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Lumpkin v. King County

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

December 11, 2017

ROBERT J. LUMPKIN, Plaintiff,
v.
KING COUNTY, et al., Defendants.

          REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

          JAMES P. DONOHUE, CHIEF UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         I. INTRODUCTION AND SUMMARY CONCLUSION

         Plaintiff is confined at the Snohomish County Corrections Center in Everett, Washington. On November 29, 2017, plaintiff filed the instant amended complaint under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, along with a Motion to Serve Defendants. Dkts. 8-9. Because the amended complaint challenges the validity of his state court conviction and is therefore barred by Heck v. Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477 (1994), the Court recommends that this matter be DISMISSED without prejudice and that plaintiffs motion to serve the amended complaint, Dkt. 9, be DENIED.

         II. DISCUSSION

         A. Background

         Plaintiff initiated this pro se civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 on November 1, 2017. Dkt. 1. After plaintiff was granted in forma pauperis status on November 17, 2017, the Court declined to serve plaintiffs initial complaint, Dkt. 6, due to its failure to adequately allege a cause of action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Dkt. 7. Plaintiff argued that a mandate issued in his King County No. 13-1-02164-8KNT indicated that his criminal conviction had been invalidated. Id. at 3. However, plaintiff was incorrect, as the mandate actually signaled the end of review by the Washington Court of Appeal. The Court granted plaintiff thirty (30) days to file an amended complaint. Id. at 4.

         On November 29, 2017, plaintiff filed an amended complaint against new defendants King County, his former defense attorney Edwin Aralica, as well as the prosecutor and Judge assigned to his King County No. 13-1-02164-8KNT. Dkt. 8. Specifically, plaintiff contends that his rights to a fair trial and an impartial jury were violated, leading to unlawful imprisonment for sixty months by a judgment of the King County Superior Court. Id. at 1. Plaintiff argues that the presiding juror at his trial completed a jury inquiry form that advised the trial judge that she had been pressured into the verdict, assaulted by one juror, and several other jurors expressed bias against the defendant or otherwise behaved inappropriately during deliberations. Id. Plaintiff argues that the trial judge's failure to take any action upon reviewing the presiding juror's statements violated his civil rights. He also states that his trial counsel was ineffective for failing to move for a new trial, or a mistrial, based upon this information. Id. at 1-2.

         Plaintiff timely raised these claims in a federal habeas petition in No. 2:14-cv-1813-JLR-MAT. On September 3, 2015, the Honorable Mary Alice Theiler considered, and rejected, plaintiff's federal habeas claims based upon the same circumstances set forth in the instant amended complaint. The Honorable James L. Robart adopted the Report and Recommendation, and entered judgment dismissing Mr. Lumpkin's federal habeas petition on September 15, 2015. Plaintiff then filed a Notice of Appeal to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, where his appeal (and request for a Certificate of Appealability) is still pending.

         B. Legal Standard

         In Heck v. Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477 (1994), the U.S. Supreme Court held that “in order to recover damages for 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 determination, or called into question by a federal court's issuance of a writ of habeas corpus[.]” Heck, 512 U.S. at 486-487. The Supreme Court further held that “[a] claim for damages bearing that relationship to a conviction or sentence that has not been so invalidated is not cognizable under § 1983.” Id. at 487. The Supreme Court explained that when a “prisoner seeks damages in a § 1983 suit, the district court must consider whether a judgment in favor of the 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.

         Thus, a district court should not stay any § 1983 claim for damages implicating the validity of a criminal conviction or sentence until habeas proceedings are completed, as requested by plaintiff in this case. In fact, the Supreme Court in Heck expressly considered - and rejected - such an approach. By denying the existence of a cause of action under § 1983 unless and until the conviction or sentence is reversed, such as by the grant of a writ of habeas corpus, this “makes it unnecessary for us to address the statute-of-limitations issue wrestled with by the Court of Appeals, which concluded that a federal doctrine of equitable tolling would apply to the § 1983 cause of action while state challenges to the conviction or sentence were being exhausted . . . Under our analysis the statute of limitations poses no difficulty while the state challenges are being pursued, since the § 1983 claim has not yet arisen.” Id. at 489.

         Accordingly, Heck makes it clear that a § 1983 “cause of action for damages attributable to an unconstitutional conviction or sentence does not accrue until the conviction or sentence has been invalidated.” Heck, 512 U.S. at 489-90 (footnote omitted). Any such claim is not cognizable and therefore should be dismissed. See Edwards v. Balisok, 520 U.S. 641, 649 (1997); Butterfield v. Bail, 120 F.3d 1023, 1025 (9th Cir .1997) (claim barred by Heck may be dismissed under Rule 12(b)(6)); Trimble v. City of Santa Rosa, 49 F.3d 583, 585 (9th Cir. 1995) (claim barred by Heck may be dismissed sua sponte without prejudice under 28 U.S.C. § 1915).

         C. Plaintiff's Claims are Barred by Heck

         As discussed above, plaintiff's claims that he was denied a fair trial due to juror bias and misconduct, would, if meritorious, imply the invalidity of his prosecution, conviction, and sentence. As discussed above, Heck bars claims challenging the validity of a conviction in the § 1983 context. See Guerrero v. Gates,357 F.3d 911, 918 (9th Cir. 2004) (Heck barred plaintiff's claims of wrongful arrest, malicious prosecution and conspiracy among police officers to bring false charges against him); Cabrera v. City of Huntington Park,159 F.3d 374, 380 (9th Cir. 1998) (Heck barred plaintiff's false arrest and imprisonment claims until conviction was invalidated); Smithart ...


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