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Dalton v. Winston

United States District Court, W.D. Virginia, Roanoke Division

November 8, 2019


          Arless Lynn Dalton, Jr., Pro Se Plaintiff;

          Julian F. Harf, Guynn, Waddell, Carroll & Lockaby, P.C., Salem, Virginia, for Defendant.


          James P. Jones United States District Judge

         The plaintiff, Arless Lynn Dalton, a Virginia inmate proceeding pro se, brought this civil rights action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging that the defendant violated his right to due process in disciplinary proceedings. The defendant has filed a Motion to Dismiss, and Dalton has responded. After review of the record, I conclude that the defendant's motion must be granted.

         Dalton is confined at the New River Valley Regional Jail.[1] He alleges that on March 7, 2019, he was charged with a jail disciplinary offense for “tampering with safety/security equipment.” Compl. 2, ECF No. 6. The Inmate violation report stated that an officer making a security round discovered that “cell B46 wouldn't lock back.” Mot. Amend 2, ECF No. 10. Dalton asserts, “There is no evidence to support a conviction.” Compl. 2, ECF No. 6. On March 18, 2019, the disciplinary committee found Dalton guilty of the charged offense, based on its finding that maintenance records showed all doors were in working condition on March 5, 2019, but Dalton's door “had issues” on March 7, 2019. Mot. Amend 2, ECF No. 10. The committee imposed sanctions: “30 days loss good time [and] $75 restitution.” Id. On appeal, the loss of good time was reduced to 15 days.

         Dalton brings his § 1983 Complaint against only one defendant - Gregory Winston. As relief, he seeks to have the disciplinary charge dismissed, to have his good time restored, and to have his “money left alone.” Compl. 2, ECF No. 6.

         A district court should dismiss a complaint under Rule 12(b)(6) if, accepting all well-pleaded allegations in the Complaint as true and drawing all reasonable factual inferences in the plaintiff's favor, the complaint does not allege “enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). To state a claim under § 1983, a plaintiff must allege “the violation of a right secured by the Constitution and laws of the United States, and must show that the alleged deprivation was committed by a person acting under color of state law.” West v. Atkins, 487 U.S. 42, 48 (1988).

         To hold an official liable under § 1983, the plaintiff must state facts that affirmatively show how the officer acted personally to deprive the plaintiff of constitutional rights. Vinnedge v. Gibbs, 550 F.2d 926, 928 (4th Cir. 1977). Supervisory officials may not be held vicariously liable for the unconstitutional conduct of their subordinates. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 676 (2009). Dalton fails to describe any action defendant Winston took that violated his constitutional rights. Thus, the Complaint does not state any § 1983 claim against Winston and may be dismissed on that ground.

         Moreover, Dalton's § 1983 claim must be dismissed because he cannot use a § 1983 action to invalidate a disciplinary charge to regain lost good conduct time.

         See Edwards v. Balisok, 520 U.S. 641, 646 (1997) (holding that a § 1983 claim for declaratory relief and money damages was barred, where the “principal procedural defect complained of” - a deceitful and biased decision maker - “would, if established, necessarily imply the invalidity of the deprivation of [Balisok's] good- time credits”).

[A] state prisoner's § 1983 action is barred (absent prior invalidation) - no matter the relief sought (damages or equitable relief), no matter the target of the prisoner's suit (state conduct leading to conviction or internal prison proceedings) - if success in that action would necessarily demonstrate the invalidity of confinement or its duration.

Wilkinson v. Dotson, 544 U.S. 74, 81-82 (2005).

         The success of Dalton's § 1983 claim that the disciplinary committee's actions deprived him of good conduct time without due process protections would necessarily imply the invalidity of the resulting disciplinary conviction and penalties, including the loss of good time. Therefore, Balisok's favorable termination requirement applies to bar Dalton's § 1983 claim. On the Complaint form, Dalton indicates that he has not filed any other action in state or federal court about the facts in this case.[2] He also provides no evidence that his disciplinary conviction has been invalidated or overturned through administrative ...

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