Haithcox v. Gilbertson et al
ORDER rejecting 13 Findings and Recommendations; denying without prejudice 15 Motion for Hearing. This matter is referred back to Judge Johnston for further review. Signed by Judge Dana L. Christensen on 6/23/2017. Mailed to Haithcox. (TAG)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF MONTANA
TIMOTHY CRAIG HAITHCOX,
JUN 23 2017
Clerk, U.S Courts
District Of Montana
LEO DUTTON, ERIC GILBERTSON,
ALAN HUGHES, DAN O'MALLEY,
WILLIAM PANUS, and ARLEEN
United States Magistrate Judge John Johnston entered his Order, Findings
and Recommendations on April 10, 2017, recommending dismissal of this matter.
Plaintiff Timothy Haithcox ("Haithcox") filed an objection and is therefore
entitled to de novo review of those findings and recommendations to which he
specifically objects. 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(l)(C). This Court reviews for clear error
those findings and recommendations to which no party objects. See McDonnell
Douglas Corp. v. Commodore Bus. Mach., Inc., 656 F.2d 1309, 1313 (9th Cir.
1981); Thomas v. Arn, 474 U.S. 140, 149 (1985). "Clear error exists if the Court
is left with a definite and firm conviction that a mistake has been committed."
United States v. Syrax, 235 F.3d 422, 427 (9th Cir. 2000). Because the parties are
familiar with the factual background of this case, it will not be repeated here.
The Findings and Recommendations interpreted the Complaint as alleging
that Defendants violated Haithcox's constitutional rights by failing to preserve
evidence in his criminal case, i.e., the backpack. Because this claim would render
his conviction invalid, the Findings and Recommendations found that it was
barred by the doctrine established in Heck v. Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477 (1994).
However, upon review of the objections, Haithcox clarifies that he is not
attempting to attack the validly of his criminal conviction and, instead, is
attempting to assert a separate civil action against Defendants where he contends
that his rights were violated by the handling of the backpack. This assertion is
supported by a letter from Haithcox's criminal attorney who states that though the
handling of the backpack was raised as factual collateral support for various
arguments raised during the criminal proceeding, no direct claims were raised
concerning the backpack. (Doc. 14-1 at 1.)
Consequently, because Haithcox does not appear to be challenging his
underlying conviction, and instead is bringing a separate civil action relating to
Defendants' handling of the backpack, possibly under a claim for deprivation of
property or a claim under the Fourth Amendment for illegal search and seizure, the
Court will reject the Findings and Recommendations and refer the matter back to
Judge Johnston for further review.
Additionally, on June 16, 2017, Haithcox moved for a hearing regarding a
perceived conflict of interest with Defendants' purported counsel, the Montana
Association of Counties. Due to this alleged conflict of interest, Haithcox argues
that the Montana Association of Counties should recuse themselves from this
matter. The Court will deny this motion, however, because counsel for
Defendants have yet to appear in this matter. Thus, if and when counsel for
Defendants appear in this matter, Haithcox may renew his motion.
Accordingly, IT IS ORDERED that the Findings and Recommendations
(Doc. 13) are REJECTED and this matter is referred back to Judge Johnston for
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that Haithcox's Motion for a Hearing (Doc.
15) is DENIED WITHOUT PREJUDICE.
DATED this 2?/"aay of June, 2017
Dana L. Christensen, Chief Judge
United States District Court
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