Wilson v. Chandroo et al

Filing 20

ORDER Denying Defendants' 13 Motion to Dismiss. Signed by Judge Michael M. Anello on 9/27/2017. (All non-registered users served via U.S. Mail Service)(ag)

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1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 Case No.: 3:16cv2815-MMA (WVG) TEDDY LEROY WILSON, Jr., ORDER DENYING DEFENDANTS’ MOTION TO DISMISS Plaintiff, vs. [Doc. No. 13] CHANDROO, et al., Defendants. 18 19 20 Plaintiff Teddy Leroy Wilson, Jr., a California state prisoner proceeding pro se, 21 has filed a civil rights complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. See Doc. No. 1. Plaintiff 22 alleges that Defendants San Diego Sheriff’s Deputies Chandroo, Thayer, and Williams 23 used excessive force against him, in violation of his constitutional rights. Defendants 24 move to dismiss Plaintiff’s complaint pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 25 12(b)(6), on the grounds that his excessive force claim is barred by Heck v. Humphrey, 26 512 U.S. 477 (1994). See Doc. No. 13. Plaintiff filed a document which the Court 27 liberally construes as a response to Defendants’ motion. See Doc. No. 15. Defendants 28 filed a reply. See Doc. No. 17. The Court took Defendants’ motion under submission on 1 3:16cv2815-MMA (WVG) 1 the moving papers and without oral argument pursuant to Civil Local Rule 7.1.d.1. See 2 Doc. No. 18. For the reasons set forth below, the Court DENIES Defendants’ motion. BACKGROUND1 3 4 This action arises out of events occurring in Ramona, California, which culminated 5 in Plaintiff’s conviction for resisting arrest. Plaintiff suffers from mental illness. On the 6 morning of September 3, 2016, Plaintiff was having a paranoid-schizophrenic episode. 7 He went to his doctor’s office, but found the office closed. Looking for a safe place to 8 go, Plaintiff went to the baseball park. Plaintiff headed towards the men’s bathroom, but 9 found it locked. Defendant Deputy Chandroo approached and advised Plaintiff that he 10 had received a call regarding “a suspicious person casing cars” in the parking lot. 11 Complaint at 5.2 Plaintiff claims the parking lot was empty. 12 At that point, Defendant Chandroo asked if Plaintiff had anything illegal on his 13 person, and Plaintiff replied in the affirmative and stated that he had been self- 14 medicating. At that point, “Plaintiff panicked, turned around, and fled.” Id. Plaintiff 15 “tired very quickly and slowed down,” then “voiced his surrender.” Id. Plaintiff was 16 about to stop, when Defendant Chandroo “ran up behind Plaintiff and shoved him 17 forward causing pain to his back, shoulders, and neck areas.” Id. Plaintiff fell forward, 18 Chandroo got on Plaintiff’s back and began striking him, stating “Stop resisting!” Id. at 19 6. Plaintiff lost momentary consciousness. 20 Defendant Deputy Thayer arrived, and started striking Plaintiff while Defendant 21 Chandroo continued to punch and strike Plaintiff. Defendant Deputy Williams arrived, 22 and kneed Plaintiff in the back. Afterwards, medics transported Plaintiff to the hospital 23 24                                                 1 27 This description of events is taken from Plaintiff’s complaint and is not to be construed as findings of fact by the Court. However, because this case comes before the Court on a motion to dismiss, the Court must accept as true all material allegations in the complaint and must also construe the complaint, and all reasonable inferences drawn therefrom, in the light most favorable to Plaintiff. Thompson v. Davis, 295 F.3d 890, 895 (9th Cir. 2002). 28 2 25 26 Citations refer to the pagination assigned by the CM/ECF system. 2 3:16cv2815-MMA (WVG) 1 in a neck brace. Plaintiff still suffers from neck pain. As a result of the incident, Plaintiff 2 pleaded guilty to violating California Penal Code § 69, “resisting executive officers.” 3 LEGAL STANDARD 4 A motion to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) tests the 5 sufficiency of a complaint. Navarro v. Block, 250 F.3d 729, 732 (9th Cir. 2001). 6 Plaintiffs must plead “enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” 7 Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6); Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). The 8 plausibility standard thus demands more than a formulaic recitation of the elements of a 9 cause of action, or naked assertions devoid of further factual enhancement. Ashcroft v. 10 Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). Instead, the complaint “must contain allegations of 11 underlying facts sufficient to give fair notice and to enable the opposing party to defend 12 itself effectively.” Starr v. Baca, 652 F.3d 1202, 1216 (9th Cir. 2011). 13 In reviewing a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), courts must accept as true 14 all material allegations in the complaint, as well as reasonable inferences to be drawn 15 from them, and must construe the complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. 16 Cholla Ready Mix, Inc. v. Civish, 382 F.3d 969, 973 (9th Cir. 2004), citing Karam v. City 17 of Burbank, 352 F.3d 1188, 1192 (9th Cir. 2003). The court need not take legal 18 conclusions as true merely because they are cast in the form of factual allegations. 19 Roberts v. Corrothers, 812 F.2d 1173, 1177 (9th Cir. 1987). Similarly, “conclusory 20 allegations of law and unwarranted inferences are not sufficient to defeat a motion to 21 dismiss.” Pareto v. FDIC, 139 F.3d 696, 699 (9th Cir. 1998). 22 Where a plaintiff appears pro se in a civil rights case, the court must construe the 23 pleadings liberally and afford the plaintiff any benefit of the doubt. Karim-Panahi v. Los 24 Angeles Police Dep’t, 839 F.2d 621, 623 (9th Cir. 1988). The rule of liberal construction 25 is “particularly important in civil rights cases.” Ferdik v. Bonzelet, 963 F.2d 1258, 1261 26 (9th Cir. 1992). 27 28 // 3 3:16cv2815-MMA (WVG) 1 2 3 DISCUSSION 1. Request for Judicial Notice 4 As an initial matter, Defendants request that the Court take judicial notice of 5 Exhibit A filed in support of their motion, to wit, plea documents and minute orders from 6 the Superior Court of California, County of San Diego, Criminal Case No. SCE363848. 7 A court can take judicial notice of facts which are “capable of accurate and ready 8 determination by resort to sources whose accuracy cannot reasonably be questioned.” 9 Fed. R. Evid. 201(b)(2). A court record, such as minute orders and other filed 10 documents, is judicially noticeable. Schweitzer v. Scott, 469 F. Supp. 1017, 1020 (C.D. 11 Cal. 1979). Accordingly, the Court grants Defendants’ request for judicial notice. 12 13 2. Analysis Defendants move to dismiss this action in its entirety, arguing that Plaintiff’s 14 excessive force claim is barred because prevailing on his claim would necessarily 15 invalidate his conviction for resisting arrest. 16 A plaintiff who is convicted of a crime under state law cannot seek damages in a 17 federal civil rights action if a judgment in the plaintiff’s favor “would necessarily imply 18 the invalidity of his conviction or sentence.” Heck v. Humphrey, 512 U.S. at 487. An 19 action must be dismissed as barred by Heck if the plaintiff “would have to negate an 20 element of the offense of which he has been convicted” in order to prevail in his civil 21 rights action. Id. at 487 n.6. However, there is not a categorical bar on excessive force 22 claims arising out of a resisting arrest conviction. “In some cases, a cause of action for 23 excessive force under Section 1983 is not barred under Heck v. Humphrey, because the 24 factual basis for the conviction is divisible from the alleged use of excessive force, and, 25 as a result, success on the merits of the claim would not necessarily imply the invalidity 26 of a conviction.” Velarde v. Duarte, 937 F. Supp. 2d 1204, 1212-13 (S.D. Cal. 2013). 27 28 In Smith v. City of Hemet, the Ninth Circuit held that if a plaintiff claims an officer used excessive force either before or after the offense conduct, Heck does not bar an 4 3:16cv2815-MMA (WVG) 1 excessive force claim because the alleged acts of excessive force would not necessarily 2 invalidate the conviction. 394 F. 3d 689, 698 (9th Cir. 2005) (en banc). Because the 3 record in Smith was not clear regarding the factual basis for the plaintiff’s guilty plea, the 4 circuit court could not determine whether the acts underlying the resisting arrest 5 conviction occurred during the course of the plaintiff’s arrest. Id. at 699. 6 Likewise, in this case, a detailed factual basis for Plaintiff’s guilty plea is not in the 7 record.3 As such, the only basis for a resisting arrest charge is described in Plaintiff’s 8 complaint as Plaintiff’s act of panicking and fleeing after his initial encounter with 9 Defendant Chandroo. See Smith, 394 F.3d at 698. However, Plaintiff alleges that 10 Defendants’ use of excessive force occurred after Defendant Chandroo “got on top of 11 Plaintiff’s back and shoulder area and shoved Plaintiff’s face into the dirt,” at which point 12 Plaintiff stated “I’m not resisting,” and “voiced his surrender again.” Complaint at 6. 13 According to Plaintiff’s allegations, which the Court must accept as true for 14 purposes of this motion, Defendants Chandroo, Thayer, and Williams used excessive 15 force against Plaintiff after he was physically restrained and in custody. See Cal. Penal 16 Code § 835 (“An arrest is made by an actual restraint of the person, or by submission to 17 the custody of an officer.”). Heck does not bar an excessive force claim arising from 18 officer conduct “after a defendant has been arrested.” Id. at 696; see also Sanford v. 19 Motts, 258 F.3d 1117, 1120 (9th Cir. 2001) (if defendant punched plaintiff after she was 20 “handcuffed” and “arrested,” “success in [plaintiff’s] section 1983 claim will not 21 invalidate her conviction” for resisting arrest). 22 The Court is unable to conclude based on the current record that Heck bars 23 Plaintiff’s excessive force claim. Accordingly, Defendants’ motion to dismiss must be 24 denied. 25 26                                                 27 3 28 Plaintiff admitted in his guilty plea that he “unlawfully resisted an officer w/ force in performance of their duties.” Def. Ex. A at 6. This is simply a recitation of the elements of the charge. See Cal. Pen. Code § 69(a). 5 3:16cv2815-MMA (WVG) 1 CONCLUSION 2 Based on the foregoing, the Court DENIES Defendants’ motion to dismiss. 3 IT IS SO ORDERED. 4 5 DATE: September 27, 2017 _______________________________________ HON. MICHAEL M. ANELLO United States District Judge 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 6 3:16cv2815-MMA (WVG)

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