Morrison v. Lynn-Kopp et al
ORDER ADOPTING FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS 7 in full. Findings and Recommendations. Signed by Judge Brian Morris on 12/7/2017. Mailed to Morrison (TAG)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF MONTANA
JAMES JEROME MORRISON, JR.,
ORDER ADOPTING FINDINGS AND
CARISSA LYNN-KOPP, SUSAN F.
CARROLL, KURT KRUEGER,
SAMM COX, CHRISTOPHER E.
QUIGLEY, CIANA DALE, KARA
RICHARDSON, BRAD NEWMAN,
MARK VUCUROVICH, MICHAEL
ANDERSON, and WALTER M.
Plaintiff James Jerome Morrison, Jr. filed a Complaint presenting allegations
regarding Defendants’ actions that occurred during: (1) criminal proceedings
against Morrison; and (2) hearings conducted by the Montana Department of
Family Services relative to his parental rights of his daughter. (Doc. 2 at 8.)
Morrison alleges that Defendants used false, fabricated, coerced, and erroneous
information against him in each referenced proceeding. Id.
United States Magistrate Judge Jeremiah C. Lynch entered Findings and
Recommendations in this matter on November 16, 2017. (Doc. 7.) Neither party
filed objections. When a party makes no objections, the Court need not review de
novo the proposed Findings and Recommendations. Thomas v. Arn, 474 U.S. 140,
149-52 (1986). This Court will review Judge Lynch’s Findings and
Recommendations, however, for clear error. McDonnell Douglas Corp. v.
Commodore Bus. Mach., Inc., 656 F.2d 1309, 1313 (9th Cir. 1981).
Judge Lynch concluded that Morrison’s allegations challenge the validity of
the criminal prosecution against him, and his resulting criminal conviction and
sentence. (Doc. 7 at 4.) Judge Lynch determined that Morrison’s allegations are
barred under the authority of Heck v. Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477 (1994). The
plaintiff must establish that the conviction or sentence has already been invalidated
through an appropriate legal action before a plaintiff can pursue a 42 U.S.C. § 1983
claim that would render a criminal conviction or sentence invalid. Id. at 486-87.
Judge Lynch determined that Morrison’s allegations seek a legal decision
that Defendants’ actions and conduct during the course of the criminal proceedings
were unlawful and unconstitutional. (Doc. 7 at 5.) A ruling in Morrison’s favor
would imply that the criminal proceedings, and the resulting conviction were
unlawful. Id. Judge Lynch determined that Morrison does not allege that his
criminal conviction or sentence have been reversed through other appropriate legal
action. Id. Heck bars Morrison’s claim.
Judge Lynch determined that Morrison alleges that various Defendants
engaged in a course of misconduct to produce false or fabricated evidence against
him. Morrison alleged that this course of misconduct resulted in the termination of
his parental rights. (Doc. 7 at 6.) Judge Lynch determined that Morrison currently
has a parental rights case on appeal to the Montana Supreme Court from Montana
Second Judicial District Court. Id.
A strong policy exists against federal intervention in pending state judicial
processes in the absence of extraordinary circumstances. Younger v. Harris, 401
U.S. 37, 43-45 (1971). The Ninth Circuit has determined that federal courts must
abstain under Younger if the following requirements are met: (1) there exists an
ongoing proceeding initiated by the state; (2) the proceeding implicates important
state interests; (3) the federal plaintiff has the opportunity to litigate federal
constitutional issues in the state proceeding; and (4) the federal court action would
enjoin the proceeding or have the practical effect of doing so. San Jose Silicon
Valley Chamber of Commerce Political Action Committee v. City of San Jose, 546
F.3d 1087, 1091 (9th Cir. 2008).
Judge Lynch concluded that Morrison’s claims satisfy the Younger
abstention requirements. Judge Lynch further determined that Younger abstention
applies differently to claims for monetary damages than it does to claims for
injunctive and declaratory relief. (Doc. 7 at 10.) Claims for injunctive and
declaratory relief should be dismissed without prejudice while claims for monetary
relief should be stayed pending resolution of the state court proceedings. Lampley
v. Toris, 2012 WL 846460 at *4 (C.D. Cal. 2012).
The Court has reviewed Judge Lynch’s Findings and Recommendations for
clear error. The Court finds no error in Judge Lynch’s Findings and
Recommendations, and adopts them in full.
IT IS ORDERED that Judge Lynch’s Findings and Recommendations
(Doc. 7), are ADOPTED IN FULL.
IT IS ORDERED that Morrison’s allegations and claims which, in
substance, challenge the validity of his criminal conviction or sentence are barred
by Heck and should be DISMISSED.
IT IS ORDERED that Morrison’s allegations and claims challenging
Defendants’ actions in the course of his state court parental rights proceedings are
DISMISSED to the extent that Morrison seeks injunctive relief, i.e. requesting that
all false information about him created by Defendants’ conduct be purged from all
proceedings and investigative files.
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that to the extent Morrison’s allegations and
claims seek monetary damages, the claims are STAYED until the state court
proceedings are completed and final.
DATED this 7th day of December, 2017.
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