Hayes v. Nettles et al
MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER - IT IS ORDERED: 1. Plaintiffs Motion to Stay (Dkt. 13 ) is MOOT. 2. Defendants Motion to Dismiss or, in the Alternative, Motion for Additional Screening Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915, 1915A (Dkt. 17 ) is DEN IED without prejudice. 3. Plaintiffs Motions for Sanctions (Dkt. 27 and 31 ) are DENIED. Signed by Judge Edward J. Lodge. (caused to be mailed to non Registered Participants at the addresses listed on the Notice of Electronic Filing (NEF) by (cjs)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF IDAHO
MICHAEL T. HAYES,
Case No. 1:16-cv-00534-EJL
MEMORANDUM DECISION AND
RACHEL NETTLES; MICHAEL
MONTGOMERY; and CHARLES
Plaintiff Michael T. Hayes, a prisoner in the custody of the Idaho Department of
Correction (IDOC), is proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis in this civil rights action.
Pending before the Court is Defendants’ Motion to Dismiss, or in the Alternative, Motion
for Additional Screening Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915, 1915A. (Dkt. 17.) Also pending
are a Motion to Stay and two Motions for Sanctions filed by Plaintiff. (Dkt. 13, 27, 31.)
Having fully reviewed the record, the Court finds that the facts and legal
arguments are adequately presented in the briefs and record and that oral argument is
unnecessary. Accordingly, because the Court conclusively finds that the decisional
process would not be significantly aided by oral argument, this matter shall be decided on
MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER - 1
the record before this Court without oral argument. D. Idaho Loc. Civ. R. 7.1.
Accordingly, the Court enters the following order denying all pending motions.
Plaintiff’s initial pleading in this case was entitled “Felony Criminal Complaint.”
Because a private citizen does not have the authority to institute a federal criminal action,
the Court has construed the pleading as a civil rights complaint against prison officials
under 42 U.S.C. § 1983.
Plaintiff claims that, while he was incarcerated at Idaho Maximum Security
Institution, Defendant Correctional Officers Nettles, Montgomery, and Johannessen
severely beat Plaintiff, causing serious injuries. According to Plaintiff, the beating
continued even after Plaintiff was “on the concrete floor with his hands and arms
handcuffed behind his back.” (Compl., Dkt. 1, at 2.) 1 Plaintiff was allowed to proceed on
his Eighth Amendment excessive force claims based on this incident.
PLAINTIFF’S MOTIONS TO STAY AND FOR SANCTIONS
Plaintiff’s Motion to Stay
Plaintiff asks that the Court stay this action “until a proper civil rights complaint
and demand for jury trial can be filed in this case.” (Dkt. 13 at 1-2.) However, because
the Court has already construed Plaintiff’s initial pleading as a civil rights complaint, the
Motion to Stay is moot.
The Complaint asserted other claims as well, but Plaintiff was not allowed to proceed on those
claims. (Dkt. 11.) See 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915, 1915A.
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Plaintiff’s Motions for Sanctions
In support of their Motion to Dismiss or for Additional Screening, Defendants
attached what is purportedly a copy of a printout from Ada County’s iCourt online
database; Defendants later submitted what is purportedly an updated printout when they
submitted their reply brief in support of their Motion. Both of these printouts included
Plaintiffs’ date of birth and social security number, in violation of Rule 5.2 of the Federal
Rules of Civil Procedure. (Dkt. 17, 23.) Counsel for Defendants states that counsel’s
failure to redact these items of information was a result of inadvertence and unfamiliarity
with the relatively new iCourt Database. 2 (Dkt. 30 at 2-3.)
Plaintiff then filed his first Motion for Sanctions under Rule 11(b). (Dkt. 27.)
When the Motion was filed, Defendants’ counsel realized for the first time that the
printouts had been filed in violation of Rule 5.2, and counsel immediately took steps to
remedy the situation. Upon counsel’s request, the Clerk of Court sealed the documents
that contained Plaintiff’s personal information, and counsel for Defendants refiled
redacted versions of the printouts. (Dkt. 25, 26.) Plaintiff filed a second Motion for
Sanctions, again based on Defendants’ failure to redact Plaintiff’s personal information
from the exhibits to Defendant’s Motion to Dismiss and their reply brief in support of
The federal system’s CM/ECF system does not allow the public, including attorneys, access to
the personal information identified in Rule 5.2. Counsel did not realize that—unlike the federal system—
Ada County’s iCourt database does allow attorneys such access. It appears counsel either assumed that
Plaintiff’s personal information would not be included on the printout, or did not think to check.
MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER - 3
It is undisputed that Defendants’ filings violated Rule 5.2. However, the Court
finds that sanctions are not appropriate. Rule 11(b)(1) provides that, by signing any
document filed with the Court, counsel (or an unrepresented party) certifies that the
document “is not being presented for any improper purpose, such as to harass, cause
unnecessary delay, or needlessly increase the cost of litigation.” Defendants’ counsel
acknowledges that the failure to redact the information was improper, but there is no
evidence that including the information was a result of anything other than mistake or
neglect. Although a review of the exhibit prior to filing should have alerted counsel to the
problem, counsel did not intentionally file the document in violation of Rule 5.2 or for
any other improper purpose. Therefore, the Court declines to impose sanctions under
DEFENDANTS’ MOTION FOR ADDITIONAL SCREENING
Standard of Law
To survive a motion to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12, a
complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to “state a claim to
relief that is plausible on its face.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). Dismissal
is appropriate if there is a lack of any cognizable legal theory or a failure to plead
sufficient facts to support a cognizable legal theory. Balistreri v. Pacifica Police Dep't,
901 F.2d 696, 699 (9th Cir. 1988).
A complaint fails to state a claim for relief if the factual assertions in the
complaint, taken as true, are insufficient for the reviewing court plausibly “to draw the
reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Ashcroft v.
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Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). “Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of
action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice.” Id. In other words,
although Rule 8 “does not require detailed factual allegations, . . . it demands more than
an unadorned, the-defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation.” Id. (internal quotation
marks omitted). If the facts pleaded are “merely consistent with a defendant’s liability,”
the complaint has not stated a claim for relief that is plausible on its face. Id. (internal
quotation marks omitted).
In deciding a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim under Rule 12(b)(6), the
court generally should not consider materials outside the complaint and pleadings. See
Cooper v. Pickett, 137 F.3d 616, 622 (9th Cir. 1997). However, the court may consider
attachments to the complaint and any document referred to in (even if not appended to)
the complaint, where the authenticity of such a document is not in question. Id. at 622-23.
A court may also take judicial notice of matters of its own records, In re Korean Air
Lines Co., Ltd., Antitrust Litigation, 642 F.3d 685, 689 n.1 (9th Cir. 2011), and public
records, such as records and reports of administrative bodies, Barron v. Reich, 13 F.3d
1370, 1377 (9th Cir. 1994); see also Lee v. City of Los Angeles, 250 F.3d 668, 689 (9th
Cir. 2001) (explaining that a court may judicially notice matters of public record unless
the matter is a fact subject to reasonable dispute).
In the alternative to dismissal for failure to state a claim under Rule 12(b)(6),
Defendants also request additional screening pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915 and 1915A.
Those statutes require the Court to review complaints filed in forma pauperis, or
complaints filed by prisoners seeking relief against a governmental entity or an officer or
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employee of a governmental entity, to determine whether summary dismissal is
appropriate. The Court must dismiss a complaint or any portion thereof that states a
frivolous or malicious claim, fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or
seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C.
§§ 1915(d)(2) & 1915A(b).
Defendants argue that Heck v. Humphrey bars Plaintiff’s civil rights claims in this
action. In Heck, the Supreme Court held that a civil rights claim that would “render a
conviction or sentence invalid . . . is not cognizable under § 1983.” Id. As a result, if a
favorable verdict in a civil rights action would necessarily imply the invalidity of a
plaintiff’s conviction, the plaintiff must first prove that “the conviction or sentence has
been reversed on direct appeal, expunged by executive order, declared invalid by a state
tribunal authorized to make such determination, or called into question by a federal
court’s issuance of a writ of habeas corpus.” Id. at 487. As the Supreme Court later
clarified, “a state prisoner’s § 1983 action is barred (absent prior invalidation)—no matter
the relief sought (damages or equitable relief), no matter the target of the prisoner’s suit
(state conduct leading to conviction or internal prison proceedings)—if success in that
action would necessarily demonstrate the invalidity of confinement or its duration.”
Wilkinson v. Dotson, 544 U.S. 74, 81-82 (2005).
Defendant’s Motion to Dismiss or for Additional Screening based on Heck v.
Humphrey must be denied, for two reasons. First, Plaintiff’s claims against Defendants
Montgomery and Johannessen are clearly not implicated by Plaintiff’s conviction for
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battering Defendant Nettles. Plaintiff was found not guilty of battering Defendant
Johannessen, and he apparently was never charged with battering Defendant
Second, Defendant Nettles has not established that Plaintiff’s excessive force
claim against her would, if successful, necessarily imply the invalidity of Plaintiff’s
battery conviction. The only judicially-noticeable documents submitted in support of
Defendants’ Motion are (1) the criminal complaint charging Plaintiff with battery against
Nettles and Johannessen, and (2) the verdict form, showing that Plaintiff was found guilty
of battery against Nettles, but not guilty of battery against Johannessen. These documents
establish only that Plaintiff was convicted of battery against Defendant Nettles.
The timing of the battery in relation to any force applied by Nettles is important
but unclear. Plaintiff’s allegations that Defendants continued to beat him after he was
restrained and on the ground—and, therefore, likely after Plaintiff committed the crime
of battery against Nettles—do not call into question the validity of that battery
conviction. See Smith v. City of Hemet, 394 F.3d 689, 695-99 (9th Cir. 2005) (en banc)
(recognizing that a plaintiff’s excessive force claim may not be barred by Heck where
plaintiff has been convicted of resisting arrest); id. at 693 (“Smith’s § 1983 action is not
barred by Heck because the excessive force may have been employed against him
subsequent to the time he engaged in the conduct that constituted the basis for his
conviction. In such circumstance, Smith’s § 1983 action neither demonstrates nor
necessarily implies the invalidity of his conviction.”) (emphasis added); Bachman v.
Kuhn, 168 F. App’x 245, 246 (9th Cir. Feb. 22, 2006) (unpublished) (relying on Smith in
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holding that “[t]he district court erred by dismissing, on screening, [the plaintiff’s] Eighth
Amendment excessive force claim as barred under Heck v. Humphrey”).
On the current record, the Court cannot conclude that Heck v. Humphrey bars
Plaintiff’s excessive force claims.
This Order does not prohibit Defendants’ from later renewing their Heck
argument, at summary judgment, based on a more complete record.
IT IS ORDERED:
Plaintiff’s Motion to Stay (Dkt. 13) is MOOT.
Defendants’ Motion to Dismiss or, in the Alternative, Motion for
Additional Screening Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915, 1915A (Dkt. 17) is
DENIED without prejudice.
Plaintiff’s Motions for Sanctions (Dkt. 27 and 31) are DENIED.
DATED: October 11, 2017
Edward J. Lodge
United States District Judge
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