United States District Court, W.D. Virginia, Roanoke Division
Springer, Pro Se Plaintiff.
P. JONES UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
plaintiff, Levi Springer, a state inmate proceeding pro se,
has filed a pleading that he styles as a “federal
petition for habeas corpus on conditions of
confinement.” Compl. 1, ECF No. 1. The petition names
numerous Virginia Department of Corrections
(“VDOC”) officials as respondents and complains
that they have violated Springer's constitutional rights
by failing to place him in “protective custody
housing.” Id. at 3. For reasons explained
herein, I construed the submission as a civil rights action
under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and directed the clerk's
office to docket it as such. Springer has not prepaid the
necessary filing fee to proceed with a civil rights action.
Therefore, I also construe his submission as seeking to
proceed in forma pauperis status. After review of his
pleadings, I conclude that he does not qualify to do so, in
light of his current allegations and his prior frivolous
filings in this court. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(g).
Accordingly, I will summarily dismiss this lawsuit under
frames his submission as a habeas corpus petition under
§ 2254, based on past state court proceedings. According
to state court records, in October 2009, Springer pleaded
nolo contendere in Buchanan County Circuit Court to assault
and battery of a law enforcement official in Case No.
court sentenced him to three years and seven months in
prison, to run consecutively to another sentence he is
serving. Springer claims that pursuant to a Plea Agreement in
this case, the Sentencing Order directed that Springer would
be placed in “protective custody.” Springer Aff.
1, ECF No. 1-1.
When the original court order took [e]ffect on November 18,
2009 it was clear from [discussion with counsel and the
court] that [Springer] at that time was not eligible to be
placed immediately in protetctive custody housing due to the
fact that under Virginia law in conjunction with [VDOC]
Operating Procedures [he] would face approximately the next
two years in administrative segregation for being found
guilty in a [VDOC] disciplinary hearing for assault/battery
of a staff member. [Springer] had to show stable adjustment
by not commiting any serious offenses that would keep his
status level at (5) and at the appropriate time during annual
reviews [he] would be afforded the right of a due process
hearing on protective custody housing.
Id. at 1-2. Springer remains in administrative
segregation, allegedly because VDOC officials did not follow
VDOC procedures to provide him a timely due process hearing
on protective custody. Id. at 2.
remainder of Springer's submissions allege numerous
incidents of wrongdoing by officials at Red Onion State
Prison (“Red Onion”). He claims the officials
have violated VDOC classification policies in numerous
respects by denying him certain classification hearings and
other procedural protections; have prevented him from
exhausting administrative remedies; have filed disciplinary
charges against him in retaliation for his efforts to enter
protective custody; and taken together, these actions have
prevented him from earning good conduct time. Springer
asserts that in segregation, with little human contact and no
recreation, he has had to “constantly upgrade and
downgrade various psychotropic mental health medications
through the prison psychiatrist to maintain some type of
functional stability.” Compl. 9, ECF No. 1. He contends
that the sentencing court never contemplated that his
sentence would include the additional punishment of long-term
relief in this action, Springer seeks an order from this
court directing that VDOC officials comply with the circuit
court's order and place Springer in protective custody.
Springer states that such relief would not be burdensome for
prison officials, because the protective custody unit is
located at Red Onion.
initial matter, Springer cannot proceed with his present
claim under § 2254. He admits that he has not presented
this claim to any state court as required under 28 U.S.C.
§ 2254(b) before this court could grant the relief he
seeks, and he has not stated any viable excuse for his
failure to do so. If he returned to state court now with the
claim, it would likely be dismissed on procedural grounds,
since Springer failed to present it to the state court within
one year of learning the facts in support of the claim.
See Va. Code Ann. § 8.01-654(A)(2) (“A
petition for writ of habeas corpus ad subjiciendum, other
than a petition challenging a criminal conviction or
sentence, shall be brought within one year after the cause of
action accrues.”). Moreover, the federal petition is
untimely, because he failed to submit it within the one-year
filing period mandated under 28 U.S.C. § 2244(d)(1)(D),
based on when he first knew the necessary facts. Even if
Springer could clear these substantial procedural hurdles,
his claims are not cognizable in habeas.
district court is authorized to entertain petitions for
habeas corpus relief for persons who demonstrate that they
are in custody in violation of the Constitution or laws or
treaties of the United States. 28 U.S.C. §§
2241(c)(3), 2254(a); Maleng v. Cook, 490 U.S. 488,
“It is well settled that challenges to the fact or
length of confinement are properly considered in the context
of habeas corpus” while challenges to the conditions of
one's confinement are properly brought as civil rights
actions. See Plyler v. Moore, 129 F.3d 728, 733 (4th
Cir. 1997) (citing Pr[e]iser v. Rodriguez, 411 U.S.
475, 487-88 (1973) (holding that a challenge to the length of
“actual confinement in prison” must be brought as
a habeas corpus action)); Todd v. Baskerville, 712
F.2d 70, 72 (4th Cir. 1983). [If a] petition challenges the