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Fulton v. City of Seattle

United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Seattle

January 20, 2015

EDWARD L. FULTON, Plaintiff,
CITY OF SEATTLE, et al., Defendants.


BRIAN A. TSUCHIDA, Magistrate Judge.

Plaintiff, a pro-se prisoner, submitted an application to proceed in forma pauperis (IFP) and a 42 U.S.C. § 1983 complaint against Defendants the City of Seattle, City Attorney's Office, Judge Hightower, Judge Lynch, Officer Fine, Officer Myers, and the Seatac Police Department. Plaintiff alleges that defendants unreasonably detained him for possessing an illegal knife and "passing out drunk." Dkt. 1-1. He claims that he should have received medical attention but does not identify any medical need. He complains that he cannot drink, get any lap dances at Dejà vu or even smoke pot even though he invented it. He requests $5, 000.00 for every hour he was imprisoned for the last three years "if [he] is acquitted by jury." He also seeks $1, 000.00 per hour for his imprisonment in 2011 after the Seatac police booked him on theft.

The Court recommends Plaintiff's complaint be dismissed with prejudice and without leave to amend because any further amendment would be futile. Plaintiff's claims are not cognizable under 42 U.S.C. 1983 because they relate to the validity of his state court convictions and are barred under Heck v. Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477 (1994), and because the complaint makes allegations against defendants who are immune from § 1983 liability. The Court further recommends that the dismissal be counted as a strike under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(g) and that Plaintiff's IFP application be denied as moot.


An inmate such as plaintiff may bring an action for violation of his constitutional rights under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 if he can show that (1) a state actor (2) violated his constitutional rights. Gibson v. United States, 781 F.2d 1334, 1338 (9th Cir. 1986). Plaintiff fails to state a viable claim for relief under § 1983.

A. Convictions/Detentions

Plaintiff cannot proceed in a civil action for damages when a judgment in his favor would necessarily imply the invalidity of his convictions or sentences when cannot demonstrate that his convictions or sentences have been invalidated. See Heck v. Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477, 487 (1994). As to his detention for illegally possessing a knife, Plaintiff seeks damages "if acquitted, " which clearly demonstrates that he has either not yet been convicted or his conviction has not yet been invalidated.

As to his 2011 detention for theft, Plaintiff claims only that he was booked on theft charges and released the next day. He states no facts showing that any state actor violated his constitutional rights. In addition, claims arising for an alleged false arrest are likely time-barred. The appropriate statute of limitations for a 42 U.S.C. § 1983 claim is the forum state's statute of limitations for tort actions, which in Washington is three years. Joshua v. Newell, 871 F.2d 884, 886 (9th Cir.1989) (citing RCW 4.16.080(2)). Under federal law, a claim accrues "when the plaintiff knows or has reason to know of the injury which is the basis of the action." Two Rivers v. Lewis, 174 F.3d 987, 991 (9th Cir. 1999).

B. Immunity

The defendants named in Plaintiff's complaint are either immune from liability under § 1983 or no viable claims have been alleged against them.

Plaintiff cannot sue for monetary damages against the judges in his criminal cases because monetary damages against judges are barred by absolute judicial immunity. Mireles v. Waco, 502 U.S. 9, 9-12 (1991). Accord Schucker v. Rockwood, 846 F.2d 1202, 1204 (9th Cir. 1988) (per curiam) ("Judges are absolutely immune from damages actions for judicial acts taken within the jurisdiction of their courts.") (citation omitted). Plaintiff's claims against the city attorney's office must also be dismissed because prosecutors are absolutely immune from liability under section 1983 for conduct that is "intimately associated with the judicial phase of the criminal process." Imbler v. Pachtman, 424 U.S. 409, 431 (1976); Botello v. Gammick, 413 F.3d 971, 975 (9th Cir. 2005).

C. Individuals and City of Seattle

Officers Fine and Myers are listed in the caption, but there are no factual allegations against them in the complaint. Mr. Fulton has not alleged when or how these individuals violated his constitutional rights.

The City of Seattle is also listed in the caption. Mr. Fulton was previously advised that to hold the City of Seattle liable, he must show that the municipality itself violated his rights or that it directed its employee(s) to do so. Bd. of County Comm'rs of Bryan County v. Brown, 520 U.S. 397, 404 (1994). A local governmental unit - such as the City of Seattle - may not be held responsible for the acts of its employees under a respondeat superior theory of liability. See Monell v. Dept. of Soc. Servs., 436 U.S. 658, 694 (1978). In order to sue the City of Seattle, Mr. Fulton must allege facts showing that any constitutional deprivation he suffered was ...

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