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Lockett v. Ericson

May 11, 2009

EDWIN VERNON LOCKETT, PLAINTIFF,
v.
KEITH ERICSON, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Craig M. Kellison United States Magistrate Judge

FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS

Plaintiff, who is proceeding with retained counsel, brings this civil action. Pending before the court are the parties' briefs addressing the court's subject matter jurisdiction.*fn1

I. BACKGROUND

A. Plaintiff's Allegations

In his complaint, plaintiff sues the City of Mount Shasta Police Department and various of its officers. Plaintiff alleges the following general factual background:

On February 16, 2005, Plaintiff Lockett was sleeping in his home, around 9:00 p.m. He awakened to law enforcement officers standing above him and shining a flashlight in his face. Approximately one to one and one-half hours prior, plaintiff had driven to his home, and, owing to road snow conditions, his car had slid off the road almost immediately across the street from his home. The car had become stuck. Plaintiff had attempted to remove it, but was unable to do so. A woman, who apparently saw him, asked if he was okay and whether he needed help. He told her that he did not need assistance, and that he was fine. His house was across the street from where his car remained, which was on the side of the road, and out of the way. Plaintiff walked into his house.

The defendant officers entered his home, without a warrant, came into his bedroom, awakened him, and began asking him questions about where he had been, and what he had been doing. Plaintiff admitted that the stuck car was his and explained how it had gone off the road, but that he had been home and asleep for over an hour. Defendant officers issued him a breathalyzer test, and thereafter arrested him for driving under the influence. The defendant officers do not dispute that they never saw plaintiff drive, nor that any witnesses ever saw him drive.

Plaintiff asserts one claim -- violation of his civil rights under the Fourth Amendment -- arising from these facts.

B. Procedural History

At the initial status/scheduling conference held in this matter, plaintiff's counsel made an oral motion for a stay of proceedings pending resolution of a state court criminal action arising from the arrest described above. Plaintiff's motion was granted and this action was stayed pursuant to Wallace v. Kato, 127 S.Ct. 1091 (2007), on December 14, 2007. Plaintiff thereafter submitted status reports on February 18, 2008, May 23, 2008, and August 18, 2008. In his last status report, plaintiff indicated that the state court criminal prosecution had concluded upon plaintiff's entry of a plea of no contest to the charge of "wet reckless." The court lifted the stay on August 26, 2008, and a second status/scheduling conference was held on October 22, 2008, at which time the court directed the parties to file briefs addressing whether this action is barred under Heck v. Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477, 483-84 (1994), because success on plaintiff's civil rights claim would necessarily imply the invalidity of his "wet reckless" conviction which has not otherwise been set aside or reversed.*fn2

Accompanying defendants' briefs are requests for the court to take judicial notice of various pleadings and orders filed in the underlying state court criminal action.*fn3 Exhibits to defendants' requests for judicial notice reveal that plaintiff (as defendant in the underlying criminal case) filed a motion to suppress evidence, arguing that it was seized without a warrant in violation of his Fourth Amendment rights. Specifically, plaintiff's motion stated:

The evidence that Defendant seeks to suppress includes, but is not limited to, the following indicated items: blood alcohol results, all observations, statements, and any other evidence, tangible and intangible, seized pursuant to the warrantless entry into the Defendant's home without exigent circumstances.

The complaint of search and seizure violates Defendant's Fourth Amendment rights under the United States Constitution.

More specifically, this motion is based on violation of Defendant's reasonable expectation of privacy in his own home, as guaranteed by the Fourth, Fifth, and Fourteenth ...


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