Bucy v. Stroman et al
ORDER GRANTING 12 Motion to Stay Case; DISMISSING AS MOOT 13 Motion to Dismiss for Failure to State a Claim; DISMISSING AS MOOT 28 Motion to Dismiss; DISMISSING AS MOOT 29 Motion to Dismiss for Failure to State a Claim; DISMISSING AS MOOT 32 Motion for Extension of Time to File Response/Reply; DISMISSING AS MOOT 36 Motion for Extension of Time to File Response/Reply. Signed by Judge Sam Sparks. (ml)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COUJ'6
FOR THE WESTERN DISTRICT OF TEXAS
ROBERT CLINTON BUCY,
Case No. A-15-CA-1040-SS
BRENT STROMAN, MANUEL CHAVEZ,
ABELINO "ABEL" REYNA, and JOHN DOE,
BE IT REMEMBERED on this day the Court reviewed the file in the above-styled cause, and
specifically Defendants' Joint Motion to Stay Proceedings and Alternative Motion to Dismiss [#12];
Plaintifrs Response [#21] in opposition; and Defendants' Reply [#23] in support. Having
considered the aforementioned documents, the case file as a whole, and the applicable law, the Court
enters the following opinion and orders.
The facts of this case are detailed in this Court's Order Denying Defendants' Motion to
Transfer Venue [#111.
To summarize, Plaintiff Robert Clinton Bucy (Plaintiff)
action against Brent Stroman, the Waco Chief of Police, Manuel Chavez, a Waco
law enforcement officer, Abelino "Abel" Reyna, the District Attorney of McLennan County, Texas,
and John Doe, an unnamed employee of the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS).
Am. Compl. [#27] ¶J 1-6. The claims arise from a shooting between motorcycle club members and
law enforcement that occurred at a Twin Peaks restaurant in Waco, Texas.
the gun fire ceased, Plaintiff and 176 others were arrested at the scene. Plaintiff alleges his arrest
violated his Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment rights and Defendants conspired to deprive him of
those rights.1 See id. ¶J 85-112. Specifically, Plaintiff claims his arrest was based on a "template"
affidavit, which lacked particularized facts to establish probable cause, contained false and materially
misleading statements, and conflicted with evidence showing Plaintiff was not involved in the
violence. See id. ¶J 40-44.
On November 10,2015, a grand jury in McLennan County indicted Plaintiff and 105 others
for the felony of Engaging in Organized Criminal Activity with the Intent to Commit or Conspire
to Commit Murder, Capital Murder, or Aggravated Assault. See id. ¶ 52. Plaintiffs criminal charge
is currently pending. See P1.'s Resp. [#21] at 3. A trial date has not been set for Plaintiff or any of
the others who were indicted. See id.
Defendants Stroman and Chavez (Defendants) filed their Joint Motion to Stay on April 7,
2016. Defendants seek a stay of this civil proceeding until Plaintiffs pending criminal case has
concluded, arguing Plaintiffs
1983 false arrest claims could impugn the validity of a conviction
in the criminal case. See Mot. Stay [#12] ¶J 1.1-1.6; Defs.' Letter Br. [#30] at 1-2. Plaintiff
responds that the number of indictments and the length of time required to resolve all of the criminal
cases weigh in favor of continuing Plaintiffs civil case. See Resp. [#21] at 6-9. Defendants filed
their reply on May 16, 2016. See Reply [#23]. The motion is now ripe for review.
Seven other individuals have brought identical lawsuits against Defendants in the Austin Division. See
Civil Action No. 1:1 5-CV-0 1041 -SS, Matthew Clendennen v. Stroman, et al, Civil Action No. 1:1 5-CV-0 I 042-SS,
Burton George Bergman v. Stroman, et al; Civil Action No. 1:1 5-CV-0 I 043-SS, Noe Adame v. Stroman, et al;
Civil Action No. 1:15-CV-01044-SS, Jorge Salinas v. Stroman, etal; Civil ActionNo. 1 :15-CV-01045-SS, John
Vensel v. Stroman, et al; Civil Action No. 1:1 6-CV-00575-SS, Diego Obledo v. Stroman, et al; and Civil Action
No. 1:16-CV-00599-SS, Bradley Terwilliger, et al v. Stroman, et al.
In Heck v. Humphrey, the Supreme Court established the following rule: a
request for damages is barred if the plaintiff's conviction has not been appealed, expunged, or
otherwise declared invalid. 512 U.S. 477, 486-87 (1994). Under Heck, courts "must consider
whether ajudgment in favor of the
1983] 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 invalidated." Id. at 487.
The Supreme Court and the Fifth Circuit addressed whether the Heck rule applies to "an
anticipated future conviction" in the context of a pending criminal trial. See Wallace
U.S. 384, 393 (2007); Mackey v. Dickson, 47 F.3d 744, 746 (5th Cir. 1995). Both courts agreed
Heck did not bar a plaintiff's
1983 claim if the plaintiff's conviction was not yet final, but found
"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, 549 U.S. at
393-94; Mackey, 47 F.3d at 746 ("The court mayindeed shouldstay proceedings in the section
1983 case until the pending criminal case has run its course
. . .
."). A stay is warranted "if it is
'premature to determine whether or not [Plaintiff's] damages claims are barred under Heck,' or if
it is clear that they would be barred under this standard.
." McCollom v. City ofKemp., Tex.,No.
3:14-CV-1488-B, 2014 WL 6085289, at *3 (N.D. Tex. Nov. 14,2014) (quoting Mackey, 47 F.3dat
746); see also Busick v. City ofMadison Miss., 90 F. App'x. 713, 713-14 (5th Cir. 2004) (where it
is impossible to determine if plaintiff's civil § 1983 claims implicate the validity of a conviction that
plaintiff might receive, the district court should stay the civil proceedings pending the resolution of
plaintiff's criminal charges). Then, once "the plaintiff is ultimately convicted, and if the stayed civil
suit would impugn that conviction, Heck will require dismissal; otherwise, the civil action will
." Wallace, 549 U.S. at 394.
When evaluating whether Heck might bar a plaintiff's claims, courts "conduct a fact-specific
analysis to determine whether success on [the plaintiff's
1983 claims] would require negation of
an element of the criminal offense or proof of a fact that is inherently inconsistent with a conviction
the underlying criminal charge." Quinn v. Guerrero, No. 4:09CV166, 2010 WL 412901,
at *2 (E.D. Tex. Jan. 28, 2010) (citing Bush v. Strain, 513 F.3d 492,497(5th Cir. 2008)); McCollom,
2014 WL 6085289, at *3 Thus, "[i]f the factual basis for the conviction is not temporally and
conceptually distinct" from a plaintiff's § 1983 claims, the claims may invalidate the criminal charge
and be barred by Heck. Quinn, 2010 WL 412901, at *2.
The Court finds Plaintiff's alleged
1983 claims and criminal charge are so closely
interrelated that resolving the civil claims may impugn any conviction. The § 1983 claims arise from
the same facts as Plaintiff's criminal charge: the violent incident at Twin Peaks and the arrests
thereafter. See Resp. [#21] at 6 ("Plaintiff acknowledges that the criminal case arises from the
incident that forms the basis of this suit."). The claims are not temporally distinct as they arise out
of events which occurred within a narrow time frame. See First Am. Compi. [#27]
(Defendants used allegedly insufficient affidavit to obtain general arrest warrant one day after the
shooting took place). Most importantly, Plaintiff's civil claims challenge the legality of his arrest,
which may directly implicate or invalidate any conviction in his criminal case. See, e.g., Lopez v.
Hous. Police Dep't., No. H-13-1781, 2013 WL 3356229, at *2 (S.D. Tex. Jul. 3,2013) (Plaintiffs
1983 allegations that police illegally searched his home and arrested him "would,
necessarily implicate the validity of [his capital murder charges.]"); Quinn, 2010 WL 412901, at *3
claims regarding the legality of his arrest and the search and seizure of his home
may impugn any conviction related to his charges of possession of controlled substances and
aggravated assault of a police officer.); Terry v. City of Hous., No. H-15-2430, 2015 WL 6736780,
at *2 (S.D. Tex. Nov. 3,2015) (Plaintiff's § 1983 claims of unconstitutional arrest and imprisonment
may implicate the validity of a conviction related to his evading arrest and possession of controlled
substance charges); McCollom, 2014 WL 6085289, at *2 (Plaintiff's
1983 claims involving the
legality of his arrest might invalidate a conviction related to his criminal charge of resisting arrest.).
Thus, the present civil case must be stayed pending the criminal proceeding.
Plaintiff does not mention Heck in his briefing and instead claims the Court may only stay
this civil case pending resolution of the criminal proceeding under "special circumstances," which
are determined by balancing six factors: "(1) the extent to which the issues in the criminal and civil
cases overlap; (2) the status of the case, including whether the defendant has been indicted; (3) the
plaintiffs interest in proceeding expeditiously weighed against the prejudice to the plaintiff caused
by a delay; (4) the private interest of and burden on the defendant; (5) the interest of the court, and
(6) the public interest." Resp. [#21] at 5 (quoting First Fin. Grp. of Tex., 659 F.2d at 668). But the
cases Plaintiff cites, and other cases applying the factor-balancing analysis, involve situations where
parallel civil and criminal cases are brought against the same defendant. For example, in First
Financial Group of Texas, the Fifth Circuit applied the "special circumstances" inquiry and denied
the request for a stay of the SEC' s civil case against defendants pending the Justice Department's
criminal proceedings against the same defendants.
659 F.2d at 666-67; see also Meyers
Pamerleau, No. 5:15-CV-524-DAE, 2016 WL 393552, at *5_8 (W.D. Tex. Feb. 1,2016) (applying
factor-balancing analysis to determine whether stay of plaintiffs'
claims against defendant
pending the state's criminal charge against defendant was appropriate); Alcala
v. Tex. Webb
625 F. Supp. 2d 391, 395-407 (S.D. Tex. 2009) (same). In other words, courts apply the analysis
where the defendant is attacked in simultaneous civil and criminal actions.
Here, however, the civil and criminal proceedings are not parallel. Plaintiff brings a civil
claim against Defendants who have charged him criminally. Courts addressing this same fact pattern
do not apply the "special circumstances" analysis as described in First Financial Group of Texas.
Instead, courts look to Heck and grant stays if the plaintiff's civil claims may implicate the validity
of any potential conviction. See, e.g., Lopez, 2013 WL 3356229, at *2; Quinn, 2010 WL 412901,
at *3; Terry, 2015 WL 6736780, at *2; McCollom, 2014 WL 6085289, at *2; Guillory v. Wheller,
303 F. Supp. 2d 808, 811 (M.D. La. 2004).
While the Court is sympathetic to some of Plaintiff's arguments made under the
factor-balancing analysis, these arguments do not outweigh the Court's concerns under Heck.
Plaintiff argues that because his criminal case has not been set for trial, the civil case may be stayed
for years. See Resp. [#211 at 6. This delay, according to Plaintiff, creates three main problems:
(1) expiration of the statute of limitations with regard to the "John Doe" Defendant; (2) loss of and
inaccessibility to evidence over time; and (3) inability to conduct discovery on Plaintiff's potential
Monell claim. See id. at 6-9; Pl.'s Letter Br. [#3 1] at 1-5.
First, Plaintiff argues his claims against the "John Doe" Defendant will not preserve
limitations. See P1.' s Letter Br. [#311 at 4 (citing Callaway v. City ofAustin, No. A-i 5-cv-00 103-S S
(W.D. Tex. July 14,2015)). The Court agrees, but does not find this concern outweighs the potential
burdens of trying a case that may be ultimately barred by Heck Further, Plaintiff's counsel stated
during the hearing held on June 3, 2016, "the discovery that's been produced in the criminal cases
is so substantial that there couldn't be any more discovery hardly." Hr' g. Tr. [#34] 11:18-21. With
access to such significant discovery, Plaintiff's counsel, at this point, should have had sufficient
knowledge to determine who to sue. Second, the Court understands time expiring makes it harder
to obtain evidence, especially in the form of witness testimony. Again, however, these concerns do
not outweigh the considerations this Court made under Heck. See Quinn, 2010 WL 412901, at *4
Third, the possibility of a Monell claim does not convince the Court a stay is improper. A party is
not entitled to discovery in order to ensure its claim will meet the pleading standard. See P1.' s Letter
Br. [#311 ¶ 4 ("Plaintiffs must be allowed to conduct discovery with respect to Monell liability issues
."). Plaintiff does not point to a single authority where the possibility of a Monell claim justified
continuing the civil action in this context. Finally, Plaintiff fails in his analysis to acknowledge the
burden on the Court if this case were to continue. There is no point in the Court spending its time
and resources on a claim which may someday be barred.
All of Plaintiff's concerns are overridden by the Court's consideration of Heck. Because
resolution of Plaintiff's
1983 claims may impugn a potential conviction, the civil case must be
stayed pending the conclusion of the criminal proceeding against Plaintiff.
IT IS ORDERED that Defendants' Joint Motion to Stay Case [#12] is GRANTED.
IT IS FINALLY ORDERED that all remaining pending motions are DISMISSED AS
SIGNED this the
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
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