Thornton v. Brown

Summarized by:

  • Court: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Civil Rights § 1983
  • Date Filed: 07-31-2013
  • Case #: 11-56146
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Circuit Judge Graber for the Court; Circuit Court Judge Bright; Dissent by Circuit Judge Ikuta
  • Full Text Opinion

A parolee is not barred from bringing an action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 that challenges the conditions of parole as long as a successful claim would not result in being released from parole more quickly or imply that the parolee’s underlying conviction or sentence was invalid.

William Thornton brought a constitutional challenge to the imposition and enforcement of two conditions of his parole: a residency restriction and a requirement that he submit to electronic monitoring using a Global Positioning System (“GPS”) device. The district court determined that the exclusive federal remedy for Thornton’s claims was habeas corpus and dismissed his case under Fed. R. Civ. Pro. 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim. Thornton alleged that the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation violated his constitutional rights by imposing the GPS monitoring requirement and residency restriction as parole conditions and by enforcing those conditions in an arbitrary or discriminatory manner. The Ninth Circuit reviewed in detail only Thornton’s injunctive relief claims because his other claims against state officials failed due to the officers being granted absolute immunity by acting within the parameters of their positions with the State. The panel reviewed whether Thornton appropriately brought his claims under § 1983 instead of through a petition for habeas corpus. The panel noted that a claim that meets the statutory criteria of § 1983 may be asserted unless a successful would release the claimant from confinement or shorten the period of parole. The panel held that Thornton’s claims challenging two parole conditions did not fall within the exception because a judgment enjoining enforcement of his GPS monitoring requirement and residency restrictions would neither affect the “fact or duration” of his parole nor “necessarily imply” the invalidity of his state-court conviction or sentence. Here, Thornton did not challenge his status as a parolee. REVERSED AND REMANDED.

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