Sevilla v. Maldonado et al

Filing 16

ORDER ADOPTING REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION for 9 Motion to Dismiss filed by A. Maldonado, J. Nelson. Court overrules Defendants A. Maldonado and J. Nelson's 14 Objection to Report and Recommendation. Court adopts 13 Report and Recommendation in its entirety, and denies Defendants' 9 Motion to Dismiss. Signed by Judge Cynthia Bashant on 9/29/2017. (All non-registered users served via U.S. Mail Service) (jah)

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1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT 11 SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA 12 13 JULIO SEVILLA, Plaintiff, 14 15 16 Case No. 16-cv-02364-BAS-DHB v. A. MALDONADO, et al., ORDER: (1) OVERRULING DEFENDANTS’ OBJECTIONS TO THE R&R [ECF No. 14]; 17 18 Defendants. 19 20 (2) ADOPTING THE R&R IN ITS ENTIRETY [ECF No. 13]; AND (3) DENYING DEFENDANTS’ MOTION TO DISMISS [ECF No. 9] 21 22 23 Plaintiff Julio Sevilla, incarcerated at the R.J. Donovan Correctional Facility, 24 has filed a Complaint against prison officials Maldonado and Nelson alleging they 25 used excessive force against him in violation of his Eight Amendment right to be free 26 from cruel and unusual punishment. (ECF No. 1.) Defendants move to dismiss 27 arguing that Sevilla’s claims are barred under Heck v. Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477 28 (1994), because Sevilla was found guilty at a disciplinary hearing of resisting a peace –1– 16cv2364 1 officer as a result of the incident described in the Complaint. (ECF No. 9.) 2 Magistrate Judge Louisa Porter issued a Report and Recommendation 3 (“R&R”) recommending that the Court deny the Motion to Dismiss pointing out that 4 “a holding in [Sevilla’s] §1983 case that the Defendants used excessive force to 5 subdue [Sevilla] would not ‘negate the unlawfulness of [Sevilla’s] attempt to resist 6 it.’” (ECF No. 13 at 11, quoting Hooper v. Cnty. Of San Diego, 629 F.3d 1127, 1133 7 (9th Cir. 2011).) Defendants now file Objections to this R&R. (ECF No. 14.) 8 9 I. LEGAL STANDARD A. Motion to Dismiss 10 A motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil 11 Procedure tests the legal sufficiency of the claims asserted in the complaint. Fed. R. 12 Civ. P. 12(b)(6); Navarro v. Block, 250 F.3d 729, 731 (9th Cir. 2001). The court 13 must accept all factual allegations pleaded in the complaint as true and must construe 14 them and draw all reasonable inferences from them in favor of the nonmoving party. 15 Cahill v. Liberty Mutual Ins. Co., 80 F.3d 336, 337-38 (9th Cir. 1996). 16 Courts may not usually consider material outside the complaint when ruling 17 on a motion to dismiss. Hal Roach Studios, Inc. v. Richard Feiner & Co., 896 F.2d 18 1542, 1555 n.19 (9th Cir. 1990), superseded by statute on other grounds. However, 19 documents specifically identified in the complaint whose authenticity is not 20 questioned by parties may also be considered. Fecht v. Price Co., 70 F.3d 1078, 21 1080 n.1 (9th Cir. 1995), superseded by statute on other grounds. 22 B. 23 The Court reviews de novo those portions of a Magistrate Judge’s Report and 24 Recommendation (“R&R”) to which objections are made. 28 U.S.C. §636(b)(1). 25 The Court may “accept, reject, or modify, in whole or in part, the findings or 26 recommendations made by the magistrate judge.” Id. “The statute [28 U.S.C. 27 §636(b)(1)(c)] makes it clear,” however, “that the district judge must review the 28 magistrate judge’s findings and recommendations de novo if objection is made, but Objections to the R&R –2– 16cv2364 1 not otherwise.” United States v. Reyna-Tapia, 328 F.3d 1114, 1121 (9th Cir. 2003) 2 (en banc) (emphasis in original). “Neither the Constitution nor the statute requires a 3 district judge to review, de novo, findings and recommendations that the parties 4 themselves accept as correct.” Reyna-Tapia, 328 F.3d at 1121. Since neither party 5 objects to the facts detailed in the R&R, this Court adopts and does not repeat the 6 “Background” section detailing the allegations in the Complaint. 7 II. 8 9 ANALYSIS Defendants argue that the Court should dismiss Plaintiff’s Complaint pursuant to Heck v. Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477, 489 (1994). The Court disagrees. 10 Under Heck, a civil rights claim is disallowed if rendering a judgment for a 11 plaintiff would necessarily imply that a previous conviction or sentence is invalid. 12 512 U.S. at 489. This rule has also been invoked for prison disciplinary hearings 13 involving loss of good-time credits. Edwards v. Balisok, 520 U.S. 641, 648 (1997). 14 However, when a civil rights claim does not necessarily implicate the underlying 15 disciplinary action, it may proceed. See Muhammad v. Close, 540 U.S. 749, 754-55 16 (2004). 17 In Cunningham v. Gates, 312 F.3d 1148 (9th Cir. 2002), cited by Defendants 18 in their Motion to Dismiss, the Ninth Circuit found that Heck barred a prisoner, 19 convicted of felony murder and resisting arrest, from bringing his civil rights 20 excessive force claim because his underlying conviction required proof of an 21 “intentional provocative act” which was defined as “not in self defense.” 22 Cunningham, 312 F.3d at 1152. 23 unreasonable force while effecting the plaintiff’s arrest, the court held, would “call 24 into question” the validity of factual disputes which had necessarily already been 25 resolved in the criminal action against him. Id. at 1154. Essentially, a finding that the police used 26 However, in Smith v. City of Hemet, 394 F.3d 689 (9th Cir. 2005), the Ninth 27 Circuit considered whether a prisoner’s excessive force allegations were barred by 28 Heck after pleading guilty to resisting arrest pursuant to Cal. Penal Code §148(a)(1). –3– 16cv2364 1 The Smith court reasoned: 2 A conviction based on conduct that occurred before the officers 3 commence the process of arresting the defendant is not “necessarily” 4 rendered invalid by the officers’ subsequent use of excessive force. . . . 5 Similarly, excessive force used after a defendant has been arrested may 6 properly be the subject of a §1983 action notwithstanding the 7 defendant’s conviction on a charge of resisting an arrest that was itself 8 lawfully conducted. 9 Id. at 696 (emphasis original). Accordingly, the Smith court found that 10 “Smith’s §1983 action is not barred . . . because the excessive force may have been 11 employed against him subsequent to the time he engaged in the conduct that 12 constituted the basis for his conviction.” Id. at 693. Under the circumstances, the 13 Ninth Circuit held that Smith’s §1983 action “neither demonstrated nor necessarily 14 implied the invalidity of his conviction.” Id.; see also Sanford v. Motts, 258 F.3d 15 1117, 1120 (9th Cir. 2001) (“If [the officer] used excessive force subsequent to the 16 time Sanford interfered with [the officer’s] duty, success in her section 1983 claim 17 will not invalidate her conviction. Heck is no bar.”) 18 The core judicial inquiry in a §1983 excessive force claim is “‘whether force 19 was applied in a good-faith effort to maintain or restore discipline, or maliciously 20 and sadistically to cause harm.’” Wilkins v. Gaddy, 559 U.S. 34, 37 (2010) (quoting 21 Hudson v. McMillian, 503 U.S. 1, 7 (1992)). “When prison officials maliciously and 22 sadistically use force to cause harm,” the U.S. Supreme Court has recognized, 23 “contemporary standards of decency always are violated.” Hudson, 503 U.S. at 9. 24 “[T]he test for whether force is reasonable or excessive is ‘whether the officers’ 25 actions are objectively reasonable in light of the facts and circumstances confronting 26 them, without regard to their underlying intent or motivation.’” Hooper v. Cty. of 27 San Diego, 629 F.3d 1127, 1133 (9th Cir. 2011) (quoting Graham v. Connor, 490 28 U.S. 386, 397 (1989). –4– 16cv2364 1 In this case, a fact finder could find that Officers Maldonado and Nelson used 2 excessive force and that Sevilla resisted a peace officer. One finding does not 3 necessarily invalidate the other, as required for Heck to apply. Both the Complaint 4 (ECF No. 1) and the report submitted by Defendants (ECF No. 9-1 at 9−10) detail a 5 series of exchanges between inmate and officials including Sevilla’s refusal to follow 6 orders to step outside the office, exchanges of insults, Maldonado allegedly taking 7 Sevilla down to his stomach and hitting Sevilla’s head on the concrete floor. Similar 8 to Smith, the finding that Sevilla resisted a peace officer could have been based on 9 his conduct before the officers allegedly used excessive force. 10 Furthermore, although Sevilla was found to have resisted a peace officer, a 11 fact finder could find that the force used to quell the resistance was applied, not in a 12 good faith effort to maintain or restore discipline, but maliciously and sadistically to 13 cause harm. The fact that Sevilla admitted in his disciplinary proceeding that “I did 14 resist. The force was justified,” (id. at 14), although it may cause him some credibility 15 problems at trial, is not dispositive. It is not clear from this statement which force at 16 which point in time he was admitting was justified. 17 III. CONCLUSION 18 For the reasons stated, the Court OVERRULES Defendants’ Objections to 19 the R&R (ECF No. 14), ADOPTS IN ITS ENTIRETY the R&R (ECF No. 13) and 20 DENIES Defendants’ Motion to Dismiss (ECF No. 9.) 21 IT IS SO ORDERED. 22 23 DATED: September 29, 2017 24 25 26 27 28 –5– 16cv2364

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