United States District Court, W.D. North Carolina, Charlotte Division
D. Whitney Chief United States District Judge.
MATTER is before the Court on initial review of
pro se Plaintiff's Complaint, (Doc. No. 1).
Plaintiff is proceeding in forma pauperis.
See (Doc. No. 6).
se Plaintiff has filed a civil rights suit pursuant to
42 U.S.C. § 1983 for a 1980 North Carolina conviction.
He names the following as Defendants the City of Gastonia and
the State of North Carolina. He complains that he was
wrongfully convicted of a safecracking that occurred in
Gaston County while he was incarcerated in Mecklenburg County
Jail. He also alleges that no valid record of his conviction
or sentence can be found although it is a legal requirement
to keep these documents in the case of a guilty plea. He
seeks punitive and compensatory damages as well as
exoneration of Gaston County crimes.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
Plaintiff is a prisoner proceeding in forma
pauperis, the Court must review the Complaint to
determine whether it is subject to dismissal on the grounds
that it is “(i) 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). In its
frivolity review, a court must determine whether the
Complaint raises an indisputably meritless legal theory or is
founded upon clearly baseless factual contentions, such as
fantastic or delusional scenarios. Neitzke v.
Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 327-28 (1989). A complaint
should not be dismissed for failure to state a claim
“unless ‘after accepting all well-pleaded
allegations in the plaintiff's complaint as true and
drawing all reasonable factual inferences from those facts in
the plaintiff's favor, it appears certain that the
plaintiff cannot prove any set of facts in support of his
claim entitling him to relief.'” Veney v.
Wyche, 293 F.3d 726, 730 (4th Cir. 2002)
(quoting Edwards v. City of Goldsboro, 178 F.3d 231,
244 (4th Cir. 1999)).
pro se complaint must be construed liberally.
See Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520 (1972);
see also Smith v. Smith, 589 F.3d 736, 738
(4th Cir. 2009) (“Liberal construction of
the pleadings is particularly appropriate where …
there is a pro se complaint raising civil rights
issues.”). However, the liberal construction
requirement will not permit a district court to ignore a
clear failure to allege facts in his complaint which set
forth a claim that is cognizable under federal law.
Weller v. Dep't of Soc. Servs., 901 F.2d 387
(4th Cir. 1990). A pro se complaint must
still contain sufficient facts “to raise a right to
relief above the speculative level” and “state a
claim to relief that is plausible on its face.”
Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555, 570
(2007); see Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662 (2009)
(the Twombly plausibility standard applies to all
federal civil complaints including those filed under §
1983). This “plausibility standard requires a plaintiff
to demonstrate more than a sheer possibility that a defendant
has acted unlawfully.” Francis v. Giacomelli,
588 F.3d 186, 193 (4th Cir. 2009) (internal
quotation marks omitted). He must articulate facts that, when
accepted as true, demonstrate he has stated a claim entitling
him to relief. Id.
law opens two main avenues to relief on complaints related to
imprisonment: a petition for habeas corpus pursuant to 28
U.S.C. § 2254, and a complaint under the Civil Rights
act, § 1983. Muhammad v. Close, 540 U.S. 749,
750 (2004). “Habeas corpus, and not § 1983, is the
exclusive federal remedy for state prisoners seeking actual
release from confinement, ” Griffin v.
Baltimore Police Dep't, 804 F.3d 692, 694-95
(4th Cir. 2015) (citing Preiser v.
Rodriguez, 411 U.S. 475, 487-90 (1973)), and
“requests for relief turning on circumstances of
confinement may be presented in a § 1983 action, ”
Muhammad, 540 U.S. at 750. Some cases are
“hybrids, ” where a prisoner seeks damages, which
are unavailable through a habeas action, but on allegations
that either imply the invalidity of an underlying conviction
or of a particular ground for denying relief short of serving
the maximum term of confinement. Id. To address this
situation, the Supreme Court held in Heck v.
Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477 (1994), that:
to recover damages for … harm caused by actions whose
unlawfulness would render a conviction or sentence invalid, a
§ 1983 plaintiff must prove that the conviction and
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
Id. at 485.
Heck to bar a § 1983 claim, (1) “a judgment in
favor of the plaintiff [must] necessarily imply the
invalidity of [a plaintiff's] conviction or sentence,
” Heck, 512 U.S. at 487, and (2), the claim
must be brought by a claimant who is either (i) currently in
custody or (ii) no longer in custody because the sentence has
been served, but nevertheless could have practicably sought
habeas relief while in custody, Covey v. Assessor of Ohio
Cty., 777 F.3d 186, 197 (4th Cir. 2015).
instant case, Plaintiff has attached records to his Compliant
indicating that his North Carolina safecracking conviction
has not been overturned. His present attack on that
conviction's validity would necessarily undermine the
State court conviction and is therefore barred by
Heck and will be dismissed without prejudice as