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Simpson v. Thomas

May 11, 2009

GARY SIMPSON, PLAINTIFF,
v.
SERGEANT THOMAS, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Morrison C. England, Jr. United States District Judge

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

Prior to Plaintiff's original trial in this excessive force action, this Court granted Defendant's Motion in Limine, filed pursuant to Heck v. Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477 (1994), to exclude evidence that Plaintiff may have acted in self defense. The Ninth Circuit reversed determining that the Heck doctrine acted not as a rule of evidence, but as a complete bar to § 1983 claims. Accordingly, Thomas has now moved for summary judgment arguing that Plaintiff's § 1983 claim is barred in its entirety. For the following reasons, Defendants' Motion is denied.*fn1

BACKGROUND*fn2

1. Factual Background

While incarcerated, Plaintiff allegedly failed to comply with a repeated direct order to remove a window covering. An altercation ensued during which Plaintiff took Defendant down by the neck and managed to wrestle Defendant's pepper spray away from him. Plaintiff alleges that Defendant threw the first punch.

A Rule Violation Report was issued against Plaintiff relative to the event. Plaintiff defended, claiming he battered Defendant only in self-defense. Following an investigation and hearing, Plaintiff was found guilty of battery and was assessed 150 days of Behavioral Credit Forfeiture, in effect lengthening his sentence. Simpson has not invalidated the loss of credits resulting from his disciplinary hearing.

2. Procedural Background

Plaintiff eventually filed this § 1983 excessive force action against Defendant. Prior to trial by jury, Defendant filed a Motion in Limine seeking to exclude Plaintiff's proffered testimony that Defendant had punched Plaintiff upon entering the cell, and that Plaintiff's subsequent actions were in self-defense.

Pursuant to Heck, this Court granted Defendant's motion and excluded any evidence or testimony that Plaintiff acted in self-defense, explaining that such evidence would invalidate the finding of guilt in Plaintiff's prison disciplinary proceeding. Accordingly, the Court found that Plaintiff was barred from raising any legal theory at trial which would necessarily invalidate the finding of guilt at his disciplinary hearing and resultant loss of good-time credits. The sole issue Plaintiff was allowed to raise was whether Defendant used excessive force in response to Plaintiff's assault.

Trial resulted in a jury verdict in favor of Defendant, and this Court denied Plaintiff's subsequent Motion for New Trial. Plaintiff appealed, and the Ninth Circuit reversed and remanded for a new trial. Simpson v. Thomas, 528 F.3d 685, 696 (9th Cir. 2008). The appellate court specifically addressed whether Heck may be used as an evidentiary bar and determined that Heck does not create a rule of evidence exclusion.

Defendant now moves for summary judgment arguing that, for the same reasons the Court originally excluded Plaintiff's evidence of self-defense, his § 1983 claim is now barred in its entirety.

STANDARD

The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provide for summary judgment when "the pleadings, the discovery and disclosure materials on file, and any affidavits show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the movant is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c).

One of the principal purposes of Rule 56 is to dispose of factually unsupported claims or defenses. Celotex Corp. v. ...


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