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§ 1983 Suit Improper Remedy for Good Time Loss

The court of appeals for the Fifth Circuit held that it was improper for a prisoner to file a 42 U.S.C. § 1983 action seeking monetary damages, declaratory and injunctive relief that prohibited prison officials from removing, rescinding or suspending his good time credits. An Alabama prisoner was granted participation in the Incentive Good Time Program, but later had all good time credits revoked and was removed from the program without a hearing. The court held that the award of good time credits may raise a constitutional issue. However, while the prisoner disavowed any intention of having those good time credits reinstated, the court found that the complaint was not a challenge to the conditions of confinement under § 1983, but was more properly treated as a challenge to the fact or duration of confinement that required filing as a habeas corpus petition since the prisoner alleged the method used to take his good time credits was flawed. Since the prisoner failed to exhaust his state court remedies, as required for a federal habeas petition, the case was reversed and remanded for the entry of an order allowing exhaustion of state court remedies. See: Keenan v. Bennett, 613 F.2d 127 (5th Cir. 1980).

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Related legal case

Keenan v. Bennett

613 F.2d 127

United States Court of Appeals, Fifth Circuit.

William M. KEENAN, Jr., Plaintiff-Appellant,


Larry D. BENNETT, Commissioner, Alabama Board of Corrections, et al.,

No. 79-3105

Summary Calendar.[FN*]

FN* Fed.R.App.P. 34(a); 5th Cir. R. 18.

March 10, 1980.

State prisoner filed suit under civil rights statute alleging due process violations in the manner in which his good-time status was revoked. The United States District Court for the Middle District of Alabama, at Montgomery, Frank M. Johnson, Jr., J., dismissed the action, which was treated as application for writ of habeas corpus, and prisoner appealed. The Court of Appeals, Politz, Circuit Judge, held that: (1) state prisoner's interest in his incentive good-time status, under which he had been earning credit for over three months before the status was rescinded, had risen to the level of a liberty interest protected by the Fourteenth Amendment; (2) where district court did not specify otherwise, its dismissal operated as an adjudication on the merits; but (3) complaint had to be treated as an application for habeas corpus and dismissed for failure to exhaust state remedies.

Reversed and remanded.

*128 William M. Keenan, Jr., pro se.

Thomas R. McAlpine, Asst. Atty. Gen., Montgomery, Ala., for defendants-appellees.

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Middle District of Alabama.

Before GEE, RUBIN and POLITZ, Circuit Judges.

POLITZ, Circuit Judge:

Appellant William M. Keenan, a state prisoner, filed suit under 42 U.S.C. s 1983 alleging due process violations in the manner in which his "good time" status was revoked. The defendants moved for dismissal. The matter was referred to a magistrate, who treated the complaint as an application for a writ of habeas corpus and recommended dismissal. The district court accepted the recommendations and dismissed the action. We reverse and remand.

On September 5, 1978, Keenan, a prisoner at Alabama's Kilby Correctional Facility, applied for Incentive Good Time (IGT) status pursuant to Act 182, 1976 Ala. Acts, and an Alabama Department of Corrections regulation. Participation in the IGT program, which is limited to "inmates whose behavior and industriousness merit such award," [FN1] entitles a prisoner to two days of good-time credit for each day he serves. The administrative body charged with reviewing IGT applications approved Keenan's, and he received IGT credit from October 4, 1978, until January 12, 1979. On the latter date, the administrative body rescinded Keenan's IGT status. Keenan appealed to defendant Dale Howard, the warden at Kilby, who told him that he would be returned to IGT status as of January 22, 1979, but that he would not receive the October-January credits.[FN2]

FN1. Alabama Department of Corrections Administrative Regulation 420, Paragraph 2.

FN2. An IGT participant may not be removed from the program absent (1) a finding by the disciplinary board that the participant was "guilty of a violation," (2) a "due process action . . . which specifies the reason for the hearing," (3) the commission by the participant of a new criminal offense, (4) revocation of the participant's parole or (5) the participant's loss of good-time while on parole, Alabama Department of Corrections Administrative Regulation 420, Paragraph 5. The defendants do not contend that any of these conditions was satisfied. They claim that the body that reviews IGT applications inadvertently approved Keenan's application without first securing the approval of the warden at Kilby. Such an action by the reviewing body is inconsistent with Alabama Department of Corrections Administrative Regulation 420, Paragraph 6. Keenan, on the other hand, claims the warden told him that his IGT status had been rescinded because he was suspected of breaking prison rules. We do not now attempt to resolve this dispute.

Keenan sought declaratory relief, compensatory and punitive damages, an injunction "which prohibits defendants, their agents and employees from removing, suspending or recinding (sic) any of plaintiff's previously earned statutory good behavior credit except as proscribed (sic) by law, rule, regulation or policy approved by the Court," [FN3] and other relief not relevant here. Keenan's complaint expressly denied that he sought restoration of good-time credit.

FN3. This request, as we interpret it, involves good-time credit earned before October 4, 1978, and after January 22, 1979.