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Slavick v. Sequeira

United States District Court, D. Hawaii

February 26, 2016

CHRIS SLAVICK, #A0765881, Petitioner,


Before the court is pro se prisoner Chris Slavick’s petition for writ of habeas corpus brought pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2241. Doc. No. 1. Slavick is serving a sentence in State v. Slavick, Cr. No. 1PC04-1-001534, and is awaiting trial in State v. Slavick, Cr. No. 1PC13-1-001461.[1]

For the following reasons, the court DISMISSES the Petition for lack of jurisdiction, DENIES a certificate of appealability, and orders Slavick to SHOW CAUSE in writing whether he intended this action to proceed and be construed as brought pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, even though it refers to 28 U.S.C. § 2241.


Slavick broadly alleges that prison officials at the Halawa Correctional Facility (“HCF”) and the Oahu Community Correctional Center (“OCCC”) have denied him necessary medical care since on or about “October 2012, January 2013, and other dates of Doctor orders.” Pet., Doc. No. 1. Slavick provides no further details regarding his injuries, his medical needs, the dates when he was allegedly denied care, or the individuals responsible for these alleged denials. Slavick seeks release to obtain medical care.

Because Slavick clearly challenges the conditions of his confinement rather than his conviction or sentence, and despite his request for release rather than damages, the court instructed the Clerk to docket this suit as a prisoner civil rights action under § 1983. On further review and for the following reasons, the court now leaves it to Slavick to indicate whether he intended to pursue claims under § 1983.

A. Habeas Relief is Unavailable

A federal court may not entertain an action over which it lacks jurisdiction. Hernandez v. Campbell, 204 F.3d 861, 865 (9th Cir. 2000). Section 2241 confers a general grant of habeas jurisdiction when a federal or state prisoner contends that he “is in custody in violation of the Constitution or laws or treaties of the United States.” 28 U.S.C. §§ 2241(a) and (c)(3).

A habeas corpus action brought under 28 U.S.C. § 2254 is normally the proper mechanism for a state prisoner to challenge the fact or duration of his confinement. See Preiser v. Rodriguez, 411 U.S. 475, 485 (1973); Wilkinson v. Dotson, 544 U.S. 74, 81 (2005); Tucker v. Carlson, 925 F.2d 330, 332 (9th Cir. 1990) (holding that, to the extent a mixed complaint seeks damages for civil rights violations, it should be construed as involving civil rights claims). A state pretrial detainee who is not in custody pursuant to a state court judgment when he files the petition can also seek relief under 28 U.S.C. § 2241. See Stow v. Murashige, 389 F.3d 880, 882-83, 886-88 (9th Cir. 2004) (allowing pretrial detainee challenging retrial to proceed under § 2241).

However, claims that, if successful, would not entitle a claimant to release from custody are cognizable under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Edwards v. Balisok, 520 U.S. 641, 646-48 (1997); see also Mayle v. Felix, 545 U.S. 654-55 (2005) (discussing procedural differences and standards between habeas actions and ordinary civil actions). Slavick’s claims do not appear to be of the kind that could lead to his release.

Slavick’s claims concern the conditions of his confinement and bear no relationship to the legality of his sentence, to its duration, or to the legality of the order requiring his pretrial detention. His claims instead relate solely to the conditions of his confinement in a state facility. Such claims may not be brought to this court pursuant to § 2241 and are DISMISSED. Even if the conditions of confinement are wrongful, that does not invalidate his sentence or his pretrial detention. See Rules 1(b) and 4 of the Rules Governing Section 2254 Cases in the United States District Courts, 28 U.S.C. foll. § 2254 (“Habeas Rules”) (applying rules to all habeas petitions and directing court to dismiss petitions when “it plainly appears” that petitioner is not entitled to relief); see also Bostic v. Carlson, 884 F.2d 1267, 1269-70 (9th Cir. 1989) (affirming district court’s dismissal of a § 2241 petition under Habeas Rules 1(b) and 4).

B. Whether the Court Should Construe the Petition as a Civil Rights Complaint

The court has the discretion to convert a habeas petition to a prisoner civil rights case in appropriate circumstances. See Wilwording v. Swenson, 404 U.S. 249, 251 (1971), overruled on other grounds by Woodford v. Ngo, 548 U.S. 81 (2006). Because there are procedural differences and different consequences between filing these two types of actions, however, the court is not inclined to convert this case without Slavick’s consent.

For example, the filing fee for a prisoner civil rights complaint proceeding in forma pauperis is $350.00 compared to the substantially lower $5.00 filing fee for habeas petitions. 28 U.S.C. § 1914(a). The $350 fee may be deducted in full over time from a qualified prisoner’s prison trust account. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b)(1). Slavick may be unwilling to pay the considerably higher filing fee for a civil rights action.

Moreover, the Prison Litigation Reform Act (“PLRA”) provides that “[n]o action shall be brought with respect to prison conditions under section 1983 of this title, or any other Federal law, by a prisoner confined in any jail, prison, or other correctional facility until such administrative remedies as are available are exhausted.” 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(a). The exhaustion requirement applies to all claims relating to prison life that do not implicate the duration of a prisoner’s sentence. Porter v. Nussle, 534 U.S. 516, 532 (2002). Exhaustion is a prerequisite to bringing a civil rights action that cannot be excused by a district court. Woodford v. Ngo, 548 U.S. 81, 85 (2006); Bo ...

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