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Perez v. Padilla

United States District Court, E.D. California

March 7, 2017

JOSEPH PEREZ, Plaintiff,
v.
R. PADILLA, Defendant.

         FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS, RECOMMENDING THAT DEFENDANT'S RULE 12(b)(6) MOTION TO DISMISS PLAINTIFF'S FIRST AMENDED COMPLAINT BE DENIED ORDER DENYING DEFENDANT'S MOTION TO STRIKE (ECF NO. 30) OBJECTIONS, IF ANY, DUE WITHIN TWENTY-ONE DAYS

         I. BACKGROUND

         Joseph Perez (“Plaintiff”) is a former state prisoner proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis with this civil rights action filed pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. This case now proceeds on Plaintiff's First Amended Complaint (“Complaint”), filed on April 15, 2015, against defendant R. Padilla (“Defendant”), a correctional officer, for violation of the Eighth Amendment based on excessive force. (ECF Nos. 12, 25, & 28).

         On November 15, 2016, Defendant filed a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss on the grounds that Plaintiff's claims are barred by the favorable termination rule under Heck v. Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477 (1994); that Plaintiff failed to state a claim for excessive force in violation of the Eighth Amendment, and that Defendant is entitled to qualified immunity. (ECF No. 30, p. 7). Defendant's arguments stem from the fact that Plaintiff was found guilty of a rules violation, specifically “Resisting/Obstructing a Peace Officer” while in prison, resulting in a loss of 90 days good time credits. That Rules Violation Report included findings regarding the incident that Defendant claims are inconsistent with Plaintiff's excessive force claim in this case. Because the Rules Violation resulted in a change in Plaintiff's duration of confinement, however minor, Defendant claims that Plaintiff's only recourse was to file a petition for habeas corpus to challenge the Rules Violation Report, and should now be precluded from pursuing his Section 1983 claim in this Court.

         On December 21, 2016, Plaintiff filed a response to the motion. (ECF No. 35). The Court heard oral argument on January 31, 2017. (ECF No. 42). Defendant's motion to dismiss is now before the court.

         For the reasons described below, this Court recommends denying Defendant's motion to dismiss because a finding of excessive force in this case would not “necessarily imply the invalidity” of the guilty finding of resisting/obstructing a peace officer.

         II. PLAINTIFF'S ALLEGATIONS AND CLAIMS

         Plaintiff was an inmate in the custody of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (“CDCR”) at Avenal State Prison (“ASP”) in Avenal, California. Plaintiff's allegations stem from conduct that occurred while Plaintiff was incarcerated at ASP. Plaintiff's factual allegations follow.

         Plaintiff alleges that, on October 23, 2013, while leaving the Dining Hall after the evening meal, Correctional Officer Andrade ordered Plaintiff to empty his cup of potatoes. After Plaintiff complied, his legs were kicked out to the sides and Plaintiff was slammed to the ground. Andrade stated “next time I'll spray you.” Plaintiff was then escorted to the Program Office by Correctional Officer Medina, taken to the security cage area, and again slammed against a wall.

         At this point, Defendant R. Padilla entered the area and slammed Plaintiff's head with sufficient force into the window of an office to break the glass and cause multiple head lacerations. Defendant Padilla then slammed Plaintiff to the ground as he was bleeding. Plaintiff was taken to the hospital and received stitches.

         Following a prison disciplinary hearing, Plaintiff was found guilty of “Resisting/Obstructing a Peace Officer.” The relevant part of the Guilty determination is as follows:

FINDINGS: Inmate PEREZ is found GUILTY of violating C.C.R. § 3005(d)(1), specifically, RESISTING/OBSTRUCTING A PEACE OFFICER. This finding is based on the following:
A) Based upon the Reporting Employee's written account of the alleged misconduct as documented in the circumstances portion of the CDC-115 which states in part: “PEREZ began to become verbally hostile towards Correctional Officer Medina, yelling, “Get your fucken hands off me mother fucker.” PEREZ in a sudden burst pulled away from my grasp and lunged forward, striking his head into the window of an office door, causing the glass to break. Medical Staff asked for PEREZ to be turned on his back to tend to his injuries. PEREZ began to thrash about by kicking his legs.”
B) Medical Report(s) of Injury (CDC 7219) dated 10/24/13, Completed on Inmate PEREZ AM-9461, documents injuries consistent with the Reporting Employee's written report; specifically, a Cut-Laceration to the head area.
C) The Two (2) Investigative Employee Reports authored by Officer M. Esquer and Officer J. Silva in which Inmate PEREZ did not offer any evidence supporting his claim of innocence; PEREZ refused to participate in his own defense The aforementioned items constitute a preponderance of evidence and thereby support a finding of GUILTY.

(ECF No. 30-5, at p. 6)

         The Court screened Plaintiff's First Amended Complaint, ordering that the case proceed against Defendant R. Padilla only for violation of the Eighth Amendment based on excessive force. (ECF No. 25, p. 6).

         III. DEFENDANT'S MOTION TO DISMISS

         Defendant moves to dismiss the Complaint for failure to state a claim pursuant to Federal Rules of Civil Procedure Rule 12(b)(6) on the grounds that: (1) Plaintiff's claims are barred by the favorable termination rule articulated in Heck v. Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477 (1994), and Edwards v. Balisok, 520 U.S. 641 (1997); (2) Plaintiff has failed to state a claim for excessive force in violation of the Eighth Amendment claim; and (3) Defendant is entitled to qualified immunity. (ECF No. 30, p. 7). Defendant also moves ...


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