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Torres v. City of Santa Ana

filed: March 4, 1997.

DAVID C. TORRES, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,
v.
CITY OF SANTA ANA; PAUL WALTERS; ERNESTO CONDE; ERIC RIMAT; JUDITH STANBRA; MARK BISHOP; RICHARD BOUCHARD; MICHAEL KUPLAST, DEFENDANTS-APPELLEES.



Appeal from the United States District Court for the Central District of California. D.C. No. CV-95-04356-WDK. William D. Keller, District Judge, Presiding.

Before: Dorothy W. Nelson, Stephen S. Trott, Circuit Judges, and Robert J. Bryan,*fn* District Judge. Opinion by Judge Nelson.

Author: Nelson

D.W. NELSON, Circuit Judge:

David Torres appeals the district court's dismissal of his 42 U.S.C. § 1983 complaint against the City of Santa Ana and individual defendants alleging civil rights violations that occurred when he was arrested by the Santa Ana police for prowling and resisting arrest. The district court concluded that Torres's complaint was time-barred by Cal. Gov't Code § 945.3. Torres claims that his cause of action is not time-barred because the statute of limitations should have been tolled by either a notice to appear or a petition for arraignment on probation violation. We have jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1291, and we affirm.

FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

On March 3, 1994, David Torres was arrested for committing two misdemeanors: prowling, in violation of Cal. Penal Code § 647(g), and resisting and obstructing an officer in the performance of his duties, in violation of Cal. Penal Code § 148. Torres was released after being cited for these violations and after he signed a notice to appear.

As a result of this arrest, Torres was formally notified that he was being charged with violating his probation, which had been imposed in September 1991 when Torres pled guilty to robbery in violation of Cal. Penal Code § 211. A petition for arraignment on probation violation was filed with the Orange County Superior Court on March 30, 1994. Torres subsequently admitted that he violated his probation.

On May 17, 1994, Officer Conde filed a complaint in the Municipal Court of Central Orange County on the two misdemeanor counts. On August 1, 1994, Torres appeared before the court to be arraigned on these charges. On that same day, Torres pled guilty to both counts and was sentenced to 20 days in the Orange County jail.

On June 30, 1995, Torres initiated this civil rights complaint against the City of Santa Ana and individual defendants. Torres alleged, inter alia, that the defendants violated his Fourth Amendment right not to be subjected to the use of excessive force when they permitted Torres to be "mauled" by a police dog during his March 3, 1994 arrest.

The defendants moved to dismiss Torres's complaint because it was filed one year and 119 days after his arrest and was therefore barred by California's one-year statute of limitations on civil actions arising from criminal proceedings. See Cal. Civ. Proc. Code § 340(3). Torres argued that the statute of limitations had been tolled from March 3, 1994, when he was served with a notice to appear, to August 1, 1994, when he was sentenced. See Cal. Gov't Code § 945.3.

The district court determined that the statute of limitations was tolled from May 17, 1994, when Officer Conde filed a complaint against Torres in the Municipal Court of Central Orange County, until August 1, 1994, when Torres was sentenced. Based upon this determination, the one-year statute of limitations was tolled for 77 days, which meant that Torres's civil rights complaint was late by 42 days. Accordingly, the district court concluded that Torres's complaint was time-barred, and therefore granted the defendants' motion to dismiss.

Discussion

We review de novo a district court's dismissal of an action on statute of limitations grounds. Harding v. Galceran, 889 F.2d 906, 907 (9th Cir. 1989), cert. denied, 498 U.S. 1082, 112 L. Ed. 2d 1040, 111 S. Ct. 951 (1991). The statute of limitations for § 1983 claims is determined by state law. Trimble v. City of Santa Rosa, 49 F.3d 583, 585 (9th Cir. 1995); Galceran, 889 F.2d at 907. Section 1983 claims are characterized as personal injury actions for statute of limitations purposes. Wilson v. Garcia, 471 U.S. 261, 276, 85 L. Ed. 2d 254, 105 S. Ct. 1938 (1985); Trimble, 49 F.3d at 585. In California, the statute of limitations for personal injury actions is one year. See Cal. Civ. Proc. Code § 340(3); Elliott v. City of Union City, 25 F.3d 800, 802 (9th Cir. 1994).

State law also governs the application of tolling doctrines. Hardin v. Straub, 490 U.S. 536, 543-44, 104 L. Ed. 2d 582, 109 S. Ct. 1998 (1989). "In California, the statute of limitations for section 1983 actions is tolled by Cal. Gov't Code ยง 945.3 while ...


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