Posted On: July 16, 2008 by Mary Frances Prevost

CIVIL RIGHTS PLAINTIFF CAN FILE SUIT WHILE CRIMINAL CASE IS PENDING

In this precedent-setting California Civil Rights case, the Plaintiff's claim arose with his arrest under Wallace v. Kato and was not barred by Heck v. Humphrey. Wallace applies even though all the facts occurred before it was decided. (The court also discusses the tension between Wallace and Heck.) Kamar v. Krolczyk, 2008 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 55975 (E.D. Cal. July 16, 2008):

The court finds that the recent Supreme Court case of Wallace v. Kato, 549 U.S. 384, 127 S.Ct. 1091, 166 L. Ed. 2d 973 (2007), has effectively overruled Harvey v. Waldron, 210 F.3d 1008 (9th Cir. 2000)].

In Wallace, the plaintiff contended that any civil rights action that would impugn his anticipated future conviction could not be brought until that conviction occurs and is set aside. Wallace, 127 S.Ct. at 1098. The Supreme Court refused to embrace what the Supreme Court entitled a "bizarre extension of Heck." Id.

In Wallace, the Supreme Court overruled those circuits that had applied the Heck to bar Section 1983 claims when criminal charges were only pending. The "Heck rule for deferred accrual is called into play only when there exists 'a conviction or sentence that has not been ... invalidated,' that is to say, an 'outstanding criminal judgment."' Id. at 1097-98 (quoting Heck, 512 U.S. at 486-87).

To avoid a concurrent Section 1983 action and criminal action, the Supreme Court held that if a plaintiff files a false arrest claim or any other claim related to rulings that will likely be made in a pending or anticipated criminal trial, "it is within the power of the district court, and in accord with common practice, to stay the civil action until the criminal case or the likelihood of a criminal case is ended." Wallace, 127 S.Ct. at 1098.

The Supreme Court directly addressed the collision that would occur in some civil rights cases between the statute of limitations, the Heck bar, and a potential Heck bar. The Supreme Court recognized that some civil rights actions accrue "before the setting aside of-indeed, even before the existence of-the related criminal conviction." Wallace, 127 S.Ct. at 1098. This fact pattern "raises the question whether, assuming that the Heck bar takes effect when the later conviction is obtained, the statute of limitations on the once valid cause of action is tolled as long as the Heck bar subsists." Id. The Supreme Court declined to adopt such a federal tolling rule. ...


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