United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania
JAMES E. NOTTINGHAM, Petitioner,
RICHARD A. GRAY, et. al., Respondents. JAMES E. NOTTINGHAM, Plaintiff,
NANCY BUTTS, et. al., Defendants.
KAROLINE MEHALCHICK UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
Background and Procedural History
October 16, 2018, James E. Nottingham
(“Nottingham”) filed two causes of action which
involve a common question of law or fact. First, he filed the
above-captioned petition for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant
to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. Nottingham v. Gray, et.
al., No. 4:18-CV-02002 (M.D. Pa. filed Oct. 16,
2018). He then filed the above captioned complaint alleging
civil rights violations under 42 U.S.C. §
1983. Nottingham v. Butts, et. al., No.
4:18-CV-02003 (M.D. Pa. filed Oct. 16, 2018).
Nottingham was confined at the State Correctional Institution
at Camp Hill (“SCI - Camp Hill”) at the time of
both filings. Nottingham v. Gray, et. al., No.
4:18-CV-02002 (Doc. 1); Nottingham v. Butts, et.
al., No. 4:18-CV-02003 (Doc. 13).
March 13, 2019, the Court determined that Nottingham's
statement for relief contained within his civil rights action
was inadequate, as it sought to enjoin the proceedings
against him and have him released from custody, a request
which generally “falls under the habeas corpus
umbrella.” The Court granted Nottingham thirty days to
amend his complaint to sufficiently allege a § 1983
claim. Nottingham v. Butts, et. al., No.
4:18-CV-02003 (Doc. 14, at 14-18); (Doc. 20).
28, 2019, Nottingham filed his amended complaint.
Nottingham v. Butts, et. al., No. 4:18-CV-02003
(Doc. 28). The underlying facts of the amended complaint stem
from the same incident which underlies Nottingham's
habeas corpus petition. According to the Affidavit of
Probable Cause attached to Nottingham's amended
complaint, police responded to a 911 call at Nottingham's
residence on July 13, 2015, and found Nottingham walking down
his driveway. Police proceeded to his residence, where they
found Nottingham's girlfriend, his girlfriend's
daughter, and his girlfriend's two cousins. These
witnesses stated that Nottingham returned from the bar
intoxicated and became involved in an argument with his
girlfriend. After shoving his girlfriend and punching her
cousin in the head, Nottingham allegedly grabbed a nearby
rifle and shot it into the floor and into the wall near to
where his girlfriend was located. Police proceeded to place
Nottingham under arrest and acquired a warrant to search his
residence. Nottingham v. Butts, et. al., No.
4:18-CV-02003 (Doc. 28, at 15-16).
alleges a litany of procedural errors leading to his
conviction, including a search warrant which lacked probable
cause, denial of his opportunity to be involved with
pre-trial hearings, searches and seizures conducted without
the requisite warrants, removal of DNA evidence during the
course of his trials, and ineffective assistance of counsel.
Nottingham also alleges a Brady violation.
Nottingham v. Butts, et. al., No. 4:18-CV-02003
(Doc. 28, at 3-5, 9).
habeas corpus petition, Nottingham challenges the legality of
certain evidence obtained during his search and seizure.
Specifically, Nottingham submits that the state exceeded the
scope of its search warrant when it seized several items.
Nottingham also raises a sufficiency of the evidence claim,
as he alleges no forensic testing took place, the witnesses
rendered inconsistent testimony, and a Brady
violation occurred. Further, Nottingham seeks habeas relief
on the grounds of perjury. He also briefly mentions
ineffective assistance of counsel. Nottingham v. Gray,
et. al., No. 4:18-CV-02002 (Doc. 1, at 6-7, 9, 12, 17).
These allegations stem from the same prosecution as that
underlying Nottingham's § 1983 claim. See
Nottingham v. Butts, et. al., No. 4:18-CV-02003 (Doc.
28, at 3-5, 9, 15-16).
amended complaint is now before the court. For the reasons
stated herewith, the Court orders that Nottingham's
actions be consolidated into his habeas corpus action
pursuant to Rule 42(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil
Nottingham's claims are more appropriately brought in
a habeas corpus petition
deciding whether a § 1983 claim is appropriate, the
Court must examine the conduct of which the plaintiff
complains. That conduct must not have bearing on the validity
of the plaintiff's conviction or sentence. If it does,
and a judgment for the plaintiff “would necessarily
imply the invalidity of his conviction or sentence, ”
then the Court must dismiss the complaint. The only federal
remedy in that case is a writ of habeas corpus. Heck v.
Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477, 487 (1994). This law holds true
when the plaintiff looks to recover damages for an
alleged unconstitutional conviction or imprisonment.
Heck, 512 U.S. at 486-87 (emphasis added).The Third
Circuit has explained that “where a pro se
complaint requests habeas relief, a district court generally
should construe the complaint as a habeas petition.”
Brown v. City of Philadelphia, 339 Fed. App'x
143, 147 (3d Cir. 2009).
Nottingham were to prevail on the allegations in his civil
rights complaint - if the search warrant is deemed
inadequate, if police are deemed to have exceeded the scope
of the search warrant, if the evidence is deemed
insufficient, if counsel is found ineffective, if it is
determined that a Brady violation was committed - it
would implicitly invalidate the legitimacy of his conviction.
Therefore, Nottingham's § 1983 claim is improper and
his only recourse is through his petition for habeas corpus.
See Heck, 512 U.S. at 487; Nottingham
v. Butts, et. al., No. 4:18-CV-02003 (M.D. Pa. Oct. 16,
2018) (Doc. 28, at 3-5, 9).
Nottingham's causes of action call ...