United States District Court, N.D. Florida, Tallahassee Division
SECOND REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
CHARLES A. STAMPELOS UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
an inmate proceeding pro se and with in forma pauperis
status, has filed a third amended complaint [hereinafter
“complaint”]. ECF No. 23. The complaint has been
reviewed as required by 28 U.S.C. § 1915A to determine
if it is sufficient for service.
complaint essentially alleges that Defendant Cash retaliated
against him for filing grievances. Plaintiff makes a
conclusory assertion of an “unwritten rule” in
which unidentified staff members alert other staff members
when a prisoner files a complaint. ECF No. 23 at 4. Plaintiff
says that he wrote approximately six complaints against
Defendant Cash between January and April 2017. ECF No. 23 at
4. In March of 2017, Defendant Cash allegedly placed
Plaintiff in handcuffs and then assaulted Plaintiff in front
of another Officer. The assault included slamming
Plaintiff's head into the wall, being punched in the
head, and being sprayed with chemical agents. Id. at
was then issued two disciplinary reports by Defendant Cash.
Id. The first was for disobeying an order and the
second was for assault and battery on a correctional officer.
Plaintiff was found guilty of both disciplinary reports
written by Defendant Cash. Id. at 5-6. Plaintiff
contends Defendant Skelton made false statements during the
disciplinary process and, despite the administration's
knowledge that “Plaintiff was not guilty of [the]
charges, ” he was convicted of the fabricated
disciplinary reports, suffered distress, and lost thirty days
of gain time. Id. at 6. Plaintiff claims Defendants
Cash and Skelton violated his First Amendment right to file a
complaint, and that Defendant Cash violated his Eighth
Amendment right by the use of force while he was in
handcuffs. Id. at 7. As relief, he seeks fifty
thousand dollars in monetary damages. Id.
was found guilty of the disciplinary reports which he
contends were false and retaliatory. It is true that if an
inmate were issued a retaliatory disciplinary report because
he exercised his right of free speech (for example, writing a
grievance), it would be a valid First Amendment claim.
Farrow v. West, 320 F.3d 1235, 1248 (11th Cir. 2003)
(stating “[t]he First Amendment forbids prison
officials from retaliating against prisoners for exercising
the right of free speech.”); see also Malloy v.
Peters, 617 Fed.Appx. 948, 950 (11th Cir. 2015);
O'Bryant v. Finch, 637 F.3d 1207, 1212 (11th
Cir. 2011); Smith v. Mosley, 532 F.3d 1270, 1276
(11th Cir. 2008).
“[a]n inmate cannot state a claim of retaliation for a
disciplinary charge involving a prison rule infraction when
the inmate was found guilty of the actual behavior underlying
that charge after being afforded adequate due process.”
Malloy, 617 Fed.Appx. at 950 (holding that prisoner
could not state a retaliation claim “because he was
found guilty of the behavior underlying both disciplinary
charges and was afforded adequate due process at the
disciplinary hearing.”) (citing O'Bryant,
637 F.3d at 1215)). In other words, there is no causal
connection between a disciplinary report and a prisoner's
freedom of speech if the disciplinary action would have been
taken regardless of the prisoner's protected speech.
O'Bryant, 637 F.3d at 1217 (citing
Mosley, 532 F.3d at 1278, n.22). “Any possible
causal connection between the protected activity (the
grievances) and the harm (the disciplinary charges and
sanctions) is severed since the harm is not in reaction to
any protected activity, but directly due to an improper
activity.” O'Bryant, 637 F.3d at 1219-20.
Therefore, Plaintiff's First Amendment claims against
Defendants Cash and Skelton are insufficient as a matter of
Eighth Amendment claim against Defendant Cash is also
insufficient because Plaintiff lost gain time as a result of
the disciplinary reports, and he has not alleged that the
disciplinary reports were overturned on appeal. Under
Heck v. Humphrey, a claim for damages that is
related to a sentence or conviction that has not yet been
reversed or invalidated is not cognizable under 42 U.S.C.
§ 1983. Heck v. Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477, 114
S.Ct. 2364, 2372, 129 L.Ed.2d 383 (1994). To recover monetary
damages for an allegedly unconstitutional conviction or
imprisonment, a plaintiff must prove that the conviction or
sentence has been reversed on appeal, expunged by an
executive order, declared invalid by a state tribunal, or
called into question by a federal court's issuance of a
writ of habeas corpus. Id.
has since been extended and made explicitly applicable in the
prison disciplinary setting. Edwards v. Balisok, 520
U.S. 641, 117 S.Ct. 1584, 137 L.Ed.2d 906 (1997). In
Edwards v. Balisok, the Supreme Court held that a
“conviction” includes a finding of guilty in a
prison disciplinary proceeding that results in a loss of gain
time, thus, affecting an inmate's period of
incarceration. 117 S.Ct. at 1589. Therefore, based on
Heck, the Court concluded that a claim for money
damages resulting from defects in a prison disciplinary
hearing which resulted in the loss of goodtime credits is not
cognizable under § 1983.
Plaintiff's request for fifty thousand dollars in damages
cannot be provided because Plaintiff was charged, and found
guilty, of battery on a correctional officer following a
disciplinary hearing. He lost gain time as a result and,
thus, his prison sentence has been extended. This case
“lies at the core of habeas relief.”
Wilkinson v. Dotson, 544 U.S. 74, 82, 125 S.Ct.
1242, 1248, 161 L.Ed.2d 253 (2005) (quoted in Roberts v.
Wilson, 259 Fed.Appx. 226, 229 (11th Cir. 2007)
(concluding that prisoner's § 1983 action was
“not cognizable in light of Heck and
Balisok because his “claim necessarily would
be at odds with the revocation of his good time credits and
with the State's calculation of the time he has left to
serve on his sentence.”). Relief in Plaintiff's
favor would necessarily render his disciplinary conviction
invalid and would “be at odds with the
revocation” of gain time. The complaint is insufficient
to state a claim and this case should be dismissed.
respectfully RECOMMENDED that
Plaintiff's third amended complaint, ECF No. 23, be
DISMISSED for failure to state a claim upon
which relief may be granted pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §
1915(e)(2), and that the Order adopting this Report and
Recommendation direct the Clerk of Court to note on the
docket that this cause was dismissed pursuant to 28 U.S.C.