Russell v. Lopez et al

Filing 75

ORDER denying Defendant D. Doren's 34 Motion to Dismiss. Defendant Doren filed a Notice of Joinder to 28 Motion to Dismiss by Defendants Carrion and Hodge. Court dismissed Defendants Carrion and Hodge, but allowed Defendant Doren's Joinder to remain a valid motion. Court now denies this Motion to Dismiss. Signed by Judge Cynthia Bashant on 9/25/2017. (jah)

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1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT 9 SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA 10 KARL J. RUSSELL, 11 Case No. 15-cv-02280-BAS-KSC Plaintiff, 12 13 ORDER DENYING MOTION TO DISMISS v. 14 [ECF Nos. 28, 34] RICHARD LOPEZ, et al., 15 Defendants. 16 17 18 Defendants Carrion and Hodge filed this Motion to Dismiss arguing that 19 Plaintiff’s Section 1983 claim was barred by Heck v. Humphrey, 512. U.S. 477 20 (1994). (ECF No. 28.) Defendant Doren filed a Notice of Joinder to this Motion. 21 (ECF No. 34.) Carrion and Hodge were later dismissed from the action, but the 22 Court allowed Defendant Doren’s Joinder to remain a valid motion. (ECF No. 72.) 23 For the reasons stated below, the Court now DENIES this Motion to Dismiss. 24 I. 25 STATEMENT OF FACTS Plaintiff Russell, an inmate at R.J. Donovan Correctional Facility 26 (“Donovan”), was involved in an incident with Correctional Officer Lopez. 27 Attached to Plaintiff’s First Amended Complaint (“FAC”) are the various reports of 28 this incident. (ECF No. 21.) Plaintiff was found guilty of battery on C.O. Lopez –1– 15cv2280 1 and sentenced to 150 days loss of behavioral credit. (ECF No. 21 at 19.) The 2 battery charges are supported by reports indicating that when C.O. Lopez attempted 3 to handcuff Plaintiff, Plaintiff resisted and struck Lopez with his fist. (Id.) 4 Defendant Doren was not the victim of this battery. Instead, he was a witness 5 who was called in to help handcuff Plaintiff after the battery occurred. (ECF No. 21 6 at 36.) Plaintiff claims that Doren used excessive force against him “by slamming 7 his knee in Inmate Russell’s side and slamming Inmate Russell’s legs.” (FAC, 8 Count 1.) 9 II. ANALYSIS 10 A. 11 A motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Legal Standard 12 Procedure tests the legal sufficiency of the claims asserted in the complaint. Fed. R. 13 Civ. P. 12(b)(6); Navarro v. Block, 250 F.3d 729, 731 (9th Cir. 2001). The court 14 must accept all factual allegations pleaded in the complaint as true and must 15 construe them and draw all reasonable inferences from them in favor of the 16 nonmoving party. Cahill v. Liberty Mutual Ins. Co., 80 F.3d 336, 337-38 (9th Cir. 17 1996). 18 Courts may not usually consider material outside the complaint when ruling 19 on a motion to dismiss. Hal Roach Studios, Inc. v. Richard Feiner & Co., 896 F.2d 20 1542, 1555 n.19 (9th Cir. 1990). However, documents specifically identified in the 21 complaint whose authenticity is not questioned by parties may also be considered. 22 Fecht v. Price Co., 70 F.3d 1078, 1080 n.1 (9th Cir. 1995), superseded by statute on 23 other grounds. 24 B. 25 Under Heck v. Humphrey, a civil rights claim is disallowed if rendering a Heck v. Humphrey 26 judgment for a plaintiff would necessarily imply that a previous conviction or 27 sentence is invalid. 512 U.S. 477, 489 (1994). This rule has also been invoked in 28 prison disciplinary hearings involving good-time credits. Edwards v. Balisok, 520 –2– 15cv2280 1 U.S. 641, 648 (1997). However, when a civil rights claim does not necessarily 2 implicate the underlying disciplinary action, it may proceed. See Muhammad v. 3 Close, 540 U.S. 749, 754-55 (2004). 4 In Cunningham v. Gates, 312 F.3d 1148 (9th Cir. 2002), cited by Defendants 5 in this Motion to Dismiss, the Ninth Circuit found that Heck barred a prisoner, 6 convicted of felony murder and resisting arrest, from bringing his civil rights 7 excessive force claim because his underlying conviction required proof of an 8 “intentional provocative act” which was defined as “not in self defense.” 9 Cunningham, 312 F.3d at 1152. Essentially, a finding that the police used 10 unreasonable force while effecting the plaintiff’s arrest, the court held, would “call 11 into question” the validity of factual disputes which had necessarily already been 12 resolved in the criminal action against him. Id. at 1154. 13 However, in Smith v. City of Hemet, 394 F.3d 689 (9th Cir. 2000), the Ninth 14 Circuit considered whether a prisoner’s excessive force allegations were barred by 15 Heck after pleading guilty to resisting arrest pursuant to Cal. Penal Code §148(a)(1). 16 The Smith court reasoned: 17 A conviction based on conduct that occurred before the officers commence 18 the process of arresting the defendant is not “necessarily” rendered invalid by 19 the officers’ subsequent use of excessive force . . . . Similarly, excessive force 20 used after a defendant has been arrested may properly be the subject of a 21 §1983 action notwithstanding the defendant’s conviction on a charge of 22 resisting an arrest that was itself lawfully conducted. 23 Id. at 696 (emphasis in original). Accordingly, the Smith court found that “Smith’s 24 §1983 action is not barred . . . because the excessive force may have been employed 25 against him subsequent to the time he engaged in the conduct that constituted the 26 basis for his conviction.” Id. at 693. Under the circumstances, the Ninth Circuit 27 held that Smith’s §1983 action “neither demonstrated nor necessarily implied the 28 invalidity of his conviction.” Id.; see also Sanford v. Motts, 258 F.3d 1117, 1120 –3– 15cv2280 1 (9th Cir. 2001) (“If [the officer] used excessive force subsequent to the time Sanford 2 interfered with [the officer’s] duty, success in her section 1983 claim will not 3 invalidate her conviction. Heck is no bar.”) 4 The core judicial inquiry, in a § 1983 excessive force claim is “‘whether force 5 was applied in a good-faith effort to maintain or restore discipline, or maliciously 6 and sadistically to cause harm.’” Wilkins v. Gaddy, 559 U.S. 34, 37 (2010) (quoting 7 Hudson v. McMillian, 503 U.S. 1, 7 (1992). “When prison officials maliciously and 8 sadistically use force to cause harm,” the U.S. Supreme Court has recognized, 9 “contemporary standards of decency always are violated.” Hudson, 503 U.S. at 9. 10 “[T]he test for whether force is reasonable or excessive is ‘whether the officers’ 11 actions are objectively reasonable in light of the facts and circumstances confronting 12 them, without regard to their underlying intent or motivation.’” Hooper v. Cnty. of 13 San Diego, 629 F.3d 1127, 1133 (9th Cir. 2011) (quoting Graham v. Connor, 490 14 U.S. 386, 397 (1989). 15 Defendant Doren argues that finding his use of force was unwarranted, as 16 Plaintiff alleges in the FAC, “would be at odds with the finding that the officers 17 used force in an attempt to control Plaintiff’s violent resistance, and with the finding 18 that in the course of Plaintiff’s violent resistance, Plaintiff used physical violence 19 (battery on one of the officers) which necessitated their use of force.” (ECF No. 28, 20 pg. 5.) The Court disagrees. 21 Doren was not the victim of the battery, and a jury could find that Doren’s 22 conduct occurred after Plaintiff was subdued. Thus a finding of excessive force 23 would not be inconsistent with the battery conviction. Or a jury could find that, 24 regardless of Plaintiff’s battery against Lopez, the amount of force used by Doren 25 was not applied in a good faith effort to restrain or restore discipline, but was 26 applied maliciously and sadistically to cause harm. Therefore, rendering a judgment 27 for Plaintiff in this civil rights case would not necessarily imply that the battery 28 conviction was invalid, and Heck is inapplicable. –4– 15cv2280 1 2 3 4 5 IV. CONCLUSION For the foregoing reasons, Defendant Doren’s Motion to Dismiss (ECF Nos. 28, 34.) is DENIED. IT IS SO ORDERED. DATED: September 25, 2017 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 –5– 15cv2280

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