plaintiff's action, even if successful, would not demonstrate the
invalidity of the duration of plaintiff's confinement, the action
should be allowed to proceed, in the absence of any other bar to
In this lawsuit, plaintiff asserts he was denied due process
of law in connection with the disciplinary proceeding described in
A finding in plaintiff's favor would imply that
Heck involved a lawsuit filed pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 in which a
finding in the plaintiff's favor would have implied that a state criminal
conviction was invalid. However, the principles established in Heck also apply
to lawsuits filed pursuant to Bivens and to lawsuits in which a finding in the
plaintiff's favor would imply that a prison disciplinary conviction was
invalid. See Stephenson v. Reno, 28 F.3d 26, 27 (5th Cir. 1994), and Edwards
v. Balisok, 520 U.S. 641, 646-7 (1997).
petitioner's disciplinary conviction was invalid. As plaintiff was
disciplinary proceeding, a finding in plaintiff's favor would
confinement. In other words, if plaintiff were to prevail in this
lawsuit, such a result would imply plaintiff should be released
earlier than would otherwise be the case.
would be entitled to proceed with this claim only if the Heck
requirements regarding a prior finding as to the invalidity of the
disciplinary proceeding were satisfied.
As plaintiff does not
assert that the Heck requirements have been satisfied with respect
to the disciplinary conviction, Heck bars him from proceeding with
For the reasons set forth above, this civil rights
will be dismissed with prejudice until plaintiff satisfies the
requirements set forth in Heck v. Humphrey. An appropriate final
judgment shall be entered.
SIGNED this the 5 day of March, 2012.
United States District Judge
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