Braden v. Hicks et al

Filing 3

MEMORANDUM ON DISMISSAL entered. The action filed by Travien Braden (SPN #02224269) is premature. The Clerk must stay and close this case for administrative purposes until further notice. Braden must file a "Motion to Reinstate" this case, if appropriate, within thirty days from the date that the state criminal case is completed. (Signed by Judge Vanessa D Gilmore) Parties notified. (wbostic, 4)

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United States District Court Southern District of Texas ENTERED IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF TEXAS HOUSTON DIVISION TRA VIEN BRADEN, (TDCJ-CID #02224269) Plaintiff, October 06, 2017 David J. Bradley, Clerk § § § § § § § § vs. TROY HICKS, et al., CIVIL ACTION H-17-2880 § Defendants. MEMORANDUM ON DISMISSAL Travien Braden, an inmate of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice - Correctional Institutions Division, sued in September 2017, alleging civil rights violations resulting from a denial of due process. Braden, proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis, sues Troy Hicks, DPS Agent; Wyteka Wilson, Budget Pharmacy Clerk; and (FNU) Matt, Assistant District Attorney for Harris County. The threshold issue is whether Braden's claims should be dismissed as frivolous. I. Plaintiff's Allegations Braden asserts that Defendant Wilson gave false information to the police. Braden maintains that he never gave Defendant Wilson any form of identification. Braden asserts that Defendant Wilson lied under oath. Defendant Hicks coerced Wyteka Wilson into identifying Braden from a photo array. Based on this false identification, Hicks wrote a false police report. Braden complains that he was never placed in a live line-up or notified of the investigation that lasted for one and one-half months. [(1/5/17 0 \RAO\VDG\2017\17·21UW a01 \\pd Braden further complains that the prosecutor, Defendant Matt, improperly sought to include an enhancement paragraph in the indictment. Defendant Matt also took 62 days to review the probable cause issue. Braden asks that the criminal charges against him be dismissed due to a lack of evidence. II. Discussion Under 28 U.S.C. § 1915A, federal courts are authorized to review, before docketing, if feasible, or in any event as soon as practicable after docketing, a complaint in a civil action in which a prisoner seeks redress from a governmental entity or officer or employee of a governmental entity. The court must identify cognizable claims or dismiss the complaint, or any portion of the complaint, if the complaint is frivolous, malicious, or fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief. A complaint is frivolous if it lacks an arguable basis in law or fact. See Denton v. Hernandez, 504 U.S. 25, 31 (1992); Richardson v. Spurlock, 260 F.3d 495, 498 (5th Cir. 2001)(citing Siglar v. Hightower, 112 F.3d 191, 193 (5th Cir. 1997)). "A complaint lacks an arguable basis in law if it is based on an indisputably meritless legal theory, such as if the complaint alleges the violation of a legal interest which clearly does not exist." Davis v. Scott, 157 F.3d 1003, 1005 (5th Cir. 1998)(quoting McCormickv. Stalder, 105 F.3d 1059, 1061 (5th Cir. 1997)). [To recover damages for an 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 determinations, or called into question by a federal court's issuance of a writ of habeas corpus [under] 28 U.S.C. § 2254. I0/5/17 0 \RAOIVDG\2017\17-2RHO aOI wpd 2 Heck v. Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477,486-87 (1994). A claim for damages that bears a relationship to a conviction or sentence that has not been so invalidated is not cognizable under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. ld. If a judgment in favor of the plaintiff would "necessarily imply the invalidity of his conviction or sentence," then the complaint must be dismissed unless the plaintiff can demonstrate that the conviction or sentence has already been invalidated. ld. Although the Supreme Court's decision in Heck concerned a civil action for monetary damages, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit has also applied Heck in cases in which the plaintiff seeks injunctive relief. Clarke v. Stalder, 154 F.3d 186, 189 (5th Cir. 1998) (en bane) (citing Edwards v. Balisok, 520 U.S. 641 (1997)). Braden has been charged in this court with obtaining drugs by fraud in Cause Numbers 1555489 & 1555488. Braden's allegations of an illegal identification and fabricated evidence, would, if true, necessarily implicate the validity of these charges and any potential convictions. See Hudson v. Hughes, 98 F.3d 868, 872-73 (5th Cir. 1996) (holding that allegations of excessive force and false arrest are not cognizable under the doctrine in Heck if a successful civil rights claim would call into question the validity ofthe plaintiffs conviction); see also Sappington v. Bartee, 195 F.3d 234 (5th Cir. 1999) (holding that Heck bars a civil rights claim for excessive force and false arrest where the plaintiffhas been convicted of assaulting an officer). Several circuits have held that Heck bars "damage claims which, if successful, would necessarily imply the invalidity of a potential conviction on a pending criminal charge." Snodderly v. R. U F. F. Drug Enforcement TaskForce, 23 9 F.3d 892, 898 n.8 (7th Cir. 2001); Smith v. Holtz, 87 F.3d 108, 110 (3rd Cir. 1996) (holding that a claim challenging the validity of a future conviction raises the same concerns as a claim challenging the legality of a conviction and, as a result, "does not accrue so long as the potential for a judgment ]()15/17 0 \RAOIVDG\2(lJ7\17-lKK() aOI wpd 3 in the pending criminal prosecution continues to exist."). 1 In considering this issue, the Fifth Circuit reasoned: The record does not clearly reflect that a successful attack on Mackey's arrests will implicate the validity of his confinement. It is not clear whether or not Mackey has been tried or convicted. When his suit was filed, it appears that he was confined pursuant to the March 21 indictment, the validity of which would not necessarily be implicated by any illegality in earlier arrests. If Mackey is tried and convicted and in his contested criminal case no evidence is presented resulting directly or indirectly from any of his arrests, it is difficult to see how any illegality in any of his arrests could be inconsistent with his conviction. On the other hand, if he is convicted and evidence is presented by the prosecution at his criminal trial which is a direct or indirect product of one or more of his arrests, then his section 1983 damage claims challenging the validity of his arrests would appear to undermine the validity of his conviction and hence be barred by Heck. Of course, in any event any equitable relief in the nature of release from confinement would be barred by Preiser v. Rodriguez, 411 U.S. 475, 93 S. Ct. 1827,36 L. Ed. 2d 439 (1973). At this point it is simply premature to determine whether or not Mackey's damage claims are barred under Heck. Accordingly, the district court erred in dismissing the claims on the basis of Heck. The court may--indeed should--stay proceedings in the section 1983 case until the pending criminal case has run its course, as until that time it may be difficult to determine the relation, if any, between the two. Mackey v. Dickson, 47 F.3d 744, 746 (5th Cir. 1995). In Brown v. Taylor, 139 F. App'x 613,2005 WL 1691376 (5th Cir. 2005), the Fifth Circuit stated, in an unpublished opinion, that to the extent that Brown's allegations concerned pending criminal charges, the district court's dismissal of his civil-rights complaint under Heck was erroneous. Where it remained unclear whether Brown had been tried or convicted on those charges, Other circuit courts have relied on Smith in extending Heck to pre-conviction criminal charges. See Shamaeizadeh v. Cunigan, 182 F.3d 391, 397 (6th Cir. 1999); Covington v. N Y.C., 171 F.3d 117, 124 (2nd Cir. 1999); Washington v. Summerville, 127 F.3d 552, 555 (7th Cir. 1997). 10/6/17 O.\RAO\VDG\2017\l7·2k80.a0l.wpd 4 the Fifth Circuit stated that the district court should have stayed the instant action until the pending criminal case against Brown had run its course. !d. (citing Mackey v. Dickson, 47 F.3d 744,746 (5th Cir. 1995)). 2 The Supreme Court has explained that if a plaintiff files a false arrest claim before he has been convicted (or files any other claim related to rulings that will likely be made in a pending or anticipated criminal trial), it is within the power of the district court, and in accord with common practice, to stay the civil action until the criminal case or the likelihood of a criminal case is ended. Wallace v. Kato, 549 U.S. 384, 393-94 (2007). If the plaintiff is ultimately convicted, and if the stayed civil suit would impugn that conviction, Heck will require dismissal; otherwise, the civil action will proceed, absent some other bar to suit. Wallace, 549 U.S. at 394 (citing Edwards v. Balisok, 520 U.S. 641,649 (1997)); Heck, 512 U.S. at 487. Because court records reflect that Braden's criminal case remains pending, the court must stay and close this civil case until his state criminal proceedings are completed. III. Conclusion The action filed by Travien Braden (SPN #02224269) is premature. The Clerk must stay and close this case for administrative purposes until further notice. Braden must file a "Motion to 2 See also Busick v. City ofMadison, Miss., 90 F. App'x 713, 713-714 (5th Cir. 2004) (where it is impossible to determine whether a plaintiffs civil claims relating to his arrest and criminal prosecution necessarily implicate the validity of any conviction or sentence that plaintiff has received or might receive because of ongoing criminal proceedings, the district court should have stayed the civil proceedings pending the resolution of the criminal charges against plaintiff). I0/5/!7 O·IRA0\VDGI2017\17·1KHO aOI "Pd 5 Reinstate" this case, if appropriate, within thirty days from the date that the state criminal case is completed. SIGNED at Houston, Texas, on 0ffi~ VANESSA D. GILMORE UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE 10/5/17 0 \RA0\VDG\20J7\17·2KNO aOJ wpd 6

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