Sturkin v. Patrick et al
ORDER denying 71 Motion to Dismiss. Signed by District Judge Carlton W. Reeves on 8/8/2017. (AC)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF MISSISSIPPI
CAUSE NO. 3:16-CV-434-CWR-FKB
Vicky Patrick has moved to dismiss this suit. The motion is fully briefed and ready for
Factual and Procedural History
In 2010, Donna Sturkin began to participate in the Drug Court for the Eighth Judicial
District of Mississippi. Her parole officer was Vicky Patrick, who was appointed by Circuit
Judge Vernon Cotten.
While a participant in the Drug Court, Sturkin claims that Patrick grossly abused her
authority. “Plaintiff was subjected to regular and repeated harassment, coercion, punishment, and
false reporting by Defendant Patrick,” states her Complaint. More particularly, Patrick allegedly
went to Sturkin’s places of employment and demanded that Sturkin look the other way while
Patrick stole goods or otherwise defrauded Sturkin’s employers. When Sturkin worked at a hotel,
for example, Patrick demanded and received free hotel rooms for herself, friends, and family.
The most serious abuse of power happened when Sturkin refused to comply with
Patrick’s demands. Patrick subsequently told the Judge presiding over the Drug Court that
Sturkin had tested positive for alcohol consumption. Patrick was lying to the Judge—to maintain
control over Sturkin and perpetuate her fraudulent scheme—but the Judge ordered Sturkin to be
This suit followed. Sturkin seeks monetary damages for Patrick’s violations of rights
secured by the Fourth, Fifth, and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution.
Patrick now argues that the case cannot proceed because it would imply that Sturkin’s
criminal conviction was invalid. Patrick also contends that Sturkin’s state-law tort claims are
When considering a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim, the Court accepts the
plaintiff’s factual allegations as true and makes reasonable inferences in the plaintiff’s favor.
Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). To proceed, the complaint “must contain a short and
plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Id. at 677-78
(quotation marks and citation omitted). This requires “more than an unadorned, the defendantunlawfully-harmed-me accusation,” but the complaint need not have “detailed factual
allegations.” Id. at 678 (quotation marks and citation omitted). The plaintiff’s claims must also
be plausible on their face, which means there is “factual content that allows the court to draw the
reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Id. (citation
Patrick’s motion suggests that she is invoking the Supreme Court’s ruling in Heck v.
Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477 (1994). In that case, the Court held the following:
[I]n order to recover damages for allegedly unconstitutional conviction or
imprisonment, or for other harm caused by actions whose unlawfulness would
render a conviction or sentence invalid, a § 1983 plaintiff must 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, 28
U.S.C. § 2254. A claim for damages bearing that relationship to a conviction or
sentence that has not been so invalidated is not cognizable under § 1983. Thus,
when a state prisoner seeks damages in a § 1983 suit, the district court must consider
whether a judgment in favor of the plaintiff would necessarily imply the invalidity
of his conviction or sentence; if it would, the complaint must be dismissed unless
the plaintiff can demonstrate that the conviction or sentence has already been
Id. at 486–87 (footnotes omitted).
A thorough review of the complaint leaves the Court unpersuaded that Sturkin’s claims
are Heck-barred. Sturkin’s successful recovery against Patrick would not imply the invalidity of a
conviction or sentence. Although Sturkin does claim that she was falsely imprisoned for drug test
violations, documents attached to her response indicate that there is no underlying conviction or
sentence that Sturkin needs to set aside before this case can proceed. All of the charges were
expunged upon Sturkin’s successful completion of Drug Court. See Docket Nos. 74-5 and 74-6
(Orders of Judge Cotten). The expungement orders not only cleared the underlying conviction,
they expunged the sanctions and imprisonment the Circuit Judge imposed on Sturkin when
Patrick falsely accused her of testing positive for alcohol consumption. Whether those documents
will be disputed at the summary judgment stage remains to be seen, but for present purposes it is
enough to say that the claims are not on their face Heck-barred.
Lastly, neither the complaint nor the briefing reveal any state-law tort claims in this
action. There is nothing to dismiss as untimely.
The motion is denied.
SO ORDERED, this the 8th day of August, 2017.
s/ Carlton W. Reeves
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
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