United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Southeastern Division
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
STEPHEN N. LIMBAUGH, JR. UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
matter is before the Court on the application of plaintiff
James Lam, III to proceed in the district court without
prepaying fees or costs. For the reasons stated below, the
Court finds that plaintiff does not have sufficient funds to
pay the entire filing fee and will waive the initial partial
filing fee at this time. See 28 U.S.C. §
1915(b)(1). Furthermore, based upon a review of the
complaint, the Court will stay and administratively close
this action pursuant to the Supreme Court case of Wallace
v. Kato, 549 U.S. 384 (2007), based on the pendency of
an underlying criminal case against plaintiff that arises out
of the same facts.
brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983
asserting violations of his Fourth Amendment rights. On April
16, 2018, prior to this case being filed, a related
underlying criminal case was filed against plaintiff in
Missouri state court. See State v. Lam, Case
N0.I8AB-CR00927 (20th Judicial Circuit, Franklin Cty.).
Plaintiff was charged with the class D felony of concealing
marijuana on the premises of the Franklin County Jail. In the
probable cause statement, Sergeant Suttles states that on
April 16, 2018 while conducting a pat down search of
plaintiff, Suttles searched plaintiffs shoes. Sergeant
Suttles "immediately found a plastic bag inside one of
the shoes," which he identified as containing marijuana.
criminal case remains pending in Franklin County, Missouri
and a preliminary hearing has been set for December 5, 2019.
brings this case alleging defendants Matthew Becker (Franklin
County Prosecuting Attorney), Stephan M. Lawhorn (Franklin
County Assistant Prosecuting Attorney), the Franklin County
Prosecutors Office, and the Franklin County Public Defenders
Office violated his civil rights under 42 U.S.C. § 1983.
Plaintiff asserts claims for false arrest, false
imprisonment, and malicious prosecution as a result of the
allegedly illegal pat-down search conducted on him while
incarcerated at the Franklin County Jail on April 16, 2018.
Plaintiff asserts he was illegally searched by Suttles, and
defendants are "violating [his] rights to due process,
reasonable expectation to be free from illegal search and
seizure, persecution, cruel and unusual punishment."
Plaintiff also claims he "applied for and was denied
representation thereby denying [his] rights to adequate legal
of the alleged unlawful arrest and false imprisonment,
plaintiff states he suffered nearly $500, 000 in damages. He
seeks these compensatory damages in addition to punitive
damages against defendants. He also seeks an injunction
"that Franklin County Prosecutors cease and desist in
all prosecutions against James Lam, III."
Wallace v. Kato, the United States Supreme Court
held that "the statute of limitations upon a § 1983
claim seeking damages for a false arrest in violation of the
Fourth Amendment, where the arrest is followed by criminal
proceedings, begins to run at the time the claimant is
detained pursuant to legal process." Wallace,
549 U.S. at 397. The Court observed that "[f]alse arrest
and false imprisonment overlap; the former is a species of
the latter." Id. at 388. The Court instructed
that where "a plaintiff files a false arrest claim
before he has been convicted . . . it is within the power of
the district court, and in accord with common practice, to
stay the civil action until the criminal case or the
likelihood of a criminal case is ended." Id. at
393-94. Otherwise, the court and the parties are left to
"speculate about whether a prosecution will be brought,
whether it will result in conviction, and whether the
impending civil action will impugn that verdict, all this at
a time when it can hardly be known what evidence the
prosecution has in its possession." Id. at 393
(internal citation omitted).
case, plaintiff asserts claims for illegal search and
seizure, unlawful arrest, and unlawful incarceration. The
principles of Wallace v. Kato dictate that further
consideration of plaintiffs § 1983 claims should be
stayed until the underlying criminal matter currently pending
in Franklin County against plaintiff has been resolved
through criminal appeals and post-conviction processes.
a stay or abstention until resolution of the criminal matter
would be appropriate because a prisoner may not recover
damages in a § 1983 suit where the judgment would
necessarily imply the invalidity of his conviction, continued
imprisonment or sentence unless the conviction or sentence is
reversed, expunged or called into question by issuance of a
writ of habeas corpus. See Heck v. Humphrey, 512
U.S. 477, 486-87 (1994); Schafer v. Moore, 46 F.3d
43, 45 (8th Cir. 1995); Edwards v.
Balisok, 520 U.S. 641, 648 (1997) (applying rule in
§ 1983 suit seeking declaratory relief).
to the extent plaintiff alleges he sought and was denied
representation by a public defender, this allegation is
belied by the record in his state criminal proceeding.
See State v. Lam, No. 18 AB-CR00927. Plaintiff is
represented in his pending criminal matter by Matthew William
Huckeby of the Missouri State Public Defender System.
IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that plaintiffs
application to proceed in district court without prepaying