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Burnett v. McNulty

United States District Court, N.D. California

July 20, 2017

CARLOS ROMERO BURNETT, Plaintiff,
v.
ANGELA MCNULTY, et al., Defendants.

          ORDER OF DISMISSAL

          WILLIAM H. ORRICK UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         INTRODUCTION

         Plaintiff Carlos Romero Burnett alleges in this federal civil rights action that his state conviction is invalid and that in consequence he is owed money damages by the prosecutors and his appellate attorney. The United States Supreme Court in Heck v. Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477, 486-487 (1994) barred claims brought under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 that, if successful, would appear to invalidate a conviction or sentence that has not already 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. Burnett's case appears to do what Heck precludes. Accordingly, this suit is DISMISSED.

         BACKGROUND

         In 2015, a Monterey County Superior Court jury convicted Burnett of possessing a weapon in a penal institution. People v. Burnett, No. H042861, 2017 WL 25499 at *1 (Cal.Ct.App. Jan. 3, 2017). He was sentenced to 25 years to life in state prison, a sentence to be served consecutively to the sentences for first degree murder and attempted murder he was already serving. Id. In 2017, the state appellate court affirmed the conviction. Id.

         It is his 2015 conviction and sentence that Burnett contends are invalid.

         DISCUSSION

         A. Standard of Review

         In its initial review of this pro se complaint, this Court must dismiss any claim that is frivolous or malicious, or fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted, or seeks monetary relief against a defendant who is immune from such relief. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e). Pro se pleadings must be liberally construed. See Balistreri v. Pacifica Police Dep't, 901 F.2d 696, 699 (9th Cir. 1988).

         A “complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). “A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Id. (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556). Furthermore, a court “is not required to accept legal conclusions cast in the form of factual allegations if those conclusions cannot reasonably be drawn from the facts alleged.” Clegg v. Cult Awareness Network, 18 F.3d 752, 754-55 (9th Cir. 1994).

         To state a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, a plaintiff must allege two essential elements: (1) that a right secured by the Constitution or laws of the United States was violated, and (2) that the alleged violation was committed by a person acting under the color of state law. See West v. Atkins, 487 U.S. 42, 48 (1988).

         B. Legal Claims

         In order to recover damages for an allegedly unconstitutional conviction or imprisonment, or for other harm caused by actions whose unlawfulness would render a conviction or sentence invalid, a 42 U.S.C. § 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. A claim for damages bearing that relationship to a conviction or sentence that has not been so invalidated is not cognizable under section 1983. Id. at 487.

         Where, as in this case, a state prisoner seeks damages in a section 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 ...


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