Beckway v. Deshong

Decision Date28 July 2010
Docket NumberNo. C07-5072 TEH,C07-5072 TEH
Citation717 F.Supp.2d 908
PartiesBrent BECKWAY, Plaintiff, v. Deputy Paul DeSHONG, et al., Defendants.
CourtU.S. District Court — Northern District of California

Charles Frederick Bourdon, Law Offices of Charles F. Bourdon, San Francisco, CA, Baron J. Drexel, Law Offices of Baron J. Drexel, Oakland, CA, for Plaintiff.

John Robert Whitefleet, Porter Scott Weiberg & Delehant, Sacramento, CA, for Deputy Paul DeShong, Rodney K. Mitchell, County of Lake Sheriff's Department, County of Lake.

Terence J. Cassidy, Porter Scott, Sacramento, CA, for Deputy Paul DeShong.

Kristen K. Preston, Jones & Dyer, A Professional Corporation, Sacramento, CA, for Rodney K. Mitchell, County of Lake Sheriff's Department, County of Lake.

Mark A. Jones, Jones & Dyer, A Professional Corporation, Sacramento, CA, for Rodney K. Mitchell, County of Lake Sheriff's Department, County of Lake, Richard Ward.



This matter came before the Court on April 26, 2010, on Defendants' motions forjudgment on the pleadings. For the reasons set forth below, Defendants' motions are GRANTED IN PART and DENIED IN PART. The Court also GRANTS Defendant DeShong's motion for leave to amend his answer.


This lawsuit arises out of the October 27, 2006 arrest of Plaintiff Brent Beckway ("Beckway" or "Plaintiff") by defendants Richard Ward ("Ward") and Paul DeShong ("DeShong"), deputies with the Lake County Sheriff's Department. Beckway contends that the officers seriously injured his left knee through excessive force and arrested him without probable cause. A state court judge found probable cause to hold Beckway over for trial at a preliminary hearing on May 18, 2009, and Beckway pleaded nolo contendere to a charge of resisting arrest on October 27, 2009. At issue on these motions is whether Beckway's claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 are barred by determinations made in the criminal proceeding, based on the Supreme Court's decision in Heck v. Humphrey and the doctrine of collateral estoppel.

Beckway's arrest resulted from a dispute with his neighbor, Harold Alan Keats, regarding a cord of wood that Beckway purchased from him. Beckway alleges in his complaint that Keats twice visited Beckway's home to demand payment for the wood on October 27, 2006, and that Beckway "encountered" Keats later that day at the local store. Compl. ¶¶ 9-11. According to DeShong's police report,1 Beckway struck Keats on the left side of his face with a closed fist during their confrontation at the store. Keats-who uses a wheelchair-momentarily stood from the chair and grabbed Beckway's shirt, tearing it. Witnesses interviewed by DeShong characterized Beckway as the aggressor. Beckway also left two phone messages on Keats' answering machine, the first conciliatory, the second threatening.

DeShong, after interviewing Keats and two other witnesses and hearing the telephone messages, contacted Beckway at his home while accompanied by Ward as a cover unit. He found Beckway to be visibly intoxicated and unsteady on his feet. After soliciting Beckway's account of his altercation with Keats, DeShong notified Beckway that he was placing him under arrest. Beckway "pulled away" and "started to spin around, attempting to gain physical advantage," but then "lost his balance and fell to the deck of the residence." Preston Decl., Ex. A at 3. Beckway, having fallen forward, had his hands and arms beneath his torso; the officers attempted to gain control of his hands and soon placed him in handcuffs. As the officers helped him up, Beckway complained of apain to his left leg, and was transported by medical personnel to a hospital for treatment. Beckway alleges in his complaint that the officers had forcibly thrown him to the ground and stomped on the back of his left knee, causing his injury.

Beckway was charged with elder abuse, Cal. Pen.Code § 368, making criminal threats, id. § 422, and resisting arrest, id. § 148(a)(1), in a criminal complaint filed on September 20, 2007. A preliminary hearing on the criminal charges was held over five days spanning eight months, starting on September 26, 2008, and concluding on May 18, 2009. Observing that the "Court only needs to find probable cause, a strong suspicion standard for purposes of preliminary hearing," Superior Court Judge Richard Martin found "sufficient evidence" to sustain a misdemeanor charge of making criminal threats, "but not to the standard of a felony." Preston Decl., Ex. C at 261-62. As to the other charges, Judge Martin noted that he "need not make any finding ... for purposes of a prelim," yet concluded that "there was sufficient evidence heard during the course of the presentation to satisfy the Court that they were appropriately charged." Id. at 262. Turning to "the officer[s'] conduct," the court observed that they "clearly announce that they need to arrest"-as Beckway's "story is inconsistent with" other witnesses' accounts-and found that "they appear at that point to at least have probable cause to effect an arrest." Id. at 263.

Beckway entered a plea of nolo contendere, or "no contest," to the misdemeanor charge of resisting arrest on October 27, 2009. The plea form he signed explained that a nolo contendere plea "will have exactly the same effect in this case as a plea of guilty," but "cannot be used against me in a civil lawsuit unless the offense is punishable as a felony." Preston Decl., Ex. E. At the hearing, Beckway's counsel stated that he would "not be stipulating to a factual basis for the plea," but had "no objection to the Court making its own finding based upon the preliminary hearing." Id., Ex. F at 3. As a "factual basis" for the plea, Judge Martin stated that he would rely on a September 25, 2007 warrant that he had signed as well as "53 pages of police reports attached in support of the affidavit for the warrant." Id.

Beckway filed this action on October 2, 2007 against DeShong, Lake County, the Lake County Sheriff's Department, Sheriff Rodney Mitchell, and Ward ("Defendants").2 He brings claims for excessive use of force and false arrest under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, as well as state law claims for battery, negligence, and intentional infliction of emotional distress. Two motions for judgment on the pleadings-one by DeShong, and the other by Ward and the remaining Defendants-were filed on February 24, 2010 and are now before the Court.


"After the pleadings are closed-but early enough not to delay trial-a party may move for judgment on the pleadings." Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(c). "Judgment on the pleadings is proper when the moving party clearly establishes on the face of the pleadings that no material issue of fact remains to be resolved and that it is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Hal Roach Studios, Inc. v. Richard Feiner & Co., 896 F.2d 1542, 1550 (9th Cir.1989). "[T]he same standard of review applicable to a Rule 12(b) motion applies to its Rule 12(c) analog," because the motions are "functionally identical." Dworkin v. Hustler Magazine, Inc., 867 F.2d 1188, 1192 (9th Cir.1989). The Court must "accept allmaterial allegations in the complaint as true," and resolve all doubts "in the light most favorable to the plaintiff." McGlinchy v. Shell Chemical Co., 845 F.2d 802, 810 (9th Cir.1988). A court may also consider, on a Rule 12(c) motion, "facts that 'are contained in materials of which the court may take judicial notice.' " Heliotrope Gen., Inc. v. Ford Motor Co., 189 F.3d 971, 981 n. 18 (9th Cir.1999) (quoting Barron v. Reich, 13 F.3d 1370, 1377 (9th Cir.1994)).


Defendants, in both motions, argue that Beckway's action is preempted on two grounds. They first contend that the Supreme Court's ruling in Heck v. Humphrey bars his § 1983 claim for excessive force, as that claim implies the invalidity of his conviction for resisting arrest. Defendants further argue that the state court judge's finding of probable cause to hold Beckway over for trial collaterally estops his false arrest claim. The Court addresses these arguments in turn.

I. Heck v. Humphrey

In Heck v. Humphrey, the Supreme Court limited a plaintiff's ability to bring a § 1983 action that calls into question the lawfulness of a criminal conviction. The petitioner in Heck had filed-while the appeal of his conviction for voluntary manslaughter was pending-a § 1983 suit alleging illegal conduct in his prosecution for that charge. Before the Court was the question of "whether a state prisoner may challenge the constitutionality of his conviction in a suit for damages under 42 U.S.C. § 1983." 512 U.S. 477, 478, 114 S.Ct. 2364, 129 L.Ed.2d 383 (1994). The Court held that, "in order to recover damages for ... harm caused by actions whose unlawfulness would render a conviction or sentence invalid, a § 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." Id. at 486-87, 114 S.Ct. 2364. A damages claim "bearing that relationship to a conviction" that "has not been so invalidated is not cognizable under § 1983." Id. at 487, 114 S.Ct. 2364.

In a concurrence joined by three other justices, however, Justice Souter sought to prevent the Court's ruling from being interpreted "to shut off federal courts altogether to claims that fall within the plain language of § 1983." Id. at 501, 114 S.Ct. 2364 (Souter, J., concurring). The Court's decision, he observed, required "a state prisoner challenging the lawfulness of his confinement to follow habeas's rules before seeking § 1983 damages for unlawful confinement in federal court," a holding that ...

To continue reading

Request your trial
20 cases
  • Houng v. Tatung Co. (In re Houng)
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — Central District of California
    • September 11, 2013 is properly raised, by pleadings or otherwise, and is submitted for determination, and is determined. See, e.g., Beckway v. DeShong, 717 F.Supp.2d 908, 920 (N.D.Cal.2010) (quoting People v. Carter, 36 Cal.4th 1215, 1240, 32 Cal.Rptr.3d 838, 117 P.3d 544 (2005) (emphasis added)). The Nint......
  • Tarantino v. City of Concord, Case No.: C-12-00579 JCS
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — Northern District of California
    • July 12, 2013
    ...rendering Heck inapplicable, where habeas relief was unavailable to a plaintiff through no fault of his own. See Beckway v. DeShong, 717 F.Supp.2d 908, 916-17 (N.D. Cal. 2010); Nonnette, 316 F.3d at 878 n.7; but see Guerrero, 442 F.3d at 705 ("we emphasized that Nonnette's relief from Heck ......
  • Richard Yin-Ching Houng v. Tatung Co. (In re Richard Yin-Ching Houng)
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — Central District of California
    • September 11, 2013 properly raised, by pleadings or otherwise, and is submitted for determination, and is determined. See, e.g., Beckway v. DeShong, 717 F.Supp.2d 908, 920 (N.D. Cal. 2010) (quoting People v. Carter, 36 Cal.4th 1215, 1240 (2005) (emphasis added)). The Ninth Circuit has held that the actual ......
  • Banks v. ACS Educ. Corp.
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — Southern District of California
    • March 26, 2012
    ..."[t]here is no material difference in the applicable legal standards" and they are "functionally identical." Beckway v. DeShong, 717 F. Supp. 2d 908, 913 (N.D. Ca. 2010) (quoting Dworkin v. Hustler Magazine, Inc., 867 F.2d 1188, 1192 (9th Cir. 1989)). To survive a motion to dismiss, "a comp......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT