Hillman v. Smith
MEMORANDUM OF OPINION. Signed by Judge James H Hancock on 9/25/2012. (JLC)
2012 Sep-25 AM 10:52
U.S. DISTRICT COURT
N.D. OF ALABAMA
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE NORTHERN DISTRICT OF ALABAMA
POLICE CHIEF NICK SMITH,
Case No. 7:12-cv-01151-JHH-PWG
MEMORANDUM OF OPINION
The magistrate judge filed a report on August 8, 2012, recommending that this action
be dismissed without prejudice for failing to state a claim upon which relief can be granted,
pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. The magistrate judge found that the plaintiff had failed to
present factual allegations sufficient to state a claim of false arrest. He also found it likely
that the plaintiff’s false arrest claim is barred by the applicable statute of limitation.
The plaintiff submitted objections to the magistrate judge’s report and recommendation on August 24, 2012. (Doc. #8). He argues against the magistrate judge’s finding that his
false arrest claim is barred by the statute of limitations by asserting that the basis of his claim
stems from the ultimate dismissal of the charges by the state court on March 2, 2011. This
argument fails on two fronts. To begin with, the fact that charges are eventually dropped,
or that there is an acquittal, is of no consequence in determining the validity of the arrest
itself. Marx v. Gumbinner, 905 F.2d 1503, 1507 (11th Cir. 1990). Additionally, the general
federal rule is that a statute of limitations begins to run when “the facts which would support
a cause of action are apparent or should be apparent to a person with a reasonably prudent
regard for his rights.” Rozar v. Mullis, 85 F.3d 556, 561-62 (11th Cir. 1996). In this instance,
the plaintiff states in his objections that he has been fighting against the alleged illegal arrest
since January 5, 2009, and it is therefore obvious that he has been aware of his claim since
that date, which is more than two years prior to the April 18, 2012, filing date of the
complaint in this action. Id. at 4. For that reason, the plaintiff’s claim is barred by the twoyear statute of limitations applicable to claims under § 1983.
The plaintiff’s reliance on the holding in Heck v. Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477, is also
misplaced. He argues that under Heck the statute of limitations was tolled until such time
as the charges were dismissed by the state court. However, Heck does not generally bar
claims for illegal search or arrest because such claims would not necessarily imply the
invalidity of a subsequent conviction. Hughes v. Lott, 350 F.3d 1157, 1160 (11th Cir. 2003).
Because the plaintiff’s claims were not tolled under Heck, his claim began to accrue no later
than the January 5, 2009, date indicated above.
Even if the plaintiff had successfully overcome the statue of limitations hurdle, his
objections do not adequately address the magistrate judge’s finding that the complaint fails
to contain sufficient factual allegations to overcome the defendant’s qualified immunity.
Other than to assert in conclusory fashion that the defendant “arranged the accusations”
against him for “personal reasons,” and to contend that “the alleged buyer of the drugs would
not participate any further with the defendant in the trumped up charge,” the plaintiff
presents no specific facts which show the defendant acted without actual or arguable
probable cause at the time of the arrest. In other words, he has failed to present a plausible
claim for false arrest as required by Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662 (2009).
Accordingly, having carefully reviewed and considered de novo all the materials in
the court file, including the report and recommendation and the objections thereto, the Court
is of the opinion that the magistrate judge's report is due to be and hereby is ADOPTED and
the recommendation is ACCEPTED. This action is therefore due to be dismissed without
prejudice for failing to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, pursuant to 28 U.S.C.
§ 1915A(b)(1). A Final Judgment will be entered.
DONE this the
day of September, 2012.
SENIOR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
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