350 F.3d 1157 (11th Cir. 2003), 02-11508, Hughes v. Lott

Docket Nº:02-11508
Citation:350 F.3d 1157
Party Name:Hughes v. Lott
Case Date:November 14, 2003
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit

Page 1157

350 F.3d 1157 (7th Cir. 2003)

Ned HUGHES, Plaintiff-Appellant,


Charles LOTT, Police Officer, Dennis Johnson, et al., Defendants-Appellees.

No. 02-11508.

United States Court of Appeals, Eleventh Circuit

November 14, 2003

Page 1158

John Cowles Neiman, Jr. (Court-Appointed), Birmingham, AL, for Plaintiff-Appellant.

Eric Bice Cromwell, II, James E. Atchison, Mobile, AL, for Defendants-Appellees.

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Southern District of Alabama.

Before TJOFLAT, BARKETT and HILL, Circuit Judges.

BARKETT, Circuit Judge:

Ned Hughes appeals the district court's dismissal, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(i) and (ii), of his pro se and in forma pauperis civil rights action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against several City of Mobile police officers. In his complaint, Hughes alleges that the police officers violated

Page 1159

his Fourth Amendment rights by stopping, searching, and arresting him without reasonable suspicion, probable cause, or a warrant. He also alleges that the officers' treatment of him after the initial stop and arrest, including holding him against his will, forcing him to remove his clothes and wait in the cold, and interrogating him in his underwear, was unconstitutional. Finally, Hughes claims that the officers took several of his items without a warrant or his consent and never returned them. Prior to service of process, the district court found that Hughes's claims were barred by Heck v. Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477, 114 S.Ct. 2364, 129 L.Ed.2d 383 (1994); res judicata; the Prison Litigation Reform Act, 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(e); and the statute of limitations. It therefore dismissed them sua sponte.

On appeal, Hughes asserts that: (1) his claim of an unlawful search and seizure is not precluded by Heck, because his convictions would not necessarily be invalidated if he prevailed; (2) his claims are not barred byres judicata because his prior complaint was dismissed without prejudice; (3) his complaint requests nominal damages, which are not barred by 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(e), for violations of his Fourth Amendment rights; and (4) the factual record was insufficiently developed for the district court to determine that the statute of limitations period was not tolled for his deprivation of property claim. We affirm the district court's order with regard to the deprivation of property claim. However, we reverse and remand for further proceedings on the remainder of Hughes's claims.


Hughes is serving life sentences in Alabama state prison for two 1997 convictions for second-degree burglary and receipt of stolen property. In 1998, he filed a complaint in federal district court alleging that the police officers' actions before and after he was taken into custody violated the Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendments. The district court dismissed that complaint without prejudice prior to service of process, holding that Hughes's claims of illegal arrest, search and seizure, and coerced confession would have the effect of undermining his burglary conviction and were therefore barred by the rule in Heck. In addition, it held that his post-custody claims did not allege physical injury--only mental anguish, humiliation, and emotional distress--and therefore were barred under 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(e).

Hughes filed a second complaint in 2001, which is the subject of this appeal, similarly alleging violations of his Fourth, Fifth, and Fourteenth Amendment rights. Unlike his first complaint, however, Hughes's second complaint explicitly seeks compensatory damages for property seized by the police officers. In addition, it does not seek damages for time spent incarcerated. The district court again dismissed the complaint prior to service of process, relying on Heck and § 1997e(e) as well as the doctrine of res judicata for the claims raised in Hughes's first complaint. It dismissed Hughes's deprivation of property claim as barred by the two-year statute of limitations. Hughes now appeals.


In forma pauperis proceedings are governed by 28 U.S.C. § 1915. Subsection (e)(2) of that statute provides that "the court shall dismiss the case at any time if the court determines that ... (B) the action or appeal--(i) is frivolous or malicious [or]; (ii) fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted...." 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2). A district court's sua sponte dismissal for failure to state a claim under

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§ 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii) is reviewed de novo, viewing the allegations in the complaint as true. Mitchell v. Farcass, 112 F.3d 1483, 1490 (11th Cir. 1997). Similarly, a district court's ruling on issues of res judicata is reviewed de novo. NAACP v. Hunt, 891 F.2d 1555, 1560 (11th Cir. 1990). A district court's sua sponte dismissal for frivolity under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(i) is reviewed for abuse of discretion. Bilal v. Driver, 251 F.3d 1346, 1348 (11th Cir. 2001). "Pro se...

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