Courtney v. Reeves, No. 81-2008

CourtUnited States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (5th Circuit)
Writing for the CourtBefore GEE, RUBIN and RANDALL; PER CURIAM
Citation635 F.2d 326
Parties-Appellant, v. Gene REEVES et al., Defendants-Appellees. United States Court of Appeals, Fifth Circuit. Unit A
Docket NumberNo. 81-2008
Decision Date09 January 1981

Page 326

635 F.2d 326
Doyle Dewayne COURTNEY, Plaintiff-Appellant,
v.
Gene REEVES et al., Defendants-Appellees.
No. 81-2008.
United States Court of Appeals,
Fifth Circuit.
Unit A
Jan. 9, 1981.

Page 327

Doyle D. Courtney, pro se.

Briscoe, Powell & Taylor, Frank Briscoe, Houston, Tex., for defendants-appellees.

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

Before GEE, RUBIN and RANDALL, Circuit Judges.

PER CURIAM:

This case is before us on Plaintiff-Appellant Doyle Dewayne Courtney's motions for leave to proceed in forma pauperis and for appointment of appellate counsel. The court below dismissed his lawsuit, which was brought under 42 U.S.C. §§ 1983, 1985(b), and 1986 (1976), against Sheriff Gene Reeves and Deputies Sammy Prestwood and Charles Bexley of Montgomery County, Texas. 1 We grant Courtney's petition to appeal in forma pauperis, and order that the appeal be docketed. We deny as unnecessary his motion to appoint counsel. For the reasons set out below, we vacate the judgment of the district court and remand for further proceedings.

I. FACTUAL BACKGROUND LEADING TO THIS APPEAL

Courtney is a state prisoner proceeding pro se. He pleaded guilty in state court to charges of aggravated robbery stemming from his and a companion's theft of lumber from a construction site. While making their escape in a pickup truck, Courtney and his companion were pursued by Deputies Prestwood and Bexley in their patrol car. Courtney was in the bed of the truck with the lumber. During the chase, shots were fired by both Courtney and the deputies; Courtney was wounded four times before the deputies finally succeeded in forcing the truck to a halt.

Page 328

Unsurprisingly, Courtney's version of the facts surrounding the exchange of shots differs considerably from that offered by the defendants in their answer. Courtney contends that after the deputies had begun shooting at him, he fired one shot in an attempt to disable the deputies' patrol car; that immediately after firing the one shot, he dropped his weapon; that he also pushed some of the stolen lumber out of the bed of the truck in hopes that he could raise the truck's tailgate to deflect the deputies' fire; and that he was shot repeatedly after dropping his weapon, while lying with his back to the deputies' patrol car in an attempt to "play dead" so that they would cease their fire.

Courtney also contends that the defendants conspired to cover up their use of excessive force, and that as part of that cover-up attempt, he was coerced into confessing and pleading guilty to the aggravated theft charge. In connection with this contention, he alleges that during the trial of Richard Charles Hopson (Courtney's companion during the theft), Deputy Prestwood perjured himself while testifying about the exchange of shots. Courtney also alleges that while he was in jail awaiting trial, he learned from other prisoners about the possibility of filing a federal civil rights action, and discussed this possibility with his wife. At this point, he alleges, some of his incoming and outgoing mail disappeared, and his wife was threatened with indictment for harboring a fugitive. Courtney interpreted this as a warning not to pursue any federal civil rights remedies he might have. Finally, he alleges that the conviction resulting from his subsequent guilty plea was for "an offense that did not occur"-by which he presumably means that, because of the circumstances surrounding the exchange of the shots, the theft was not truly aggravated.

The defendants' unverified answer denied that they had violated any of Courtney's civil rights. It first asserted that Courtney's action was barred by the two-year statute of limitations contained in Tex.Rev.Civ.Stat.Ann. art. 5526 (Vernon 1958 & 1979 Supp.). 2 The defendants' answer also set forth their version of the circumstances of the shooting. After responding to a "burglary in progress" call at the site of a new home under construction, the two deputies gave pursuit to Courtney's pickup truck in their patrol car. During the high-speed chase, Courtney stood up from the bed of the truck and fired approximately five times at the car of a witness to the theft who had been attempting to get the license number of Courtney's truck. With Deputy Prestwood driving, the deputies caught up to Courtney's truck and Deputy Bexley attempted to shoot out the truck's tires with a twelve-gauge shotgun. At this point, according to the defendants' answer, Courtney stood up and fired at the patrol car, striking it in the left front grill and the left front windshield. Deputy Bexley returned the fire, striking Courtney several times before the truck eventually stopped.

In a separate pleading, the defendants moved the court to dismiss Courtney's suit, or, in the alternative, to grant summary judgment. The first asserted ground for dismissal was that the suit was barred by the Texas statute of limitations; the second was that Courtney had failed to state a claim. The alternate motion for summary judgment urged that Courtney was collaterally estopped from alleging that he was coerced into pleading guilty, and that by pleading guilty Courtney had waived "his rights to constitutional due process." Sheriff Reeves additionally urged that there was no allegation that he was a participant in or personally responsible for the conduct of his deputies. 3 Finally, the defendants

Page 329

urged that Courtney lacked standing to complain of Deputy Prestwood's alleged perjury in the trial of Hopson.

The district court entered a summary judgment dismissing Courtney's action with prejudice. The court characterized Courtney's...

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29 practice notes
  • Barker v. Norman, No. 80-1288
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (5th Circuit)
    • 30 Julio 1981
    ...449 U.S. 90, 101 S.Ct. 411, 66 L.Ed.2d 308 (1980); compare Martin v. Delcambre, 578 F.2d 1164 (5th Cir. 1978), with Courtney v. Reeves, 635 F.2d 326, 329 (5th Cir. 1981). That doctrine, however, is an affirmative defense that must be pleaded by the defendant who seeks to assert it. See gene......
  • Richardson v. Fleming, No. 80-1958
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (5th Circuit)
    • 22 Julio 1981
    ...(5th Cir. 1979); Keenan v. Bennett, 613 F.2d 127 (5th Cir. 1980); Delaney v. Giarruso, 633 F.2d 1126 (5th Cir. 1981); Courtney v. Reeves, 635 F.2d 326 (5th Cir. 1981). On the other hand, these same cases have consistently recognized that a § 1983 action which does not challenge the fact or ......
  • Dandridge v. Police Dept. of City of Richmond, Civ. A. No. 82-0472-R.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 4th Circuit. United States District Court (Eastern District of Virginia)
    • 9 Junio 1983
    ...F. Supp. 157 the right to a fair trial but a protection from unreasonable, unnecessary, and unprovoked uses of force. Courtney v. Reeves, 635 F.2d 326, 329 (5th Cir.1981), citing United States v. Stokes, 506 F.2d 771 (5th Cir. 1975). And still another court has stated that the right to life......
  • Eldridge v. Morrison, Civil Action No. 95-C-905-N.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 11th Circuit. Middle District of Alabama
    • 4 Junio 1996
    ...affirmative action in certain circumstances to prevent the commission of an act giving rise to a claim under § 1985. Courtney v. Reeves, 635 F.2d 326 (5th Cir.1981). A valid claim under § 1986, however, is premised upon the existence of a valid § 1985 claim. Id. Since Eldridge has no claim ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
29 cases
  • Barker v. Norman, No. 80-1288
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (5th Circuit)
    • 30 Julio 1981
    ...449 U.S. 90, 101 S.Ct. 411, 66 L.Ed.2d 308 (1980); compare Martin v. Delcambre, 578 F.2d 1164 (5th Cir. 1978), with Courtney v. Reeves, 635 F.2d 326, 329 (5th Cir. 1981). That doctrine, however, is an affirmative defense that must be pleaded by the defendant who seeks to assert it. See gene......
  • Richardson v. Fleming, No. 80-1958
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (5th Circuit)
    • 22 Julio 1981
    ...(5th Cir. 1979); Keenan v. Bennett, 613 F.2d 127 (5th Cir. 1980); Delaney v. Giarruso, 633 F.2d 1126 (5th Cir. 1981); Courtney v. Reeves, 635 F.2d 326 (5th Cir. 1981). On the other hand, these same cases have consistently recognized that a § 1983 action which does not challenge the fact or ......
  • Dandridge v. Police Dept. of City of Richmond, Civ. A. No. 82-0472-R.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 4th Circuit. United States District Court (Eastern District of Virginia)
    • 9 Junio 1983
    ...F. Supp. 157 the right to a fair trial but a protection from unreasonable, unnecessary, and unprovoked uses of force. Courtney v. Reeves, 635 F.2d 326, 329 (5th Cir.1981), citing United States v. Stokes, 506 F.2d 771 (5th Cir. 1975). And still another court has stated that the right to life......
  • Eldridge v. Morrison, Civil Action No. 95-C-905-N.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 11th Circuit. Middle District of Alabama
    • 4 Junio 1996
    ...affirmative action in certain circumstances to prevent the commission of an act giving rise to a claim under § 1985. Courtney v. Reeves, 635 F.2d 326 (5th Cir.1981). A valid claim under § 1986, however, is premised upon the existence of a valid § 1985 claim. Id. Since Eldridge has no claim ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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