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Daker v. McLaughlin

United States District Court, M.D. Georgia, Macon Division

July 18, 2018

WASEEM DAKER, Petitioner,
v.
WARDEN GREGORY MCLAUGHLIN, Respondent.

          ORDER

          MARC T. TREADWELL, JUDGE.

         Petitioner Waseem Daker, an inmate currently confined at Macon State Prison, has filed a pleading using the Court's standard form petition for writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. Pet., ECF No. 1. In the body of his pleading, Petitioner states that he brings civil rights claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and is entitled to proceed under 28 U.S.C. § 2241. Pet. 1, ECF No. 1-1. Petitioner seeks to challenge the conditions of his confinement and raises a Fourteenth Amendment due process claim, First Amendment free speech claims, First Amendment access to courts claims, First Amendment religious exercise claims, a claim arising under the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (“RLUIPA”), and Eighth Amendment deliberate indifference to serious medical needs claims.

         As discussed below, these claims are not cognizable in a habeas action, and to the extent that Petitioner's pleading can be construed as arising under § 1983, he is barred from proceeding in forma pauperis as he has accumulated three strikes for purposes of 1915(g).

         Accordingly, the instant action is DISMISSED WITHOUT PREJUDICE.

         I. Petitioner Cannot Proceed Under 28 U.S.C. § 2254 or § 2241

         Although Petitioner primarily styles this case as a habeas action brought under § 2254 or § 2241, the substance of his filing challenges the conditions of his confinement. “Federal law opens two main avenues to relief on complaints related to imprisonment: a petition for habeas corpus, 28 U.S.C. § 2254, and a complaint under the Civil Rights Act of 1871, Rev. Stat. § 1979, as amended, 42 U.S.C. § 1983.” Hill v. McDonough, 547 U.S. 573, 578 (2006). “These avenues are mutually exclusive: if a claim can be raised in a federal habeas petition, that same claim cannot be raised in a separate § 1983 civil rights action.” Hutcherson v. Riley, 468 F.3d 750, 754 (11th Cir. 2006) (citing Nelson v. Campbell, 541 U.S. 637, 643 (2004)). “The line of demarcation between a § 1983 civil rights action and a § 2254 habeas claim is based on the effect of the claim on the inmate's conviction and/or sentence.” Id. “Challenges to the validity of any confinement or to the particulars affecting its duration are the province of habeas corpus.” Muhammad v. Close, 540 U.S. 749, 750 (2004) (citing Preiser v. Rodriguez, 411 U.S. 475, 500 (1973)). “Such claims fall within the ‘core' of habeas . . . [b]y contrast, constitutional claims that merely challenge the conditions of a prisoner's confinement, whether the inmate seeks monetary or injunctive relief, fall outside of that core and may be brought pursuant to § 1983 in the first instance.” Nelson, 541 U.S. at 643 (citing Muhammad, 540 U.S. at 750 and Preiser, 411 U.S. at 498-99).

         In this case, Petitioner seeks to challenge the conditions of confinement he experiences in Tier II administrative segregation at Macon State Prison and primarily seeks return to general population. Petitioner does not seek speedier or immediate release, does not challenge his sentence and conviction, and his claims for relief implicate neither. Therefore, the appropriate cause of action for Petitioner's claims is a civil rights complaint under § 1983.

         In three separate locations on the Petition, Petitioner has handwritten “does not challenge [his] conviction or sentence but [his] segregation/solitary confinement, Medberry v. Crosby, 351 F.3d 1049, 1053 (11th Cir. 2003).” Pet. 1, 4-5, ECF No. 1. To the extent that Petitioner has cited Medberry for the proposition that he may challenge his placement in administrative segregation through a petition for writ of habeas corpus, his reliance is misplaced. In Medberry, the Eleventh Circuit held that “‘it is proper for a district court to treat a petition for release from administrative segregation as a petition for a writ of habeas corpus' because ‘[s]uch release falls into the category of “fact or duration of. . . physical imprisonment' delineated in Preiser v. Rodriguez.”'” Medberry, 351 F.3d at 1053 (ellipsis in original) (quoting Krist v. Ricketts, 504 F.2d 887, 887-88 (5th Cir. 1974)). Medberry, however, concerned a challenge to a Florida inmate's loss of gain time credits resulting from prison disciplinary proceedings. Tedesco v. Sec'y for Dep't of Corr., 190 Fed.Appx. 752, 755 (11th Cir. 2006) (“In Medberry, we held that a state prisoner may file a habeas corpus petition to challenge the loss of gain time as a result of state prison disciplinary proceeding that allegedly violates his due process right under 28 U.S.C. § 2241.”). Because gain time credits implicate the duration of an inmate's confinement, a due process claim based on a deprivation of gain time credits is “a proper subject for a federal habeas corpus proceeding.” Wolff v. McDonnell, 418 U.S. 539, 557 (1974).

         Petitioner is not incarcerated in Florida; he is in the custody of the Georgia Department of Corrections. The Georgia Department of Corrections does not award gain time credits for good behavior, and Petitioner does not allege that he has lost gain time credits as a result of disciplinary proceedings. Therefore, Petitioner's civil rights claims do not affect the duration of his confinement. Instead, even if Petitioner prevailed on all of his claims and received all the relief demanded, “the duration of his sentence will not be shortened by one moment.” McKinnis v. Mosely, 693 F.2d 1054, 1057 (11th Cir. 1982). Accordingly, Petitioner's claims do not fall within the core of habeas, and are properly brought in a Section 1983 action. See id. (determining that challenge to administrative segregation which did not implicate duration of confinement should have been reviewed under Section 1983)[1]; Jaske v. Hanks, 27 Fed.Appx. 622, 623 (7th Cir. 2001) (affirming dismissal of habeas petition challenging sentence to disciplinary segregation because “disciplinary segregation affects the severity rather than the duration of custody”); Davis v. U.S. Dep't of Justice, 180 Fed.Appx. 404, 405 (3d Cir. 2006) (“A sanction of disciplinary segregation [] does not implicate the fact or length of confinement.”).

         II. Three Strikes

         Petitioner's claims are not cognizable in a habeas action and are properly raised in a civil rights complaint under § 1983. “When a pro se habeas corpus petition may be fairly read to state a claim under the Civil Rights Act, it should be so construed.” McDonald v. Bates, 23 Fed.Appx. 828, 828 (9th Cir. 2001); Carson v. Johnson, 112 F.3d 818, 820-21 (5th Cir. 1997) (affirming district court's treatment of purported habeas petition as a claim brought under § 1983); United States v. Jordan, 915 F.2d 622, 624-25 (11th Cir. 1990) (“Federal Courts have long recognized that they have an obligation to look behind the label of a motion filed by a pro se inmate and determine whether the motion is, in effect, cognizable under a different remedial statutory framework.”). Therefore, the Court will analyze Petitioner's claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. So construed, Petitioner is barred from proceeding in forma pauperis as he has accumulated three strikes under 1915(g), and he failed to pay the entire filing fee upon initiating this suit. Therefore, his Complaint must be dismissed.

         Federal law prohibits a prisoner from bringing a civil action in federal court in forma pauperis

if [he] has, on 3 or more prior occasions, while incarcerated or detained in any facility, brought an action or appeal in a court of the United States that was dismissed on the grounds that it is frivolous, malicious, or fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, unless the prisoner is under imminent danger of serious physical injury.

28 U.S.C. § 1915(g). This is known as the “three strikes provision.” Under § 1915(g), a prisoner incurs a “strike” any time he has a federal lawsuit or appeal dismissed on the grounds that it is frivolous or malicious or fails to state a claim. Medberry, 185 F.3d at 1193. If a prisoner incurs three strikes, his ability to proceed in forma pauperis in federal court is greatly limited and leave may ...


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