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Bench Book - No Substitute for Appeal or Habeas Corpus

In Heck v. Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477 (1994), the Supreme Court clarified that a Section 1983 action should not be used to challenge the validity of a criminal judgment. If the alleged civil rights violation would be one that would render a conviction, sentence, or—in the case of a Compact offender—a probation or parole revocation invalid, then it should be raised either as part of the criminal case or appeal or through habeas corpus. The distinction can be a fine one, though. For example, a Section 1983 action can be raised to challenge the use of improper revocation procedures in connection with the Compact. Compare French v. Adams Cty. Det. Ctr., 379 F.3d 1158 (10th Cir. 2004) (Heck did not bar a Compact parolee’s suit alleging that he was held for 73 days without a hearing or counsel, when the claim was being used to seek damages for using the wrong procedure, not for reaching the wrong result, and when success on the claim would not invalidate the underlying conviction), with Drollinger v. Milligan, 552 F.2d 1220 (7th Cir. 1977) (holding that challenges to specific conditions of probation in an ongoing case should be raised through a petition for habeas corpus, not by a Section 1983 action).