520 U.S. 641 (1997), 95-1352, Edwards v. Balisok

Docket Nº:Case No. 95-1352
Citation:520 U.S. 641, 117 S.Ct. 1584, 137 L.Ed.2d 906, 65 U.S.L.W. 4359
Party Name:EDWARDS et al. v. BALISOK
Case Date:May 19, 1997
Court:United States Supreme Court
 
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520 U.S. 641 (1997)

117 S.Ct. 1584, 137 L.Ed.2d 906, 65 U.S.L.W. 4359

EDWARDS et al.

v.

BALISOK

Case No. 95-1352

United States Supreme Court

May 19, 1997

Argued November 13, 1996

CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE NINTH CIRCUIT

Syllabus

Respondent, an inmate of a Washington state prison, was found guilty of prison rule infractions and sentenced to, inter alia, the loss of 30 days' good-time credit he had previously earned toward his release. Alleging that the procedures used in his disciplinary proceeding violated his Fourteenth Amendment due process rights, he filed this suit under 42 U.S.C. §1983 for a declaration that those procedures were unconstitutional, compensatory and punitive damages for their use, and an injunction to prevent future violations. Although he expressly reserved the right to seek restoration of the lost good-time credits in an appropriate forum, he refrained from requesting that relief in light of Preiser v. Rodriguez, 411 U.S. 475, 500, under which the sole remedy in federal court for a prisoner seeking such restoration is habeas corpus. The District Court applied Heck v. Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477, 487, which held that a state prisoner's claim for damages is not cognizable under §1983 if a judgment for him would "necessarily imply" the invalidity of his conviction or sentence, unless he can demonstrate that the conviction or sentence has previously been invalidated. Although holding that a judgment for respondent would necessarily imply the invalidity of his disciplinary hearing and the resulting sanctions, the court did not dismiss the suit, but stayed it pending filing and resolution of a state-court action for restoration of the good-time credits. The Ninth Circuit reversed, holding that a claim challenging only the procedures used in a disciplinary hearing is always cognizable under §1983.

Held:

1. Respondent's claim for declaratory relief and money damages is not cognizable under §1983. The principle relied on by the Ninth Circuit— that a claim seeking damages only for using the wrong procedures, not for reaching the wrong result, is always cognizable under § 1983—is incorrect, since it disregards the possibility, clearly envisioned by Heck, supra, at 482-483, 486-487, and n. 6, that the nature of the challenge to the procedures could be such as necessarily to imply the invalidity of the judgment. If established, respondent's allegations of deceit and bias by the hearing officer at his disciplinary proceeding would necessarily imply the invalidity of the deprivation of his good-time credits. Cf., e. g., Tumey v. Ohio, 273 U.S. 510, 535. His contrary contention, which

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is based on Washington's "some or any evidence" standard, is rejected. Pp. 644-648.

2. Although a prayer for prospective injunctive relief ordinarily will not "necessarily imply" the invalidity of a previous loss of good-time credits, and so may properly be brought under §1983, respondent's claim for such relief must be remanded because it was not considered by either lower court, and its validity was neither briefed nor argued here. Pp. 648-649.

3. The District Court erred in staying this §1983 action. That court was mistaken in its view that once respondent had exhausted his state remedies, the action could proceed. Section 1983 contains no judicially imposed exhaustion requirement, Heck, supra, at 481, 483; absent some other bar to the suit, a claim either is cognizable under §1983 and should immediately go forward, or is not cognizable and should be dismissed. P. 649.

70 F.3d 1277, reversed and remanded.

Scalia, J., delivered the opinion for a unanimous Court. Ginsburg, J., filed a concurring opinion, in which Souter and Breyer, JJ., joined, post, p. 649.

Kathleen D. Mix, Chief Deputy Attorney General of Washington, argued the cause for petitioners. With her on the briefs were Christine O. Gregoire, Attorney General, and Talis Merle Abolins, William Berggren Collins, Mary E. Fairhurst, and Daniel J. Judge, Assistant Attorneys General.

Thomas H. Speedy Rice argued the cause for respondent. With him on the brief was George A. Critchlow. [*]

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Justice Scalia delivered the opinion of the Court.

In Heck v. Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477, 487 (1994), this Court held that a state prisoner's claim for damages is not cognizable under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 if "a judgment in favor of the plaintiff would necessarily imply the invalidity of his conviction or sentence," unless the prisoner can demonstrate that the conviction or sentence has previously been invalidated. This case presents the question whether a claim for damages and declaratory relief brought by a state prisoner challenging the validity of the procedures used to deprive him of good-time credits is cognizable under § 1983.

Respondent Jerry Balisok is an inmate at the Washington State Penitentiary in Walla Walla. On August 16, 1993, he was charged with, and at a hearing on September 2 was found guilty of, four prison infractions. He was sentenced to 10 days in isolation, 20 days in segregation, and deprivation of 30 days' good-time credit he had previously earned toward his release. His appeal within the prison's appeal system was rejected for failure to comply with the applicable procedural requirements.

On January 26, 1994, respondent filed the present § 1983 action alleging that the procedures used in his disciplinary proceeding violated his Fourteenth Amendment due process rights. His amended complaint requested a declaration that the procedures employed by state officials violated due process, compensatory and punitive damages for use of the unconstitutional procedures, an injunction to prevent future violations, and any other relief the court deems just and equitable. Taking account of our opinion in Preiser v. Rodriguez, 411 U.S. 475, 500 (1973), which held that the sole remedy in federal court for a prisoner seeking restoration

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of good-time credits is a writ of habeas corpus, Balisok's amended complaint did not request restoration of the lost credits. (As the District Court noted, however, he expressly reserved the right to seek that relief in an appropriate forum. App. to Pet. for Cert. F-4.)

The District Court, applying our opinion in Heck, held that a judgment in Balisok's favor "would necessarily imply the invalidity of the disciplinary hearing and the resulting sanctions." App. to Pet. for Cert. F-14. Rather than grant petitioners' motion to dismiss, however, the District Court stayed this action pending filing and resolution of a state court action for restoration of the good-time credits. It authorized an immediate appeal of its ruling pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1292(b), and the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit reversed, holding that a claim challenging only the procedures employed in a disciplinary hearing is always cognizable under § 1983. App. to Pet. for Cert. A-2, judgt. order reported at 70 F.3d 1277 (1995). We granted certiorari. 517 U.S. 1166 (1996).

The violations of due process alleged by respondent are similar to those alleged by the plaintiff in Heck. There, the allegations were that the state officials had conducted an arbitrary investigation, had knowingly destroyed exculpatory evidence, and had caused an illegal voice identification procedure to be used at the plaintiff's criminal trial. 512 , at 479. Here, respondent principally alleged that petitioner Edwards, who was the hearing officer at his disciplinary proceeding, concealed exculpatory witness statements and refused to ask specified questions of requested witnesses, App. to Pet. for Cert. I-3 to I-7, which prevented...

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