Civil No. 03-772-JE
June 2, 2004
FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATION
Plaintiff Andre Robinson, an inmate at FCI-Sheridan, brings thisBivens action seeking money damages and reinstatement to his job at the UNICOR factory.
Plaintiff states that he was involved in an altercation with another inmate employee, and was fired. He successfully appealed that decision and was reinstated. Plaintiff claims he also suffers from carpal tunnel syndrome, and a prison doctor requested that he be reassigned to a different job because repetitive sanding work was exacerbating that medical condition.
Plaintiff contends a UNICOR foreman, Don Cranfill (who Plaintiff incorrectly spells Cranfield), was angry about the reinstatement and the doctor's request to reassign Plaintiff to other duties. Plaintiff alleges that Cranfill retaliated against him by telling a UNICOR supervisor (identified as Mr. Harper) that Plaintiff had been observed "out of his assigned work area talking instead of working." This allegedly led to words between Plaintiff and Cranfill. Cranfill then filed an official report accusing Plaintiff of threatening him.
Plaintiff was placed in segregation pending a hearing. Plaintiff identified four witnesses he wanted to testify on his behalf. The prison says it interviewed them and concluded that their testimony would not benefit Plaintiff.
Plaintiff also asked to see the videotape of the incident. The prison refused his request, on the ground that "[t]here was no video used as evidence." However, it is not clear from the present record whether the incident may have been recorded by surveillance cameras or whether a videotape may once have existed.
The prison found Plaintiff guilty of "Failing to Perform Work as Instructed" and "Insolence to a staff member." He was fired from his prison job with Unicor, and lost 13 days of good conduct time. Defendant concedes that Plaintiff has exhausted his administrative appeals regarding this claim.
Plaintiff then brought this action, seeking money damages and reinstatement to his job. As to the claims regarding his termination, Plaintiff alleges claims for "bias" and due process. I construe the former as a claim for retaliation in violation of the First Amendment, as Cranfill allegedly was retaliating against Plaintiff for having successfully appealed a prior sanction. See Austin v. Williams, ___ F.3d ___, 2004 WL 1088293 (case No. 02-16546) (9th Cir. May 17, 2004).
Plaintiff also alleges Eighth Amendment violations relating to his carpal tunnel syndrome. He claims the defendants were deliberately indifferent to the "extreme and constant pain in his hand" and "refused to reassign [him] to a job that was more suitable to plaintiffs medical condition."
Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment
Defendant contends that this action must be dismissed under the doctrine of Heck v. Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477 (1994). In Heck, the Court held that
[I]n 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.Id. at 486-87. Although this is a Bivens action, rather than a § 1983 claim, the doctrine applies here as well.
At first glance, the Heck doctrine would not seem to be applicable here. Plaintiff is not challenging his conviction or sentence, but merely seeking restoration to a prison job and damages for a retaliatory action allegedly taken against him while in prison.
In Edwards v. Balisok, 520 U.S. 641 (1987), the Supreme Court extended the Heck doctrine to prison disciplinary proceedings in which the Plaintiff loses "good time credits." The Court decided it was immaterial whether the inmate actually sought restoration of good time credits. It was enough that a finding in favor of the inmate would necessarily imply that the loss of good time credits was wrongful. See also Ramirez v. Galaza, 334 F.3d 850, 858 (9th Cir. 2003) (Edwards rule applies if a successful challenge would "necessarily" affect the overall length of the inmate's sentence).
In the present case, if this court decided that the prison wrongly terminated Plaintiff from his job, and the disciplinary findings were erroneous, that finding would "necessarily imply" that Plaintiff should not have lost 13 days of good time credits. Accordingly, the Edwards rule applies.
Before Plaintiff can seek to recover damages, or to be reinstated to his prison job, he must first file a habeas petition under 28 U.S.C. § 2241 requesting that the disciplinary ruling be set aside. If that petition is granted, Plaintiff can then pursue his action for damages and reinstatement. Therefore, the present action should be dismissed without prejudice.
Edwards would not bar Plaintiff's Eighth Amendment claim alleging deliberate indifference to his medical needs. However, he has not exhausted his administrative remedies regarding that claim, so it is not properly before the court.
ConclusionDefendant's Motion (# 31) for Summary Judgment should be granted. A judgment should be entered dismissing this action without prejudice.
The above Findings and Recommendation are referred to a United States District Judge for review. Objections, if any, are due June 18, 2004. If no objections are filed, review of the Findings and Recommendation will go under advisement on that date.
A party may respond to another party's objections within 10 days after service of a copy of the objection. If objections are filed, review of the Findings and Recommendation will go under advisement upon receipt of the response, or the latest date for filing a response.