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Touro Law Review

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Heck v. Humphrey, which was decided in 1994, set the precedent for using § 1983 to challenge unjust convictions. Approximately 1,930 decisions have cited to Heck in the past twelve years, which includes 140 circuit court decisions. I did not even count the district court decisions because such a task would be quite difficult, given the unwieldy number of decisions.

One may wonder why so many decisions cite to Heck. The reason, or part of it, is that a large portion of these cases are brought by prisoners. And prisoners, as we all know, often initiate complaints or litigation because they are unhappy about their imprisonment. The problem in a case like Heck, or other cases such as Preiser v. Rodriguez and Edwards v. Balisok, is that these decisions held that a prisoner cannot challenge a prison's disciplinary actions if the result of the challenge may lead to a change in the term of imprisonment. Thus, because such actions are barred by Heck, the number of decisions citing to Heck tends to be quite high.