Hughes v. Lott, No. 02-11508.

CourtU.S. Court of Appeals — Eleventh Circuit
Writing for the CourtBarkett
Citation350 F.3d 1157
Docket NumberNo. 02-11508.
Decision Date14 November 2003
PartiesNed HUGHES, Plaintiff-Appellant, v. Charles LOTT, Police Officer, Dennis Johnson, et al., Defendants-Appellees.
350 F.3d 1157
Ned HUGHES, Plaintiff-Appellant,
v.
Charles LOTT, Police Officer, Dennis Johnson, et al., Defendants-Appellees.
No. 02-11508.
United States Court of Appeals, Eleventh Circuit.
DECIDED 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 by res 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.

BACKGROUND

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.

STANDARD OF REVIEW

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

Page 1160

§ 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 pleadings are held to a less stringent standard than pleadings drafted by attorneys and will, therefore, be liberally construed." Tannenbaum v. United States, 148 F.3d 1262, 1263 (11th Cir.1998) (per curiam).

DISCUSSION

I. Heck v. Humphrey

Under Heck v. Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477, 114 S.Ct. 2364, 129 L.Ed.2d 383 (1994), a state prisoner may not bring a claim for damages under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 "if a judgment in favor of the plaintiff would necessarily imply the invalidity of his conviction." Id. at 487, 114 S.Ct. 2364. As the Supreme Court noted, the most obvious example of an action barred by Heck is one in which the plaintiff actually "seek[s] damages directly attributable to conviction or confinement." Id. at 487 n. 6, 114 S.Ct. 2364. But even when the plaintiff does not seek such damages, his suit may be barred if, for example, he must negate "an element of the offense of which he has been convicted" in order to prevail, id., or if he contends that the statute under which he was convicted is unconstitutional.

The Court explained in a footnote, however, that its holding would not necessarily preclude a Fourth Amendment claim of illegal search and seizure:

For example, a suit for damages attributable to an allegedly unreasonable search may lie even if the challenged search produced evidence that was introduced in a state criminal trial resulting in the § 1983 plaintiff's still-outstanding conviction. Because of doctrines like independent source and inevitable discovery, ... and especially harmless error, ... such a § 1983 action, even if successful, would not necessarily imply that the plaintiff's conviction was unlawful. In order to recover compensatory damages, however, the § 1983 plaintiff must prove not only that the search was unlawful, but that it caused him actual, compensable injury, ... which, we hold today, does not encompass the "injury" of being convicted and imprisoned (until his conviction has been overturned).

Id. at 487 n. 7, 114 S.Ct. 2364 (citations omitted) (emphasis in original). Because an illegal search or arrest may be followed by a valid conviction, see id.,1 a successful § 1983 action for Fourth Amendment search and seizure...

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1214 practice notes
  • Evans v. Ga. Reg'l Hosp., No. 15-15234
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (11th Circuit)
    • March 10, 2017
    ...for failure to state a claim under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii), viewing the allegations in the complaint as true. Hughes v. Lott , 350 F.3d 1157, 1159-60 (11th Cir. 2003). Dismissal under § 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii) is governed by the same standard as a dismissal under Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federa......
  • Smith v. Allen, No. 05-16010.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (11th Circuit)
    • October 2, 2007
    ...preclude a prisoner from seeking nominal damages if he can establish that he has suffered a constitutional injury. See Hughes v. Lott, 350 F.3d 1157, 1162 (11th Cir.2003); see also Boxer X v. Donald, 169 Fed.Appx. 555, 558 (11th Cir.2006) (stating that "the PLRA's limitation on compensatory......
  • Rolls-Royce Corp. v. Heros, Inc., Civil Action No. 3:07-CV-0739-D.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 5th Circuit. United States District Courts. 5th Circuit. Northern District of Texas
    • March 25, 2008
    ...776 "A dismissal without prejudice is not an adjudication on the merits and thus does not have a res judicata effect." Hughes v. Lott, 350 F.3d 1157, 1161 (11th Cir.2003); see also Santana v. City of Tulsa, 359 F.3d 1241, 1246 n. 3 (10th Cir.2004) ("Generally, a dismissal without prejudice ......
  • Gibson v. Super., Nj Dept., Law and Public Safety, No. 04-1847.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (3rd Circuit)
    • June 14, 2005
    ...inquiry as to whether the alleged Fourth Amendment injuries would necessarily imply the invalidity of the conviction); Hughes v. Lott, 350 F.3d 1157, 1161 (11th Cir.2003) (same); Gauger v. Hendle, 349 F.3d 354, 361-62 (7th Cir.2003) (same); Covington v. City of New York, 171 F.3d 117, 123 (......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
1216 cases
  • Evans v. Ga. Reg'l Hosp., No. 15-15234
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (11th Circuit)
    • March 10, 2017
    ...for failure to state a claim under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii), viewing the allegations in the complaint as true. Hughes v. Lott , 350 F.3d 1157, 1159-60 (11th Cir. 2003). Dismissal under § 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii) is governed by the same standard as a dismissal under Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federa......
  • Smith v. Allen, No. 05-16010.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (11th Circuit)
    • October 2, 2007
    ...preclude a prisoner from seeking nominal damages if he can establish that he has suffered a constitutional injury. See Hughes v. Lott, 350 F.3d 1157, 1162 (11th Cir.2003); see also Boxer X v. Donald, 169 Fed.Appx. 555, 558 (11th Cir.2006) (stating that "the PLRA's limitation on compensatory......
  • Rolls-Royce Corp. v. Heros, Inc., Civil Action No. 3:07-CV-0739-D.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 5th Circuit. United States District Courts. 5th Circuit. Northern District of Texas
    • March 25, 2008
    ...776 "A dismissal without prejudice is not an adjudication on the merits and thus does not have a res judicata effect." Hughes v. Lott, 350 F.3d 1157, 1161 (11th Cir.2003); see also Santana v. City of Tulsa, 359 F.3d 1241, 1246 n. 3 (10th Cir.2004) ("Generally, a dismissal without prejudice ......
  • Gibson v. Super., Nj Dept., Law and Public Safety, No. 04-1847.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (3rd Circuit)
    • June 14, 2005
    ...inquiry as to whether the alleged Fourth Amendment injuries would necessarily imply the invalidity of the conviction); Hughes v. Lott, 350 F.3d 1157, 1161 (11th Cir.2003) (same); Gauger v. Hendle, 349 F.3d 354, 361-62 (7th Cir.2003) (same); Covington v. City of New York, 171 F.3d 117, 123 (......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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