Unpublished Disposition, 930 F.2d 29 (9th Cir. 1991)

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U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit - 930 F.2d 29 (9th Cir. 1991)

Charles Edward PUETT, Plaintiff-Appellant,v.Eddie YLST, Superintendent Vacaville Medical Facility,Defendant-Appellee.

No. 88-2463.

United States Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit.

Submitted Dec. 13, 1990.* Decided March 21, 1991.



Charles Edward Puett (Puett), an inmate in the California State prison system, filed a civil rights action in the federal district court pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Puett maintains that he is being improperly detained in the California prison system in violation of a court order. The district court construed Puett's Section 1983 action to be a habeas corpus petition and dismissed the petition on the ground that Puett failed to exhaust his administrative remedies. We vacate and remand for further proceedings.

Puett is an inmate in the Vacaville Medical facility in Vacaville, California. He escaped from an Oregon penal facility and was later captured in California. Puett filed this complaint charging that California is illegally detaining him at the Vacaville facility in violation of a plea bargain agreement. Puett argues the agreement mandates that his sentence to serve a California prison term be consecutive to an Oregon prison term. (The record is not clear on this point. Puett argues that his California sentence is consecutive; the state Attorney General's office described it as concurrent in a document in the file.) Apparently, California has kept him to serve his California sentence. Puett maintains that the California officials are detaining him in violation of a court order and thus are violating his constitutional rights. He claims damages in the amount of $1,700 a day for each day he is held in violation of the law, plus $1,000 a day for pain and suffering.

The district court adopted the magistrate's findings and recommendations. The court construed Puett's complaint as an application for a writ of habeas corpus and dismissed it for failure to exhaust state remedies.


Puett's complaint does not request release from the California prison. However, a finding by the district court that he is being held in violation of his plea agreement pursuant to a Section 1983 action would require the state to release him. Any challenge to the length or duration of confinement is redressable only in habeas corpus. Preiser v. Rodriquez, 411 U.S. 475 (1973); see Todd v. Baskerville, 712 F.2d 70 (4th Cir. 1983); see Padilla v. Ackerman, 460 F.2d 477, 478 (9th Cir. 1972); Bennett v. Allen, 396 F.2d 788 (9th Cir. 1968); see also Workman v. Mitchell, 502 F.2d 1201, 1209 (9th Cir. 1974). A Section 1983 action for damages by state prisoners may be maintained provided the prisoner attacks only the conditions of his confinement and not its fact or duration. Preiser v. Rodriquez, 411 U.S. at 500. Todd v. Baskerville, 712 F.2d at 72.

However, Puett argues on appeal that this is an action for damages under Section 1983, not a habeas corpus proceeding. His view of the matter seems to be that he is not contending he should not be in prison, but that he should be in prison in Oregon where his time served would count both toward his Oregon sentence and his California sentence, since his time served in California does not count toward his Oregon sentence. If we accept his view of his complaint as a Section 1983 case, then the ultimate success of his Section 1983 claim may depend on his being able to show that he is entitled to release or transfer by the California authorities. That showing must come in a different case than this.

After the district court had entered its order in this case, and after the appeal from that order, this court decided the case of Young v. Kenny, 907 F.2d 874 (9th Cir. 1989), cert. denied, --- U.S. ---- (U.S. Feb. 25, 1991) (Nos. 90-5672, 90-5854). In Young, the prisoner was claiming that state officials had unconstitutionally failed to apply good time credits to his prison sentence. Exhaustion of state remedies was clearly required. The court held that the proper remedy in federal court would be by a petition for writ of habeas corpus and since he had not then exhausted his state remedies, such a petition in federal court would be premature. In a situation where the period of limitations could run while the prisoner was exhausting his state remedies, the proper action by the district court would be to stay, rather than dismiss, the Section 1983 action.

Accordingly, we vacate the district court's judgment and remand to the district court to consider the impact, if any, of Young v. Kenny on this case. In remanding, we do not intend to limit the authority of the district court to take other action which it may deem appropriate including, but without limitation, service of the complaint on the defendant or review of the sufficiency of the complaint.1 



The panel unanimously finds this case suitable for decision without oral argument. Fed. R. App. P. 34(a) and Ninth Circuit Rule 34-4


This disposition is not appropriate for publication and may not be cited to or by the courts of this circuit except as provided by 9th Cir.R. 36-3


There are documents in the file which indicate that Puett has a California sentence for one conviction which is to run concurrently with the Oregon sentence, and that he has a second California sentence which is to be served consecutively to the Oregon sentence and a Utah sentence. By remanding the case to the district court, we are expressing no opinion on whether or not Puett has stated, or can state, a claim for relief