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WA Prisoners Must Exhaust State Remedies

John Dewyer is a Washington state prisoner. He is serving a determinate, SRA sentence. At a prison disciplinary hearing he was found guilty of an unspecified offense and sanctioned by 15 days of segregation and 30 days loss of good time, the latter extended his prison sentence. Dewyer then filed suit under section 1983 in US District Court in Seattle.

The attorney general's office filed a motion requesting that the action be stayed until such time as Dewyer had exhausted state habeas corpus remedies. The district court Magistrate Weinberg, granted the motion as well the AG's motion to publish the ruling.

The district court held that whenever a prisoner challenges the length or legality of his/her sentence, that challenge must be brought via habeas corpus, which requires the exhaustion of state remedies, not section 1983 which has no exhaustion requirement. See: Preiser v. Rodriguez, 411 US 45, 93 S.Ct. 1827 (1973) and Young v. Kenney, 907 F.2d 874 (9th Cir. 1990).

However, the court did not make mention of Sisk v. CSO Branch, 974 F.2d 116 (9th Cir. 1992) which held that prisoners challenging disciplinary hearing involving the loss of good time may challenge the hearing via section 1983 when the sanctions include punishment in addition to the loss of good time. Readers will note that habeas remedies do not provide for money damages resulting from constitutional deprivations at disciplinary hearings while section 1983 does.

Washington state prisoners should also be aware that there is a three year statute of limitations as of July 1, 1993, affecting actions against Washington state prison officials. In order to preserve a right of action for money damages prisoners may want to file a section 1983 suit which may be stayed by the court pending the outcome of any exhaustion of state remedies. See: Dewyer v. Davis, 842 F. Supp 1304 (WD WA 1993).

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Related legal case

Dewyer v. Davis

JOHN KENNEDY DEWYER, Plaintiff, v. LT. TINA DAVIS, et al., Defendants.

CASE NO. C93-1302W


842 F. Supp. 1304; 1993 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 19156

December 14, 1993, Decided

December 14, 1993, Filed; December 15, 1993, Entered

COUNSEL: [**1] For Plaintiff: John Kenneth Dewyer, Pro Se, Twin Rivers Correction Center, Monroe, WA.

For Defendant: Penelope S. Nerup, Assistant Attorney General, Peter H. Smiley, Assistant Attorney General, Corrections Division, Olympia, WA.

JUDGES: Weinberg




(1) Where a state prisoner challenges the fact or duration of his confinement, his [*1305] sole federal remedy is a writ of habeas corpus, to which the exhaustion requirement applies. Preiser v. Rodriguez, 411 U.S. 475, 489-90, 36 L. Ed. 2d 439, 93 S. Ct. 1827, (1973); Young v. Kenny, 907 F.2d 874, 875 (9th Cir. 1990), cert. denied, Bressman v. Farrier, 498 U.S. 1126, 498 U.S. 1127, 112 L. Ed. 2d 1194, 111 S. Ct. 1090 (1991). This is true even if the prisoner does not specifically request the reduction of his sentence in a 1983 complaint. Young, 907 F.2d at 876. "Habeas must be the exclusive federal remedy not just when a state prisoner requests the invalidation or reduction of his sentence, but whenever the requested relief requires as its predicate a determination that a sentence currently being served is invalid or unconstitutionally long." [**2] Id.

Plaintiff's complaint includes allegations of due process violations at a disciplinary hearing where plaintiff was sanctioned fifteen days in solitary confinement, and loss of thirty days good time conduct credits. Plaintiff is serving a determinate sentence which will be thirty days longer due to the sanction imposed. Determination of the due process issues presented in this action could therefore be used to collaterally attack plaintiff's deprivation of good conduct time credits in state court. Defendants' motion to stay this action until plaintiff either exhausts his state court remedies or is released from custody (docket 10) is therefore GRANTED.

(2) Plaintiff shall, within six months of the date of this Order, file a report on the status of state proceedings initiated to exhaust the issues stayed in this case. Failure to seek exhaustion of state remedies within this period, or to file the required status report, shall result in dismissal of this action for lack of prosecution.

(3) The Clerk is directed to send copies of this Order to plaintiff and to the Attorney General.

DATED this 14th day of December, 1993.

John L. Weinberg

United States Magistrate Judge