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Lawhorn v. Clarke

United States District Court, W.D. Virginia

April 1, 2015

GLENN CALVIN LAWHORN, Petitioner,
v.
HAROLD W. CLARKE, Respondent.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

JACKSON L. KISER, District Judge.

Glenn Calvin Lawhorn, a Virginia inmate proceeding pro se, filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254, to challenge the results of various Virginia prisons' Institutional Classification Authority ("ICA") determinations about Petitioner's security-level classification.[1] Respondent filed a motion to dismiss, and Petitioner responded, making the matter ripe for disposition. After reviewing the record, I grant Respondent's motion and dismiss the petition without prejudice.

I must "focus[] on the need to ensure that state prisoners use only habeas corpus (or similar state) remedies when they seek to invalidate the duration of their confinement-either directly through an injunction compelling speedier release or indirectly through a judicial determination that necessarily implies the unlawfulness of the State's custody." Wilkinson v. Dotson, 544 U.S. 74, 81 (2005). Petitioner's claims, even if successful, would not "necessarily spell speedier release" from custody because the determinate length of Petitioner's sentence did not change when Petitioner's security classifications changed, and Petitioner does not have a protected liberty interest in earning a specific rate of good conduct time.[2] See DeBlasio v. Johnson, 128 F.Supp.2d 315, 329 (E.D. Va. 2000), aff'd, 13 F.Appx. 96 (4th Cir. 2001). The effect of a classification change on the ability to earn good-time credit is too speculative to constitute a deprivation of a protected liberty interest. See Luken v. Scott, 71 F.3d 192, 193-94 (5th Cir. 1995) (citing Meachum v. Fano, 427 U.S. 215, 229 n.8 (1976)); see. e.g., Wolff v. McDonnell, 418 U.S. 539, 557-58 (1974). Consequently, even if the results of Petitioner's ICA hearings ultimately impacted his custody status or the rate at which he could earn good-time credit in the future, such changes do not implicate federal due process protections. Thus, Petitioner's claims do not lie within "the core of habeas corpus" and may be brought, if at all, via 42 U.S.C. § 1983.[3]

Accordingly, I grant Respondent's motion to dismiss and dismiss the petition without prejudice. Based upon my finding that Petitioner has not made the requisite substantial showing of a denial of a constitutional right as required by 28 U.S.C. § 2253(c), a certificate of appealability is denied.


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