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Corona v. Kozloff

United States District Court, D. Nevada

April 25, 2014

DANIEL CORONA, Plaintiff,
v.
R. KOZLOFF, et al, Defendants.

ORDER

MIRANDA M. DU, District Judge.

This prisoner civil rights action comes before the Court on plaintiff's application to proceed in forma pauperis (dkt. no. 1), his motion for immediate injunctive relief (dkt. no. 1-2), and for initial review under 28 U.S.C. § 1915A.

I. PAUPER APPLICATION

To expedite procedures on the pauper application in a case that is subject to immediate dismissal, as discussed further infra, the Court defers payment of an initial partial filing fee to the installment payments made pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b). The application to proceed in forma pauperis therefore will be granted, subject to the remaining provisions herein. The Court thus proceeds to initial review.

II. SCREENING

When a "prisoner seeks redress from a governmental entity or officer or employee of a governmental entity, " the court must "identify cognizable claims or dismiss the complaint, or any portion of the complaint, if the complaint: (1) is frivolous, malicious, or fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted; or (2) seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief." 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b).

In considering whether the plaintiff has stated a claim upon which relief can be granted, all material factual allegations in the complaint are accepted as true for purposes of initial review and are to be construed in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. See, e.g., Russell v. Landrieu, 621 F.2d 1037, 1039 (9th Cir. 1980). However, mere legal conclusions unsupported by any actual allegations of fact are not assumed to be true in reviewing the complaint. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 677-81 (2009). That is, conclusory assertions that constitute merely formulaic recitations of the elements of a cause of action and that are devoid of further factual enhancement are not accepted as true and do not state a claim for relief. Id.

Further, the factual allegations must state a plausible claim for relief, meaning that the well-pleaded facts must permit the court to infer more than the mere possibility of misconduct:

[A] complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to "state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." [ Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007).] A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged. Id., at 556.... The plausibility standard is not akin to a "probability requirement, " but it asks for more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully. Ibid. Where a complaint pleads facts that are "merely consistent with" a defendant's liability, it "stops short of the line between possibility and plausibility of entitlement to relief.'" Id., at 557... (brackets omitted).
... [W]here the well-pleaded facts do not permit the court to infer more than the mere possibility of misconduct, the complaint has alleged - but it has not "show[n]" - "that the pleader is entitled to relief." Fed. Rule Civ. Proc. 8(a)(2).

Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678.

Allegations of a pro se complainant are held to less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers. Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520 (1972).

In the complaint (dkt. no. 1-1), plaintiff Daniel Corona's claims all challenge the validity of his disciplinary conviction for assaulting another inmate. It is clear from the complaint that Corona lost 120 days statutory sentence credit as a result of the conviction. See dkt. no. 1-1, at 4-D, 4-F, 5-A, 5-B, 7, 8 & 9 (at electronic docketing pages 8, 10, 13, 14, 21, 22, & 23); see also dkt. no. 1-2, at 2 and further at electronic docketing pages 11 & 33. Plaintiff indeed expressly seeks, inter alia, restoration of the 120 days statutory sentence credit. Dkt. no 1-1, at 9 (at electronic docketing page 23).[1]

The complaint, in its entirety, is not cognizable in a federal civil rights action.

When a § 1983 plaintiff presents claims that necessarily challenge the continuing validity of either the fact or duration of his confinement, then his claims are not cognizable in a civil rights action no matter the relief sought or the target of the claims, so long as the claims necessarily imply the invalidity of the confinement or its duration. Wilkinson v. Dotson, 544 U.S. 74, 82 (2005); Heck v. Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477 (1994). A § 1983 plaintiff presenting claims that necessarily imply the invalidity of his confinement or the duration thereof first must establish that the confinement has been declared invalid by a state tribunal authorized to make such a determination, expunged by executive order, or called into question by the grant of a federal writ of habeas corpus. Heck, 512 U.S. at 486-87. Plaintiff both alleges that he lost the sentence credit and seeks restoration of the lost credit. Claims necessarily implying the invalidity of the deprivation of sentence credit, thereby challenging the duration of plaintiff's confinement, are not cognizable under § 1983. See Edwards v. Balisok, 520 U.S. 641 (1997).

Plaintiff's claims, in their entirety, fall squarely under the foregoing rule. All of plaintiff's claims necessarily challenge the validity of the disciplinary conviction under which plaintiff lost 120 days statutory sentence credit. He cannot challenge the disciplinary conviction without necessarily challenging the constitutional validity of the loss of the 120 days sentence credit as a consequence of that conviction. All of the claims thus necessarily imply the invalidity of the duration of his confinement and thus are Heck -barred.[2]

The Court finds that allowance of an opportunity to amend would be futile in the circumstances presented. Even if plaintiff omitted an express request for restoration of the 120 days statutory sentence credit, he still would be attacking the validity of a disciplinary conviction in which he lost the sentence credit. As discussed above, the Heck bar applies no matter the relief sought or the target of the claims, so long as the claims necessarily imply the invalidity of the confinement or its duration. Allowance of an opportunity to amend thus would be futile.

Following upon the dismissal of all federal claims over which the district court had original jurisdiction, the Court finds that the interests of judicial economy, convenience, fairness and comity would be best served in this case by dismissing the state law claims that remain without prejudice. Plaintiff's allegations concern events in February and March 2013, and his state-law claims, including, in particular, tort claims for false imprisonment, would appear to not be time-barred under the general two-year Nevada statute of limitations at the time of the dismissal, to the extent the state law claims are cognizable in the first instance. Moreover, plaintiff had a proceeding pending in state court when the federal complaint was filed seeking at least a portion of the relief sought herein.[3] The Court accordingly exercises its discretion pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1367(c)(3) to decline to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over the state law claims.

III. MOTION FOR IMMEDIATE INJUNCTIVE RELIEF

Following upon the dismissal of the action, the Court will deny the motion for immediate injunctive relief. The motion in any event proceeds on the flawed premise that the Court can order plaintiff's immediate release from disciplinary segregation separate and apart from and in advance of a court order overturning the loss of 120 days sentence credit. Under Heck, plaintiff cannot obtain any relief in this action on claims necessarily implying the invalidity of the disciplinary conviction, unless and until the conviction is overturned through other means as discussed in the preceding section of this order.

The motion and complaint both are based on wholly flawed legal premises.

IV. CONCLUSION

It is therefore ordered that the application to proceed in forma pauperis (dkt. no. 1) is granted, subject to the remaining provisions herein. Plaintiff shall not be required to pay an initial partial filing fee. However, even if the action is dismissed, plaintiff still must pay the full filing fee pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b)(2).

It is further ordered that the movant herein is permitted to maintain this action to a conclusion without the necessity of prepayment of any additional fees or costs or the giving of security therefor. This order granting forma pauperis status shall not extend to the issuance of subpoenas at government expense.

It is further ordered that, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b)(2), the Nevada Department of Corrections shall pay to the Clerk of the United States District Court, District of Nevada, 20% of the preceding month's deposits to plaintiff's account (in the months that the account exceeds $10.00) until the full $350.00 filing fee has been paid for this action. The Clerk of Court shall send a copy of this order to the Finance Division of the Clerk's Office. The Clerk shall also send a copy of this order to the attention of the Chief of Inmate Services for the Nevada Department of Corrections, P.O. Box 7011, Carson City, NV 89702.

It is further ordered that the Clerk shall file the complaint and that this action shall be dismissed without prejudice. This dismissal shall count as a "strike" for purposes of 28 U.S.C. § 1915(g).

It is further ordered that the Clerk shall file the motion for immediate injunctive relief, that the motion is denied, and that the Clerk shall reflect the denial of the motion by this order in a manner consistent with the Clerk's current practice for such docket entries.

The Clerk shall enter final judgment accordingly in favor of defendants and against plaintiff, dismissing this action without prejudice.


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