Preiser v. Rodriguez - 411 U.S. 475 (1973)


U.S. Supreme Court

Preiser v. Rodriguez, 411 U.S. 475 (1973)

Preiser v. Rodriguez

No. 71-1369

Argued January 9, 1973

Decided May 7, 1973

411 U.S. 475

Syllabus

Respondents were state prisoners who had elected to participate in New York's conditional release program, by which a prisoner serving an indeterminate sentence may earn up to 10 days per month good behavior time credits toward reduction of his maximum sentence. For in-prison disciplinary reasons, the good time credits of each were canceled. Each respondent brought a civil rights action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, in conjunction with a habeas corpus action, claiming that his credits were unconstitutionally canceled and seeking their restoration. The District Court in each case viewed the habeas corpus claim merely as an adjunct to the civil rights action, thus obviating the need for exhaustion of state remedies, and, on the merits, ruled for the respondent, a ruling that, in each case, entitled him to immediate release on parole. The Court of Appeals consolidated the actions and affirmed.

Held: When a state prisoner challenges the fact or duration of his physical imprisonment and, by way of relief, seeks a determination that he is entitled to immediate release or a speedier release, his sole federal remedy is a writ of habeas corpus. Pp. 411 U. S. 488-499.

(a) Although the broad language of § 1983 seems literally to apply, Congress' enactment of the specific federal habeas corpus statute, with its requirement that a state prisoner exhaust state remedies, was intended to provide the exclusive means of relief in this type of situation. Pp. 411 U. S. 488-490.

(b) The policy of exhaustion in federal habeas corpus actions, which is rooted in considerations of federal state comity, has as much relevance in an attack on the actions of the state prison administration as it does in an attack on the actions of a state court; and that policy applies here, where respondents sought no damages, but only a ruling that they were entitled to immediate release or a speedier release. Pp. 411 U. S. 490-494.

(c) Recent decisions of the Court relied on by respondents, upholding state prisoners' civil rights actions, are inapposite to the situation here, for the prisoners in those cases challenged only

Page 411 U. S. 476

the conditions of their confinement, not the fact or duration of that confinement itself. Pp. 411 U. S. 498-499.

456 F.2d 79, reversed.

STEWART, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which BURGER, C.J., and WHITE, BLACKMUN, POWELL, and REHNQUIST, JJ., .joined. BRENNAN, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which DOUGLAS and MARSHALL, JJ., joined, post, p. 411 U. S. 500.



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