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Burgos v. Superior Court of Santa Clara County

United States District Court, N.D. California

June 5, 2017

FRANCISCO BURGOS, Plaintiff,
v.
SUPERIOR COURT OF SANTA CLARA COUNTY, Defendant.

          ORDER LIFTING STAY AND DISMISSING ACTION

          DONNA M. RYU United States Magistrate Judge.

         In July 2016, Plaintiff filed the instant pro se civil rights complaint for damages under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, in which he sought monetary damages for the alleged violation of his constitutional right to a speedy trial. Dkt. 1 at 3. Plaintiff consented to magistrate judge jurisdiction. Dkt. 4. Therefore, this matter was assigned to the undersigned Magistrate Judge.

         Upon initial review, the court stayed this action due to the pendency of the criminal case against Plaintiff. Dkt. 6. The court explained the rule from Heck v. Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477 (1994), i.e., if success in the section 1983 action would necessarily demonstrate the invalidity of a conviction, the section 1983 action is barred unless the conviction already been determined to be invalid. Dkt. 6 at 2-3. The court further explained as follows:

If a plaintiff files a section 1983 false arrest claim before he or she is convicted, or files any other claim related to rulings that likely will be made in a pending or anticipated criminal trial, it is within the power of the district court, and accords with common practice, to stay the civil action until the criminal case or the likelihood of a criminal case is ended.

Id. (quoting Wallace v. Kato, 549 U.S. 384, 393-94 (2007)). The court then applied these rules to Plaintiff's section 1983 action, stating: “Here, Plaintiff seeks damages for the violation of his constitutional right to a speedy trial, but Plaintiff has not alleged that he has been convicted. Accordingly, the court will stay further proceedings in this matter until Plaintiff's criminal proceedings have concluded.” Id. at 3.

         Plaintiff has since filed a letter to the court, which will be construed as his motion to lift the stay. Dkt. 9. Plaintiff reports that he has been convicted in state court, and now would like to go forward with this action. See Id. at 1.

         However, while the stay can be lifted, the court explains below that Plaintiff cannot go forward with this action. Instead, his conviction requires that this action be dismissed. Wallace v. Kato explained that a stay is appropriate while a criminal case is pending, and also explained what happens at the conclusion of that criminal case: “If the plaintiff is ultimately convicted, and if the stayed civil suit would impugn that conviction, Heck will require dismissal; otherwise, the civil action will proceed, absent some other bar to suit.” Wallace v. Kato, 549 U.S. at 394. Here, the Heck rule applies for the reasons stated in the order staying the case. See Dkt. 6 at 2-3. A stay was appropriate while Plaintiff's criminal case was pending, but now that a conviction has occurred, the Heck rule requires that this action be dismissed. Plaintiff must have his conviction overturned (e.g., on direct appeal, or in state or federal habeas proceedings) before he may file a section 1983 action asserting a violation of his constitutional right to a speedy trial.

         For the foregoing reasons, Plaintiff's motion to lift the stay is GRANTED. Dkt. 9. The stay is now lifted. However, the Heck rule bars Plaintiff's section 1983 claim because success on the claim would call into question the validity of his state court judgment of conviction, and that conviction has not yet been set aside. Therefore, the action must be dismissed.

         If Plaintiff wants to challenge the lawfulness of his current custody, the exclusive method by which he may do so in federal court is by filing a petition for writ of habeas corpus. See Preiser v. Rodriguez, 411 U.S. 475, 500 (1973). Such a petition should not be filed until he first exhausts state judicial remedies as to any claim he wishes to present in a federal petition for writ of habeas corpus.

         For the foregoing reasons, this action is DISMISSED.[1] The dismissal is without prejudice to Plaintiff filing a new section 1983 action for damages if his state court conviction is overturned or set aside.

         The Clerk of the Court shall terminate all pending motions and close the file.

         This Order terminates Docket No. 9.

         IT IS SO ORDERED.

         CERTIFICATE ...


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