United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, Hammond Division
For Manuel Ocasio, Jr, Plaintiff: Blake W Horwitz, LEAD ATTORNEY, The Blake Horwitz Law Firm Ltd, Chicago, IL; Jared S Kosoglad, LEAD ATTORNEY, Blake Horwitz Law Firm, Chicago, IL.
For Dale E Turner, Indiana State Police Officer Badge No # 6562, Defendant: William M Horne, LEAD ATTORNEY, Caryn M Nieman, Indiana Attorney General's Office - IAG/302, Indianapolis, IN.
OPINION AND ORDER
MAGISTRATE JUDGE PAUL R. CHERRY.
This matter is before the Court on Defendant's Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings [DE 15], filed by Defendant Dale E. Turner on February 25, 2014.
For the reasons set forth below, the Court grants in part and denies in part the Motion.
On August 30, 2013, Plaintiff Manuel Ocasio, Jr. filed a Complaint against Defendant Dale E. Turner, a Senior Trooper with the Indiana State Police, bringing claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for false imprisonment, excessive force, illegal search and seizure, and malicious prosecution. The claims arise out of a traffic stop by Turner on April 13, 2012, that led to the arrest and prosecution of Ocasio in state court on charges of resisting law enforcement and battery on a law enforcement officer. Turner filed an Answer on November 27, 2013, and an Amended Answer and Affirmative Defenses on March 4, 2014. On February 25, 2014, Turner filed the instant Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings. Ocasio filed a response on March 18, 2014, and Turner filed a reply on March 28, 2014.
The parties filed forms of consent to have this case assigned to a United States Magistrate Judge to conduct all further proceedings and to order the entry of a final judgment in this case. Therefore, this Court has jurisdiction to decide this case pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c).
STANDARD OF REVIEW
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(c) allows a party to move for judgment on the pleadings after the pleadings are closed but early enough not to delay trial. Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(c). A Rule 12(c) motion is evaluated by the same standard as a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim under Rule 12(b)(6). Adams v. City of Indianapolis, 742 F.3d 720, 728 (7th Cir. 2014) (citing Pisciotta v. Old Nat'l Bancorp, 499 F.3d 629, 633 (7th Cir. 2007)). Such a motion tests the sufficiency of the complaint and not the merits of the suit. See Gibson v. City of Chicago, 910 F.2d 1510, 1520 (7th Cir. 1990). The court accepts as true all of the well-pleaded facts alleged by the plaintiff and all reasonable inferences that can be drawn therefrom. See Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555-56, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 167 L.Ed.2d 929 (2007); see also McReynolds v. Merrill Lynch & Co., Inc., 694 F.3d 873, 885 (7th Cir. 2012).
To survive the motion, the complaint must comply with Rule 8(a) by providing " a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief," Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2), such that the defendant is given " fair notice of what the . . . claim is and the grounds upon which it rests." Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555 (quoting Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 47, 78 S.Ct. 99, 2 L.Ed.2d 80 (1957)); see also Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 677-78, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 173 L.Ed.2d 868 (2009). The " complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to 'state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'" Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570); see also Tamayo, 526 F.3d at 1082. The United Sates Supreme Court explained that the " plaintiff's obligation to provide the grounds of his entitlement to relief requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do." Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555 (quotation marks and brackets omitted); see also Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678-79;
Brooks v. Ross, 578 F.3d 574, 581 (7th Cir. 2009). Determining whether a complaint states a plausible claim for relief requires the court to draw on its judicial experience and common sense. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679; McReynolds, 694 F.3d at 885.
Generally, the Court considers only the pleadings, which " include the complaint, the answer, and any written instruments attached as exhibits." N. Ind. Gun & Outdoor Shows, Inc. v. City of South Bend, 163 F.3d 449, 452 (7th Cir. 1998). However, the Court may take judicial notice of matters of public record. Morris v. Huebsch, 12-CV-319, 3 F.Supp.3d 746, 2014 WL 801448, at *1 (W.D. Wis. Feb. 28, 2014) (quoting United States v. Wood, 925 F.2d 1580, 1582 (7th Cir. 1991)). Under the Federal Rules of Evidence, the Court " may judicially notice a fact that is not subject to reasonable dispute because it: (1) is generally known within the trial court's territorial jurisdiction; or (2) can be accurately and readily determined from sources whose accuracy cannot reasonably be questioned." Fed.R.Evid. 201(b). Taking judicial notice of public records does not convert the Rule 12(c) motion into a motion for summary judgment. See Gen. Electric Capital Corp. v. Lease Resolution Corp., 128 F.3d 1074, 1080-81 (7th Cir. 1997).
Turner asks the Court to take judicial notice of the state court record in the underlying criminal case. Ocasio argues that judicial notice of the facts recounted in the state court Information by Turner is inappropriate, reasoning that, because Ocasio disputes the facts as presented by Turner, the facts in the Information are not " capable of accurate and ready determination by resort to sources whose accuracy cannot reasonably be questioned." However, Ocasio pleaded guilty " as charged," which included the facts set forth in the charging document, the Information.
" Admissions in a guilty-plea hearing, being judicial admissions, bind the defendant in subsequent proceedings . . . ." United States v. Evans, 576 F.3d 766, 770 (2009); see also Scholes v. Lehmann, 56 F.3d 750, 762 (7th Cir. 1995) (" Admissions--in a guilty plea, as elsewhere--are admissions; they bind a party; and the veracity safeguards surrounding a plea agreement that is accepted as the basis for a guilty plea and resulting conviction actually exceed those surrounding a deposition." (citing Country Mut. Ins. Co. v. Duncan, 794 F.2d 1211, 1215 (7th Cir. 1986))). Under Indiana law, a state court can accept a defendant's guilty plea only if the court determines that the plea is voluntarily and there is a sufficient factual basis to support the plea. Rhoades v. State, 675 N.E.2d 698, 700 (Ind. 1996) (citing Ind. Code § 35-35-1-3); Norris v. State, 896 N.E.2d 1149, 1152 (Ind. 2008) (" Indiana jurisprudence has insisted that a factual basis must exist for a guilty plea, and that a judge may not accept a guilty plea while a defendant claims actual innocence." (citing Ross v. State, 456 N.E.2d 420, 423 (Ind. 1983))).
Thus, for purposes of the Heck analysis below, Ocasio cannot now dispute the facts set forth in the Information that formed the basis of the charge of resisting law enforcement to which he pleaded guilty " as charged." The Court may take judicial notice of those facts as well as the documents in the state court record. See Nolan v. Thomas, 11 CV 1565, 2011 WL 4962866, at *2-3, *2 n. 3 (N.D.Ill. Oct. 19, 2011) (taking judicial notice of the facts that formed the basis of the plaintiff's guilty plea (citing Palay v. United States, 349 F.3d 418, 425 n.5 (7th Cir. 2003) (recognizing that the Court is entitled to take judicial notice of matters in the public record)). The Court takes judicial notice
of the indisputable fact that the state court documents exist, that they say what they say, and that they have legal consequences. See Indep. Trust Corp. v. Stewart Info. Servs. Corp., 665 F.3d 930, 943 (7th Cir. 2012)). The Court is not relying on these documents as proof of disputed facts, given that Ocasio accepted these facts by pleading guilty " as charged." See United States v. Cohen, 08-3282, 2012 WL 505918, at *5-6 (C.D. Ill. Feb. 15, 2012) (" [T]he existence of public records such as court documents cannot be used to establish any disputed facts." (citing Indep. Trust Corp., 665 F.3d at 943).
Accordingly, the Court takes judicial notice of the state court record in State v. Ocasio, Case NO. 45D12-1204-CM-00419 (Lake County, Ind.), including the Order of August 12, 2013, the Plea Agreement, the Order of April 20, 2012, the Informal Probation Conditions, the Information, and the Probable Cause Affidavit.
Based on the allegations of the Complaint, on April 13, 2012, Ocasio, a duly licensed commercial truck driver, was driving on Interstate Highway 65 in Lake County, Indiana. At 7:45 p.m., Turner conducted a traffic stop of Ocasio's vehicle. During the stop, Turner placed part of his person inside the cabin of Ocasio's vehicle. Turner placed Ocasio under arrest. Turner sprayed Ocasio with a chemical weapon spray. Ocasio alleges that Turner " used unreasonable and unnecessary physical force to effectuate the arrest." (Compl. ¶ 12).
Ocasio also alleges in the Complaint that Turner " maliciously and without probable cause instituted or caused to be instituted charges against [him] for aggravated battery." Id. at ¶ 13. However, the state court record does not show a charge of aggravated battery. Rather, on April 20, 2012, Ocasio was charged by Information with resisting law enforcement and battery on a law enforcement officer, both class A misdemeanors. As for the charge of resisting law enforcement, the Information charges:
Manuel Ocasio Jr. did knowingly, intentionally by force, resist, obstruct or interfere with a law enforcement officer by refusing to comply with orders to exit the truck, attempted to lock himself in his cab, and attempted to retreat into his sleeper berth for unknown means while said officer was lawfully engaged in the execution of his duties as an officer, contrary to section 35-44-3-3(a)(1) of the Indiana Code.
(Def. Br., Exh. A, 7). As for the charge of battery on a law enforcement officer, the Information charges: " Manuel Ocasio, Jr. did knowingly or intentionally touch S/Trp Turner a law enforcement officer, in a rude, insolent or angry manner, while the said officer was engaged in the execution of his official duty, contrary to section 35-42-2-1(a)(1) of the Indiana Code." Id.
The Information sets forth the following factual basis for the charges. Ocasio was driving south on Interstate Highway 65 when Turner observed him traveling in the passing lane when no vehicles were present in the right lane. Turner activated his emergency lights, but Ocasio did not yield. Turner then activated his siren and pulled next to the truck's cab, at which time Ocasio pulled to the outer berm of the ramp to the southbound state of Indiana truck scales and came to a stop. Turner stepped up to talk to Ocasio, who provided his license. However, when Turner stepped down and instructed Ocasio to exit the truck, Ocasio attempted to shut his driver's door. Turner prevented him from doing so and stepped back onto the truck.
When Ocasio then moved toward the cab's sleeper compartment, Turner ordered him to turn around and show his hands. Ocasio refused. Turner ordered him to show his hands again, attempting to turn Ocasio to see his hands. A struggle ensued when Ocasio refused, with Ocasio throwing his shoulder back and moving further back into the sleeper compartment. Turner ordered him out and sprayed Ocasio with a chemical spray. Ocasio then attempted to close the door with Turner standing between the door and the door jam. Turner again ordered him out of the truck and sprayed Ocasio a second time as he swung and kicked toward Turner. Another Indiana State Police trooper arrived, and Ocasio got out of the truck. Ocasio became combative again as the officers attempted to handcuff him. He was then held standing until an ambulance arrived to take him to a local hospital for medical clearance.
On August 9, 2013, after a jury trial but before the state court judge accepted the jury's verdict, Ocasio pleaded guilty to resisting law enforcement " as charged" in the Information. The battery on a law enforcement officer charge and the two related infractions (failure to yield and truck in restricted lane) were dismissed pursuant to the plea agreement. The state court judge entered judgment of conviction on the plea of guilty on August 12, 2013.
Defendant Senior Trooper Dale E. Turner asks the Court to enter judgment on the pleadings on all of Plaintiff Manuel Ocasio Jr.'s § 1983 claims as barred by his conviction for resisting law enforcement, pursuant to Heck v. Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477, 114 S.Ct. 2364, 129 L.Ed.2d 383 (1994). Turner argues that, because Ocasio pleaded guilty to resisting law enforcement " as charged" in the Information, he admitted that Turner was " lawfully engaged in the execution of his duties," an element of the state law charge of resisting law enforcement, and, thus, his constitutional claims are barred under Heck as long as his conviction stands. Turner further argues that the malicious prosecution claim cannot survive because the underlying criminal proceedings did not terminate in Ocasio's favor. Ocasio responds that he
has pleaded a plausible cause of action for each ...