United States District Court, M.D. Florida, Fort Myers Division
OPINION AND ORDER
E. STEELE SENIOR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
matter comes before the Court on review of Defendants'
Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's Complaint (Doc. #8) filed
on November 15, 2016, to which Plaintiff filed a Response in
Opposition (Doc. #11) on December 15, 2016. Also before the
Court is Defendants' August 25, 2017 Motion for Summary
Judgment (Doc. #30). Plaintiff has not filed a Response, and
the time to do so has passed. For the reasons set forth
below, the Court grants dismissal of Plaintiff's
Topa (Plaintiff) filed a pro se Civil Rights
Complaint Form (Doc. #1) on November 28, 2016 naming as
Defendants Teofilo Melendez (Officer Melendez) and Nicholas
Shaffer (Officer Shaffer) (collectively, Defendants) of the
Collier County Sherriff's Office. The Complaint purports
to allege four causes of action arising out of
Plaintiff's October 24, 2012 arrest and subsequent
conviction for violating a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO):
(1) a due process claim for wrongful arrest; (2) a Fourth
Amendment claim for unreasonable seizure; (3) false
imprisonment; and (4) conspiracy.
the Court can tell from the stream-of-conscience allegations
in the Complaint, the factual predicate for Plaintiff's
claims seems to be as follows: Plaintiff was arrested on
September 30, 2012 for a domestic disturbance, and his wife
obtained a TRO against him on October 5, 2012. On October 24,
2012, Plaintiff called the Collier County Sheriff's
Department and requested an appointment with Sheriff Kevin
Rambosk to discuss Plaintiff's belief that his then-wife
was attempting to “set [him] up with the help of a
policeman, ” a claim for which he had “proof on a
laptop.” (Id. p. 5.) He also asked for police
assistance with a matter relating to documents for his
vehicle, which were in his wife's possession, so he would
not violate the TRO. (Id.) Plaintiff alleges that
the officer he spoke with agreed to send someone to help.
thirty minutes later, a police car pulled up in front of or
near Plaintiff's home. (Id.) The occupants were
a police officer (potentially Officer Shaffer) and a woman in
a “nurselike” blue outfit. (Id.) The
officer was - it appears - permitted to enter Plaintiff's
apartment, while the woman stayed in the car. (Id.)
After entering the apartment, the officer began
“whispering into his mike (sic) and went to all the
rooms.” (Id.) Plaintiff assumed the officer
was speaking to another officer tasked with collecting the
forms for Plaintiff's vehicle from Plaintiff's wife,
as Plaintiff had requested. (Id.) However, about
thirty minutes later, a “younger officer with a
different color uniform” forcefully entered the
apartment and began reading Plaintiff his Miranda rights.
(Id.) The officer told Plaintiff that Plaintiff had
been seen in his wife's parking lot and was being
arrested for violating the TRO - an accusation Plaintiff
February 21, 2013, Plaintiff pled no contest to violating the
TRO. (Doc. #30-4.) He was adjudicated guilty and sentenced to
180 days in jail, which he served, and 12 months of
probation.(Id.; see also Doc. #1,
now contends that Officer Melendez “masterminded”
the arrest so he could remove a laptop from Plaintiff's
apartment, and then convinced Plaintiff's wife and her
coworker to give false statements corroborating the
fabricated story that Plaintiff had been in the wife's
parking lot. (Doc. #1, p. 6.) Plaintiff claims he can
prove to the Court that he did not violate the TRO, and he
seeks to recover $500, 000 for the out-of-pocket costs and
the pain and suffering that his wrongful arrest,
imprisonment, and probation have caused.
have moved to dismiss this case in its entirety under Federal
Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) on the ground that the
Complaint fails to state a claim against Defendants - in
either their individual or official capacities - for any of
the causes of action alleged. Defendants' Motion for
Summary Judgment raises the additional argument that
Plaintiff's claims are barred under the Supreme
Court's decision in Heck v. Humphrey, 512 U.S.
477 (1994). As the Court will now discuss, the Court
agrees that Heck and its progeny require dismissal
of Plaintiff's claims.
involved a Section 1983 suit brought by a prisoner seeking
compensatory and punitive damages against law enforcement for
“engineering” his manslaughter conviction.
Heck v. Humphrey, 997 F.2d 355, 357 (7th Cir. 1993).
On appeal, the United States Supreme Court held that, before
a lawsuit seeking damages for wrongful conviction or
imprisonment may proceed, the plaintiff must prove that the
conviction has already been reversed, expunged, invalidated,
or called into question by issuance of a writ of habeas
corpus. Heck, 512 U.S. at 486-87. Because the
plaintiff's manslaughter conviction was still valid, and
because his “damages claims challenged the legality of
th[at] conviction” the Supreme Court affirmed dismissal
of the civil lawsuit. Id. at 490.
plaintiff seeks damages for something other than an alleged
wrongful conviction or imprisonment - for example, a false
arrest - the court asks whether success with that claim will
“necessarily impl[y] the invalidity of th[e]
conviction” that resulted from the allegedly-false
arrest, and which has not yet been invalidated. Hughes v.
Lott, 350 F.3d 1157, 1160 & n.2 (11th Cir. 2003). To
answer this question, the court “look[s] both to the
claims raised under § 1983 and to the specific offenses
for which the § 1983 claimant was convicted.”
Id. at 1160 n.2.
“[i]f a successful § 1983 suit for damages would
necessarily imply the invalidity of a conviction or sentence,
and that conviction or sentence has not been invalidated
before the commencement of the § 1983 suit, the suit
must be ...