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Williams v. Troutt

United States District Court, M.D. Tennessee, Nashville

June 22, 2017

BRANDON S. WILLIAMS, Plaintiff
v.
BRANDON TROUTT 331 OFFICER, Defendant

          THE HONORABLE ALETA A. TRAUGER JUDGE.

          REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

          JOE B. BROWN United States Magistrate Judge.

         For the reasons stated below, the Magistrate Judge recommends that this case be dismissed for failure to prosecute and to obey Court orders. Alternatively, the case should be dismissed for failure to state an offense in view of his criminal conviction for the drugs found on his person when the Defendant Police Officer stopped and searched the vehicle in which the Plaintiff was a passenger.

         The Magistrate Judge further recommends that any appeal from dismissal of this case not be certified as taken in good faith.

         BACKGROUND

         On May 13, 2016, the Plaintiff filed a complaint against the Gallatin Police Department and Officer Troutt (Docket Entry 1). On an initial review (Docket Entry 4) the Court conducted an initial review of the Plaintiff's complaint. The initial review stated:

The plaintiff claims that, on March 17, 2016, he was a passenger in a car stopped by Officer Brandon Troutt of the Gallatin Police Department. During the stop, Officer Trout allegedly made the plaintiff get out of the car. The plaintiff claims that he was searched three times by Officer Troutt, who touched him in the area of his genitals. The plaintiff claims that both the search and his subsequent arrest were illegal.
From plaintiff's allegations, it could be inferred that the search of his person was unreasonable. It appears, therefore, that the plaintiff has stated a colorable claim for relief.

         A scheduling order was entered in the matter on July 7, 2016 (Docket Entry 15). In that scheduling order the Plaintiff was specifically warned that he must keep the Court informed of his current address and that failure to do so could result in the dismissal of his case for failure to prosecute and for failure to comply with the Court's orders.

         The Plaintiff next filed an amended complaint (Docket Entry 18) on July 18, 2016. In his amended complaint he dropped claims against the Sheriff's Department and complained only about Officer's Troutt's search of his persons on March 17, 2016.

         Subsequently, the Defendant moved to stay the case (Docket Entry 32) on the basis of Younger v. Harris, 401 U.S. 37 (1971), until the State criminal charges against the Plaintiff were concluded. In their memorandum in support of the motion (Docket Entry 34) they noted that the Plaintiff had filed motions to dismiss the criminal charges against him on the basis of an unconstitutional search. The Defendant argued that it would be a better practice to stay the federal claims pending the ruling in the criminal case, citing numerous cases.

         In particular, they noted that Heck v. Humphries, 512 U.S. 477 (1974) held that a federal civil rights suit must be dismissed if a favorable ruling in the federal case would impinge a state criminal conviction. They pointed out that if the Plaintiff's motion to suppress the drugs found on his person is denied in the state criminal court, and the Plaintiff is convicted on the criminal charges pending from the March 17th traffic stop, then Officer Troutt would have had probable cause to remove the Plaintiff from his vehicle and the search was proper. They further pointed out that a favorable ruling in this civil case would impose upon the state court's conviction, and that is exactly what the Heck doctrine prevents.

         They also cite numerous cases holding that the doctrine of collateral estoppel or res adjudicata may also prevent the relitigation of issues in federal court that are litigated and decided in the state criminal proceedings.

         The motion was granted and the Clerk was directed to administratively close the case subject to being reopened upon the completion of the criminal case. Counsel for the Defendant was directed to advise ...


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