7.16.2007

N.D. of Texas Notes Split Re Interpretation of Footnote Seven of the Heck Decision Relating to Fourth Amendment Claims

Per Johnson v. Knox, Slip Copy, 2007 WL 1975597 (N.D.Tex. Jul 05, 2007) (NO. 307-CV-0170-N):

The same applies to Plaintiff's illegal search and seizure claim against Defendant Castanon. It is not possible at this time to determine unequivocally whether Heck, would apply to the Fourth Amendment claims. In footnote seven of its Heck decision, the Supreme Court stated:

a suit for damages attributable to an allegedly unreasonable search may lie even if the challenged search produced evidence that was introduced in a state criminal trial resulting in the § 1983 plaintiff's still-outstanding conviction. Because of doctrines like independent source and inevitable discovery, and especially harmless error, such a § 1983 action, even if successful, would not necessarily imply that the plaintiff's conviction was unlawful. Heck, 512 U.S. at 487 n. 7, 114 S.Ct. at 2372 n. 7. See also Haring v. Prosise, 462 U.S. 306, 103 S. Ct.. 2368, 76 L.Ed.2d 595 (1983) (holding that a plaintiff's guilty plea did not constitute a waiver of antecedent Fourth Amendment claims in a § 1983 action). The circuits are split as to the proper interpretation of footnote seven . FN3

FN3. At least three circuits have held that footnote seven creates a general exception to Heck for Fourth Amendment unreasonable search and seizure claims. See, e.g., Moore v. Sims, 200 F.3d 1170, 1171-72 (8th Cir.2000) (per curiam); Copus v. City of Edgerton, 151 F.3d 646, 648 (7th Cir.1998); Datz v. Kilgore, 51 F.3d 252, 253 n. 1 (11th Cir.1995) (per curiam); see also Hughes v. Lott, 350 F.3d 1157, 1160-61 (11th Cir.2003). Other circuits permit such claims to go forward only after the district court makes an individualized determination that a favorable ruling in that case would not undermine the related criminal conviction or pending criminal proceedings. See, e.g., Ballenger v. Owens, 352 F.3d 842, 845-56 (4th Cir.2003); Harvey v. Waldron, 210 F.3d 1008, 1015 (9th Cir.2000); Shamaeizadeh v. Cunigan, 182 F.3d 391, 398-99 (6th Cir.1999); Woods v. Candela, 47 F.3d 545, 546 (2d Cir.1995) (per curiam). Cf. Beck v. City of Muskogee Police Dept., 195 F.3d 553, 559 n. 4 (10th Cir.1999) (generally disagreeing with courts that make an individualized determination, but noting that the case before it was not the "rare situation ... where all evidence was obtained as a result of an illegal arrest").

Recently, the Third Circuit concluded that a Fourth Amendment claim can be brought under § 1983, even without favorable termination, if the district court determines that success on the claim would not necessarily imply the invalidity of the conviction. Gibson v. Superintendent of New Jersey Dept. of Law and Public Safety, 411 F.3d 427, 435-39 (3d Cir.2005), cert. denied, 547 U.S. 1035, 126 S. Ct.. 1571, 164 L.Ed.2d 326 (2006). However, in those cases in which a district court determines that success on the § 1983 claim would imply the invalidity of the conviction, the cause of action is deferred until the conviction is overturned pursuant to Heck. Id.

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