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Lytle v. Samuels

United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Orangeburg Division

January 19, 2017

Curtis Jerome Lytle, Plaintiff,
Charles Samuel; Christopher Zych; Curtis Mabe; and Dale Rupert, Defendants.


          Timothy M. Cain United States District Judge.

         Plaintiff Curtis Jerome Lytle, proceeding pro se, filed this action pursuant to Bivens v. Six Unknown Named Agents of Fed. Bureau of Narcotics, 403 U.S. 388 (1971). (ECF No. 1, Compl.). In accordance with 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1) and Local Civil Rule 73.02, D.S.C., this matter was referred to a magistrate judge for pretrial handling. Before the court is the magistrate judge's Report and Recommendation (“Report”), recommending that the complaint be dismissed without prejudice. (ECF No. 21). Plaintiff was advised of his right to file objections to the Report. (ECF No. 21 at 9). Plaintiff timely filed objections. (ECF No. 24).

         The Report has no presumptive weight and the responsibility to make a final determination in this matter remains with this court. See Mathews v. Weber, 423 U.S. 261, 270-71 (1976). The court need not conduct a de novo review when a party makes only “general and conclusory objections that do not direct the court to a specific error in the magistrate's proposed findings and recommendations.” Orpiano v. Johnson, 687 F.2d 44, 47 (4th Cir. 1982). In that case, the court reviews the Report only for clear error. See Diamond v. Colonial Life & Accident Ins. Co., 416 F.3d 310, 315 (4th Cir. 2005).

         In his Complaint, Plaintiff is challenging a 2012 disciplinary conviction from his incarceration in USP-Lee in Pennington Gap, Virginia. As a result of this disciplinary conviction, Plaintiff alleges he lost 82 days of good time credit and was placed in a higher security custody level. (Compl. at 4). In her Report, the Magistrate Judge finds that this complaint should be summarily dismissed without prejudice because Plaintiff has pursued the wrong remedy. (Report at 6). She states that a Bivens action cannot provide Plaintiff with the relief he seeks, restoration of good time credit, but Plaintiff may seek relief pursuant to a habeas action filed pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2241. (Report at 4-5). The Magistrate Judge then continues that, even if the court were to find that this action could continue as a Bivens action, the court lacks personal jurisdiction over the Defendants who reside outside of South Carolina. Id. at 6.

         In his objections, Plaintiff states that he “feels this [complaint] was the 2241 just expressed on the wrong forms.” (Objections at 1). He further states it is his understanding that he should be filing the Bivens, or § 1983 action, in Virginia. Id.

         The court agrees that a Bivens action is not the proper remedy for the reasons stated by the Magistrate Judge. Additionally, the court notes that a 42 U.S.C. § 1983 or Bivens action challenging disciplinary convictions is barred by Heck v. Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477 (1994) -whether it is filed here or in Virginia. See also Poston v. Shappert, 222 F.App'x 301, 301 (4th Cir.2007) (unpublished) (applying Heck rationale to bar claims for damages under § 1983 and Bivens). In Heck, the Court held that a § 1983 claim is not cognizable if it implies the invalidity of a conviction. Heck, 512 U.S. 487. See also Edwards v. Balisok, 520 U.S. 641, 648 (1997) (extending Heck to disciplinary convictions). Heck bars a prisoner's claim for damages under § 1983 or Bivens where success of the action would implicitly question the validity of the conviction or duration of the sentence, unless the prisoner can demonstrate that the conviction or sentence has been successfully challenged. In this case, a favorable determination on the merits of the Plaintiffs claims would imply the invalidity of Plaintiff s disciplinary conviction.

         The Magistrate Judge recommends that this action be dismissed. (Report at 6). However, after reviewing the record in this action and Plaintiff's objections, the court finds that the complaint should not be dismissed. Rather, the court finds it should construe the action as a habeas action filed pursuant to § 2241. As to Plaintiffs request for a refund of his $400 filing fee, the court grants Plaintiff's request due to the unusual circumstances in this case.

         Therefore, after a thorough review of the record in this action, the court declines to adopt the Magistrate Judge's Report (ECF No. 21) and incorporates it herein. This matter is recommitted to the Magistrate Judge for further handling. Further, the Clerk of Court is ORDERED to change the nature of this suit from a prisoner civil rights action to a habeas action. As Plaintiff paid a filing fee of $400 (See ECF No. 17 - Receipt SCX400011815), he is entitled to a refund of $395 (the $400 filing fee he paid minus the $5.00 filing fee required in a habeas action). Accordingly, the Clerk of Court is to ORDERED to issue Plaintiff a refund in the amount of $395.00.

         IT IS SO ORDERED.


         The parties are hereby notified of the right to appeal this order pursuant to Rules 3 and 4 of the ...

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