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Morrison v. Lynn-Kopp

United States District Court, D. Montana, Butte Division

November 16, 2017

JAMES JEROME MORRISON, JR., Plaintiff,
v.
CARISSA LYNN-KOPP, SUSAN F. CARROLL, KURT KRUEGER, SAMM COX, CHRISTOPHER E. QUIGLEY, CIANA DALE, KARA RICHARDSON, BRAD NEWMAN, MARK VUCUROVICH, MICHAEL ANDERSON, and WALTER M. HENNESSEY, Defendants.

          FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATION

          Jeremiah C. Lynch, United States Magistrate Judge

         I. Introduction

         Plaintiff James Morrison, appearing pro se, commenced this action to present allegations complaining about various events, and Defendants' actions, that occurred during the course of the following two legal proceedings: (1) criminal proceedings prosecuted against Morrison; and (2) hearings conducted by the Montana Department of Family Services relative to his parental rights with respect to his daughter. The substance of Morrison's allegations generally assert that Defendants used false, fabricated, coerced, and erroneous information against him in each of the two referenced proceedings. More specifically, for example, he complains that a psycho-sexual evaluation of him contained false reports and false information which caused the two legal proceedings to become biased and prejudicial. He asserts the inaccurate psycho-sexual report caused him to be sentenced to prison in his criminal matter, and resulted in a decision to remove his daughter from his custody.

         The balance of Morrison's specific allegations detail numerous actions taken by each of the individual Defendants. He describes numerous incidents of conduct of each Defendant which he characterizes as threatening, intimidating, harassing, coercive, improper, unconstitutional, malicious, or manipulative. He alleges the conduct was committed by each Defendant for the purpose of securing both a criminal conviction against Defendant and the termination of his parental rights.

         Morrison requests compensatory relief in this action. He requests he be awarded $12 million as compensatory damages, $13 million as punitive damages, compensation for future mental health treatment and counseling, and costs and attorneys' fees incurred in prosecuting this action. He also requests that all false information about him and created by Defendants' conduct be purged from all proceedings and investigative files pertaining to him.

         Many of the Defendants named in Morrison's pleading are individuals employed by the State of Montana who committed their alleged conduct while acting under color of state law. Therefore, Morrison's claims are potentially cognizable under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 which invokes the Court's federal question jurisdiction over this action pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331. And the Court would possess supplemental jurisdiction over related claims advanced under Montana law against any private Defendants as provided by 28 U.S.C. § 1367(a).

         II. Discussion

         The Court previously granted Morrison leave to prosecute this action in forma pauperis as permitted under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a). Therefore, the Court must screen his allegations in his pleading to determine whether they are subject to dismissal under the provisions of 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2).

         But because Morrison is proceeding pro se the Court must construe his pleading liberally, and the pleading is held “to less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers[.]” Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520 (1972). See also Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 330 n.9 (1989). Although the Court has authority to dismiss a defective pleading pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2),

a district court should grant leave to amend even if no request to amend the pleading was made, unless it determines that the pleading could not possibly be cured by the allegation of other facts.

Lopez v. Smith, 203 F.3d 1122, 1127 (9th Cir. 2000) (quoting Doe v. United States, 58 F.3d 494, 497 (9th Cir. 1995)).

         A. Morrison's Criminal Proceedings

         The substance of Morrison's allegations implicitly and necessarily challenge the validity of the criminal prosecution against him, and his resulting criminal conviction and sentence. But for the reasons discussed, those challenges are barred under the authority of Heck v. Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477 (1994).

         In Heck the United States Supreme Court established that a plaintiff cannot prosecute a section 1983 action for damages if the success of those claims would necessarily imply that ...


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