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Timmons v. Ladner

United States District Court, S.D. Mississippi, Northern Division

April 12, 2017




         This matter is before the Court sua sponte. Pro se Plaintiff William Stacy Timmons is incarcerated with the Mississippi Department of Corrections (“MDOC”), and he brings this action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, challenging a Rule Violation Report (“RVR”). The Court has considered and liberally construed the pleadings. As set forth below, this case is dismissed.


         Timmons is currently housed at Central Mississippi Correctional Facility. Defendant Brian Ladner is the Warden, and Defendants Latasha Brooks and Tirah Wesley are employed as disciplinary officers at the prison.

         Timmons alleges that, on August 25, 2016, he was issued an RVR for possession of a green leafy substance, thought to be marijuana. He claims that he was innocent and that a corrections officer planted the contraband.

         For this RVR, a hearing was held, Timmons contends, on September 7, 2016. According to the pleadings, Brooks and Wesley “denied access [sic] and presentation of evidence at the hearing.” (Compl. at 3). Particularly, Timmons maintains that camera evidence was not allowed, even though it would have demonstrated his innocence. Brooks and Wesley also allegedly did not record the hearing, ignored the fact that the RVR was incomplete and contained conflicting details, and allowed a time lapse of more than seven days between the alleged violation and the hearing date, all in contravention of MDOC policy. The hearing officers found Timmons guilty and punished him with a loss of privileges and ninety days of meritorious earned time credits.

         Timmons then appealed the RVR conviction to Warden Ladner. He affirmed the guilty finding, despite the alleged defects referenced above.

         Timmons filed this Complaint on December 28, 2016, invoking § 1983. Timmons asserts claims for violations of due process, and he seeks removal of the RVR from his record, recovery of court costs and fees, and “any other relief” the Court deems just. Id.


         The Prison Litigation Reform Act of 1996, applies to prisoners proceeding in forma pauperis in this Court. One of the provisions reads, “the court shall dismiss the case at any time if the court determines that . . . the action . . . (i) is frivolous or malicious; (ii) fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted; or (iii) seeks monetary relief against a defendant who is immune from such relief.” 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B). The statute “accords judges not only the authority to dismiss a claim based on an indisputably meritless legal theory, but also the unusual power to pierce the veil of the complaint's factual allegations and dismiss those claims whose factual contentions are clearly baseless.” Denton v. Hernandez, 504 U.S. 25, 32 (1992). “[I]n an action proceeding under [28 U.S.C. § 1915, a federal court] may consider, sua sponte, affirmative defenses that are apparent from the record even where they have not been addressed or raised.” Ali v. Higgs, 892 F.2d 438, 440 (5th Cir. 1990). “Significantly, the court is authorized to test the proceeding for frivolousness or maliciousness even before service of process or before the filing of the answer.” Id. The Court has permitted Timmons to proceed in forma pauperis in this action. The Complaint is subject to sua sponte dismissal under § 1915.

         Timmons brings this action, under § 1983, claiming violations of due process in his disciplinary proceedings, which resulted in a loss of earned time credits.

Section 1983

         A § 1983 claim that challenges the fact or duration of a State conviction or sentence “is barred (absent prior invalidation) . . . if success in that action would necessarily demonstrate the invalidity of confinement or its duration.” Wilkinson v. Dotson, 544 U.S. 74, 81-82 (2005). In such a case, “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 a determination, 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 (1994). “A ‘conviction, ' for purposes of Heck, includes a ruling in a prison disciplinary proceeding that results in a change to the prisoner's sentence, including the loss of good-time credits.” Clarke v. Stalder, 154 F.3d 186, 189 (5th Cir. 1998). Where success on the § 1983 claim “will not necessarily imply the invalidity of confinement or shorten its duration, ” then the action may proceed. Wilkinson, 544 U.S. at 82.

         The Supreme Court examined a similar case in Edwards v. Balisok, 520 U.S. 641 (1997). There, the prisoner challenged a prison disciplinary proceeding which resulted in the loss of 30 days of good time credit. Edwards v. Balisok, 520 U.S. 641, 644 (1997). The prisoner claimed that the hearing was procedurally defective because he “was completely denied the opportunity to put on a defense through specifically identified witnesses who ...

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