Cunha v. City of Algona, No. 67374

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Iowa
Writing for the CourtConsidered by REYNOLDSON, C.J., UHLENHOPP, HARRIS, McCORMICK, McGIVERIN, LARSON, SCHULTZ, and CARTER, JJ., and LeGRAND; UHLENHOPP; All Justices concur except LeGRAND, Senior Judge, REYNOLDSON; LeGRAND; REYNOLDSON
Citation334 N.W.2d 591
Docket NumberNo. 67374
Decision Date18 May 1983
PartiesLouis CUNHA, Appellee, v. CITY OF ALGONA, Defendant, and Kossuth County, Appellant.

Page 591

334 N.W.2d 591
Louis CUNHA, Appellee,
v.
CITY OF ALGONA, Defendant,
and
Kossuth County, Appellant.
No. 67374.
Supreme Court of Iowa.
May 18, 1983.

Page 592

T.J. Braunschweig, Asst. County Atty., for appellant.

Stephen F. Avery of Cornwall, Avery, Bjorstad & Scott, Spencer, for appellee.

Considered by REYNOLDSON, C.J., UHLENHOPP, HARRIS, McCORMICK, McGIVERIN, LARSON, SCHULTZ, and CARTER, JJ., and LeGRAND, Senior Judge.

UHLENHOPP, Justice.

This interlocutory appeal, taken with leave, involves several legal problems in a multi-faceted damage action.

The case comes to us from an order overruling an amended motion to dismiss made by defendant Kossuth County, addressed to the amended recast petition of plaintiff Louis Cunha. The motion asks dismissal of the counts of the petition against the county and of the claim for punitive damages in certain counts.

Briefly stated, Cunha was convicted in the Iowa District Court for Kossuth County in 1970 and sentenced to life imprisonment.

Page 593

This court affirmed the conviction. State v. Cunha, 193 N.W.2d 106 (Iowa 1971). A federal district court denied habeas corpus, and the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit affirmed. Cunha v. Brewer, 511 F.2d 894 (8th Cir.), cert. denied, 423 U.S. 857, 96 S.Ct. 108, 46 L.Ed.2d 83 (1975). In 1980 another federal district court granted habeas corpus, and Cunha was released. Cunha then sued Kossuth County and the City of Algona for damages.

Before we proceed to the merits, we consider a preliminary question. After the amended motion to dismiss, addressed to the recast petition, was submitted to the district court for ruling and before the court ruled on it, Cunha amended the recast petition. The county contends the court did not consider the amendment when it ruled on the motion. We are not convinced the court did not consider the amendment. In any event, had the court sustained the amended motion to dismiss as to the recast petition in unamended form, Cunha could have filed the amendment to the recast petition as of right under rule of civil procedure 86. The amendment strengthened the recast petition, and as the court overruled the motion to dismiss without the amendment it certainly would have overruled the motion with the amendment. We therefore consider the amended motion to dismiss as directed to the recast petition as amended. See Moser v. Thorp Sales Corp., 312 N.W.2d 881, 890, 891, 893 (Iowa 1981). See also Iowa R.Civ.P. 89 (amendment pertaining to same events relates back to original pleading).

The counts in the petition which are against the county are numbered II, IV, VI, VIII, and X. Count II alleges in substance that (1) Cunha was prosecuted in a Kossuth County criminal action; (2) he was convicted on November 4, 1970, sentenced to life imprisonment, and incarcerated in the penitentiary until released by a United States District Court on June 26, 1980; (3) the federal district court determined the 1970 conviction violated the fourteenth amendment to the United States Constitution; (4) the Kossuth County criminal action was thereafter dismissed; (5) law enforcement officers of the county (and of the City of Algona) participated in the investigation and prosecution of the alleged crime and in the acts culminating in Cunha's wrongful incarceration; (6) the acts of the county's law enforcement officers violated Cunha's right to, and deprived Cunha of, due process of law guaranteed by the United States and Iowa Constitutions, to his damage; (7) the county's acts were wanton, illegal, and done in such regard as to entitle Cunha to punitive damages; and (8) the investigations of the county's officers were conducted pursuant to the county's existing policy, which was the official policy of the sheriff's department, and were done under color of state law and within the course of county employment. Cunha asked for $1,000,000 compensatory and $1,000,000 punitive damages.

Count IV is the same as count II except that it substitutes for paragraph (6): the acts of the county's law enforcement officers violated section 1983, title 42, United States Code (1981), and Cunha's civil rights.

Count VI is again the same as count II except that it substitutes for paragraph (6): the acts of the county's law enforcement officers resulted in false arrest and imprisonment of Cunha; and it adds paragraph (9): the false arrest and imprisonment were unlawful, with malice, and without probable cause.

Count VIII is also the same as count II except that it substitutes for paragraph (6): the acts of the county's law enforcement officers resulted in malicious prosecution; and it repeats paragraph (9) from count VI.

Final count X is also the same as count II, except that it substitutes for paragraph (6): the acts of the county's law enforcement officers were done negligently and constituted the proximate cause of the damage.

The county's amended motion to dismiss raised substantially the issues which the county presents in this court. The district court overruled the motion, and we granted the county's application for leave to appeal.

Page 594

I. Predicting future constitutional change. The county argues that all counts of the petition must fail because between the time of Cunha's conviction in 1970 and his release in 1980 the constitutional rule regarding sufficiency of the evidence to convict was made more stringent by the United States Supreme Court, and Cunha was released in 1980 under the new rule. The county contends that it was not required in 1970 to anticipate the change in the rule.

The procedural difficulty with this ground of the motion is that it makes assumptions which do not appear on the face of the petition; it is "speaking" in nature. The ground is thus untenable under a motion to dismiss. Citizens of Washington Square v. City of Davenport, 277 N.W.2d 882, 885-86 (Iowa 1979). The present action results from the 1980 unappealed, unpublished federal district court judgment, and from the basis for that judgment. But that judgment was not placed before the Iowa district court in this case by pleading, proof, or stipulation, and consequently it is not before us. An Iowa district court cannot in one case take judicial notice of another of its cases, let alone a case in another trial court. In the Interest of Adkins, 298 N.W.2d 273, 277 (Iowa 1980); Hawkeye Security Insurance Co. v. Ford Motor Co., 174 N.W.2d 672, 685 (Iowa 1970). See also Sternberg v. Smith, 385 So.2d 469 (La.App.1980); Temoney v. State, 290 Md. 251, 429 A.2d 1018 (1981).

We intimate no opinion on the validity of this ground if it were presented appropriately.

II. Affirmance of criminal conviction. As another bar to the claims in all counts, the county argues that legal proceedings following Cunha's criminal conviction clothe the county with absolute immunity from civil liability. This argument, like the first one, depends on assumptions dehors the petition. We thus intimate no opinion on the validity of the argument.

III. Direct due process liability. The county's next argument requires consideration of a preliminary issue.

A. The county contends, in connection with the subjects of the present division and the following division of this opinion, that a stricter rule of pleading should apply in civil rights cases than in other litigation, and it cites such cases as Light v. Blackwell, 472 F.Supp. 333 (E.D.Ark.1979), aff'd, 620 F.2d 307 (8th Cir.1980); Jones v. McElroy, 429 F.Supp. 848 (E.D.Pa.1977); and Fialkowski v. Shapp, 405 F.Supp. 946 (E.D.Pa.1975). Normally in this jurisdiction a motion to dismiss is sustainable only if the petition shows to a certainty that the pleader has failed to state a claim upon which any relief may be granted under any state of fact which may be proved in support of the claim asserted. Prouty v. Clayton County, 264 N.W.2d 761, 763 (Iowa 1978). Moreover, we have notice pleading. Iowa R.Civ.P. 69.

We need not decide, however, whether a stricter pleading standard applies insofar as this division of the opinion is concerned, for we hold that the count of the petition attacked does not state a claim in any event.

B. The county's argument here, addressed to count II of the petition, is that a cause of action for deprivation of constitutional due process of law does not exist apart from statute. This requires us to trace the rather circuitous path the law has taken on this point.

Formerly municipalities, including counties, were practically immune from civil rights liability by virtue of Monroe v. Pape, 365 U.S. 167, 81 S.Ct. 473, 5 L.Ed.2d 492 (1961), and City of Kenosha v. Bruno, 412 U.S. 507, 93 S.Ct. 2222, 37 L.Ed.2d 109 (1973). The United States Supreme Court eventually held, however, that a direct constitutional action could be maintained against individual defendants for fourth amendment deprivations, by virtue of the statutorily-conferred general federal-question jurisdiction in section 1331(a), title 28, United States Code (1976). Bivens v. Six Unknown Federal Narcotics Agents, 403 U.S. 388,...

To continue reading

Request your trial
15 practice notes
  • Kristensen v. Strinden, No. 10422
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of North Dakota
    • December 21, 1983
    ...403 U.S. 388, 91 S.Ct. 1999, 29 L.Ed.2d 619 (1971) ]. See also Bishop v. Tice, 622 F.2d 349 (8th Cir.1980). Cf. Cunha v. City of Algona, 334 N.W.2d 591 (Iowa 1983). But see State v. Howe, 308 N.W.2d 743 * Justice WM. L. PAULSON served as a Surrogate Justice for this case pursuant to Section......
  • Godfrey v. State, No. 15-0695
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Iowa
    • June 30, 2017
    ...we would recognize a Bivens action under the Iowa Constitution. Id. at 784. The court discussed our holding in Cunha v. City of Algona , 334 N.W.2d 591 (Iowa 1983), in which we rejected a Bivens action against a municipal government. McCabe , 551 F.Supp.2d at 784. The federal district court......
  • Fink v. Kitzman, No. C 93-0127.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 8th Circuit. Northern District of Iowa
    • March 29, 1995
    ...provided an adequate state remedy for the claims presented, thus no federal due process claim arose); Cunha v. City of Algona, 334 N.W.2d 591, 594-96 (Iowa 1983) (liability of municipality on ? 1983 claim decided by reference to federal law, while provisions of former Iowa Code Ch. 613A, no......
  • Meyer v. Herndon, Case No. 4:19-cv-00109-SMR-HCA
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 8th Circuit. United States State District Court of Southern District of Iowa
    • December 3, 2019
    ...General Assembly has not specifically provided a statutory remedy for such violations. Id. at 785 (discussing Cunha v. City of Algona , 334 N.W.2d 591 (Iowa 1983) ). Another federal court later applied McCabe 's analysis specifically to two claims of excessive force brought against officers......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
15 cases
  • Kristensen v. Strinden, No. 10422
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of North Dakota
    • December 21, 1983
    ...403 U.S. 388, 91 S.Ct. 1999, 29 L.Ed.2d 619 (1971) ]. See also Bishop v. Tice, 622 F.2d 349 (8th Cir.1980). Cf. Cunha v. City of Algona, 334 N.W.2d 591 (Iowa 1983). But see State v. Howe, 308 N.W.2d 743 * Justice WM. L. PAULSON served as a Surrogate Justice for this case pursuant to Section......
  • Godfrey v. State, No. 15-0695
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Iowa
    • June 30, 2017
    ...we would recognize a Bivens action under the Iowa Constitution. Id. at 784. The court discussed our holding in Cunha v. City of Algona , 334 N.W.2d 591 (Iowa 1983), in which we rejected a Bivens action against a municipal government. McCabe , 551 F.Supp.2d at 784. The federal district court......
  • Fink v. Kitzman, No. C 93-0127.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 8th Circuit. Northern District of Iowa
    • March 29, 1995
    ...provided an adequate state remedy for the claims presented, thus no federal due process claim arose); Cunha v. City of Algona, 334 N.W.2d 591, 594-96 (Iowa 1983) (liability of municipality on ? 1983 claim decided by reference to federal law, while provisions of former Iowa Code Ch. 613A, no......
  • Meyer v. Herndon, Case No. 4:19-cv-00109-SMR-HCA
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 8th Circuit. United States State District Court of Southern District of Iowa
    • December 3, 2019
    ...General Assembly has not specifically provided a statutory remedy for such violations. Id. at 785 (discussing Cunha v. City of Algona , 334 N.W.2d 591 (Iowa 1983) ). Another federal court later applied McCabe 's analysis specifically to two claims of excessive force brought against officers......
  • 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