68 F.3d 1 (1st Cir. 1995), 95-1193, Calero-Colon v. Betancourt-Lebron

Docket Nº:95-1193.
Citation:68 F.3d 1
Party Name:Ricardo CALERO-COLON, et al., Plaintiffs, Appellants, v. Ismael BETANCOURT-LEBRON, etc., et al., Defendants, Appellees.
Case Date:October 17, 1995
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the First Circuit
 
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68 F.3d 1 (1st Cir. 1995)

Ricardo CALERO-COLON, et al., Plaintiffs, Appellants,

v.

Ismael BETANCOURT-LEBRON, etc., et al., Defendants, Appellees.

No. 95-1193.

United States Court of Appeals, First Circuit

October 17, 1995

Heard Aug. 1, 1995.

Jose A. Pagan Nieves, with whom Elisa A. Fumero Perez, Jose A. Pagan Nieves Law Offices and Nector Robles Abraham were on brief, for appellants.

Lorraine J. Riefkohl, Assistant Solicitor General, with whom Carlos Lugo-Fiol, Solicitor General, and Jacqueline Novas-Debien, Deputy Solicitor General, were on brief, for appellees.

Before SELYA, CYR and LYNCH, Circuit Judges.

CYR, Circuit Judge.

Ricardo Calero-Colon ("Calero") and Eric Robles-Abraham ("Robles") challenge a district court ruling dismissing their civil rights action under 42 U.S.C. Sec. 1983 for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). As the district court incorrectly concluded that their

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claims were time-barred, we vacate the judgments and remand for further proceedings.

I

BACKGROUND 1

On February 9, 1993, Calero commenced this action against various police officers of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico and their confidential informants. Robles followed suit on November 2, 1993, and the cases were consolidated. At the heart of both complaints are allegations that Jose Crespo-Guillen ("Crespo")--an undercover Puerto Rico police officer--and a confidential informant named Rosa, persuaded certain Commonwealth authorities to provide front money for undercover drug buys which never were intended to take place. The complaints asserted that Crespo and Rosa falsely identified appellants as the "sellers" in two concocted undercover drug buys, thereby causing arrest warrants to issue against each. Calero was arrested on August 1, 1990, and Robles on March 20, 1992, for allegedly selling one ounce of cocaine to Crespo. On July 1, 1992, Calero was acquitted; Robles was acquitted on July 2, 1993.

Although both Calero and Robles maintained their innocence from the moment of their respective arrests, each claims that he did not know the true nature and extent of the scheme that led to the arrest until after he had been acquitted. In all events, within months of their respective acquittals, Calero and Robles initiated lawsuits alleging violations of the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution and violations of Puerto Rico law. Shortly thereafter, the appellees moved to dismiss on the ground that the claims were time-barred.

The district court deemed appellants' claims analogous to the common law torts of false arrest and malicious prosecution. It found that the one-year limitation borrowed from Puerto Rico law barred their respective false arrest claims, which accrued at the dates of arrest. 2 Although the court ruled that their "malicious prosecution" type claims were not time-barred, it held them not actionable under section 1983, whether on a substantive or procedural due process theory. See Albright v. Oliver, --- U.S. ----, 114 S.Ct. 807, 127 L.Ed.2d 114 (1994) (refusing to recognize substantive due process right to be free from prosecution not based on probable cause); Perez-Ruiz, 25 F.3d at 43 (commonwealth law affords adequate post-deprivation remedy for "procedural due process" type "malicious prosecution" claims). As no trialworthy federal claims remained, the pendent commonwealth law claims were dismissed without prejudice pursuant to 28 U.S.C. Sec. 1367(c)(3). See Figueroa Ruiz v. Alegria, 896 F.2d 645, 650 (1st Cir.1990).

II

DISCUSSION 3

  1. Applicable Limitation Period

    Section 1983 creates "a species of tort liability" for redressing deprivations of federal constitutional rights. Heck v. Humphrey, --- U.S. ----, ----, 114 S.Ct. 2364, 2370, 129 L.Ed.2d 383 (1994) (quoting Memphis Community Sch. Dist. v. Stachura, 477 U.S. 299, 305, 106 S.Ct. 2537, 2542, 91 L.Ed.2d 249 (1986)). The limitation period governing personal injury actions under the law of the forum state is borrowed for application to section 1983 claims. Wilson v. Garcia, 471 U.S. 261, 276-80, 105 S.Ct. 1938, 1947-49, 85 L.Ed.2d 254 (1985); Guzman-Rivera v. Rivera-Cruz, 29 F.3d 3, 4-5 (1st Cir.1994). The one-year limitation period prescribed in Article

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    1868(2) of the Civil Code of Puerto Rico, P.R.Laws Ann. tit. 31, Sec. 5298(2) (1991), governs these section 1983 claims.

  2. Accrual Rules Governing Section 1983 Claims

    The question before us is whether appellants brought their section 1983 claims within the applicable one-year period prescribed by Puerto Rico law. The dispute focuses on when the one year began to run; in other words, when their respective causes of action accrued. Federal law provides the applicable accrual rule. Guzman-Rivera, 29 F.3d at 4-5.

    Section 1983 claims accrue when the plaintiff "knows or has reason to know of the injury which is the basis of the action." Street v. Vose, 936 F.2d 38, 40 (1st Cir.1991) (quoting Torres v. Superintendent of Police, 893 F.2d 404, 407 (1st Cir.1990)). For purposes of determining when a claimant knew or had reason to know of the alleged injury, we look to the common law cause of action most closely analogous to the constitutional right at stake. Heck, --- U.S. at ----, 114 S.Ct. at 2371. As the elements in any species of section 1983 "tort" are ordained by its constitutional prototype, we first identify the particular constitutional right allegedly infringed. See Albright v. Oliver, --- U.S. ----, ----, 114 S.Ct. 807, 811, 127 L.Ed.2d 114 (1994).

    These complaints specifically state that Puerto Rico police officers arrested Calero and Robles pursuant to a warrant predicated on false allegations by Crespo and Rosa. Thus, appellants' section 1983 claims directly implicate both their Fourth Amendment right to be free from any unreasonable seizure of their persons, see Lippay v. Christos, 996 F.2d 1490, 1502-03 (3d Cir.1993) (discussing Fourth Amendment standards in case involving arrest based on warrant), and their Fourteenth Amendment right to be free from criminal prosecution without due process of law. 4

    The district court found the Fourteenth Amendment due process claims more closely analogous to the tort of malicious prosecution, but that the Fourth Amendment claims more closely resembled the common law tort of false arrest. Even though malicious prosecution 5 and false arrest 6 may seem distinct enough in abstract definition, however, in a wrongful arrest case--particularly an arrest conducted pursuant to a warrant based on false allegations--the lines between the two may become blurred. In the present case, we believe appellants' Fourth Amendment claims...

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