Skip navigation
× You have 2 more free articles available this month. Subscribe today.

Prisoners Must Resort to Habeas First before Settling Relief under the Privacy Act when Attacking a Prison Disciplinary Conviction that Involves the Loss of Good Time

Federal prisoners may not seek monetary damages via the Privacy Act when the requested relief, if granted, would necessarily imply the invalidity of a prison disciplinary conviction that resulted in the loss of good time, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit decided October 27, 2009.

Frank Skinner was convicted through a prison disciplinary process of possessing cocaine. Skinner lost 40 days of good time, among other sanctions. All along, Skinner insisted that the white powder substance guards had found was laundry detergent. After filing a Freedom of Information Act request, Skinner obtained a document from the BOP that indicated the powder was “actually laundry detergent.”

Skinner sued the United States, asserting violations of the Privacy Act. Skinner alleged, for instance, that the BOP had failed to maintain its records accurately, and that as a result, he was wrongly convicted of possessing cocaine.

The D.C. Circuit affirmed the district court’s denial of relief, holding that Skinner had to first obtain relief through habeas corpus from his disciplinary conviction before suing under the Privacy Act. “[I]f Skinner were to win damages…he would necessarily have demonstrated the invalidity” of his disciplinary conviction, the court wrote.

See: Skinner v. United States Department of Justice, No. 05-5284 (D.C. Cir. 2009).

As a digital subscriber to Prison Legal News, you can access full text and downloads for this and other premium content.

Subscribe today

Already a subscriber? Login

Related legal case

Skinner v. United States Department of Justice