United States District Court, D. Montana, Great Falls Division
ORDER AND FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS OF UNITED
STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
Johnston United States Magistrate Judge
Wilford SunChild, proceeding without counsel, filed a motion
to proceed in forma pauperis (Doc. 1) and proposed Complaint
(Doc. 2) alleging the Defendants committed perjury in
violation of his due process rights during the course of
criminal proceedings against him in April 2014. The motion to
proceed in forma pauperis will be granted but Mr.
SunChild's claims are barred by the applicable statute of
limitations and by the doctrine set forth in Heck v.
Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477 (1994) and Defendants have absolute
immunity for their trial testimony. This matter should be
Mr. SunChild is proceeding in forma pauperis, the Court must
review his Complaint under 28 U.S.C. § 1915 which
requires the Court to dismiss a complaint filed in forma
pauperis and/or by a prisoner against a governmental
defendant before it is served if it is frivolous or
malicious, fails to state a claim upon which relief may be
granted, or seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is
immune from such relief.
of background, a grand jury indicted Mr. SunChild on November
22, 2013 on one count of theft from an Indian tribal
government receiving federal grants, one count of theft from
an Indian tribal organization, and one count of theft from a
healthcare facility. (United States v. SunChild, Criminal
Action No. 13-CR-106-GF-BMM, Doc. 1-Indictment.) A two-day
jury trial was conducted on April 7, 2014 and the jury
returned guilty verdicts on all three counts. (Id.
at Doc. 43.) On July 24, 2014, Mr. SunChild was sentenced to
a custodial term of 12 months and one day on each count to
run concurrently, with two-year concurrent terms of
supervised release. (Id. at Doc. 54-Judgment.) Mr.
SunChild appealed his conviction and the Ninth Circuit
affirmed. (Id. at Docs. 56, 71, 72). Mr. SunChild
filed a timely motion to vacate his sentence under 28 U.S.C.
§ 2255 on April 25, 2017 which was denied on January 25,
2018. (Id. at Doc. 94.)
SunChild's claims are barred by Heck v. Humphrey, 512
U.S. 477 (1994). In Heck, the United States Supreme Court
held that if a judgment in favor of a plaintiff in a
civil-rights action would necessarily imply the invalidity of
his conviction or sentence, the complaint must be dismissed
unless the plaintiff can demonstrate that the conviction or
sentence has been invalidated. Id. at 486-87; see
also Smith v. City of Hemet, 394 F.3d 689, 695 (9th Cir.2005)
(en banc) (“Heck says that ‘if a criminal
conviction arising out of the same facts stands and is
fundamentally inconsistent with the unlawful behavior for
which section 1983 damages are sought, the 1983 action must
be dismissed.' ” (citation omitted)). Thus, the
“relevant question” in a § 1983 suit is
whether success would “‘necessarily imply' or
‘demonstrate' the invalidity of the earlier
conviction or sentence.” Smith, 394 F.3d at 695
(quoting Heck, 512 U.S. at 487).
SunChild's claims that his due process rights were
violated during his 2014 criminal trial because Defendants
committed perjury would necessarily imply the invalidity of
his sentence and are therefore barred by Heck.
extent Mr. SunChild is seeking to raise any claims that are
not challenging his conviction or sentence, those claims are
barred by the applicable statute of limitations. The United
States Supreme Court in Wilson v. Garcia, 471 U.S. 261
(1985), determined the applicable statute of limitations for
claims filed pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 is the state
statute of limitations governing personal injury actions. In
Montana, that period is three years after the action accrues.
Mont. Code. Ann. § 27-2-204(1).
SunChild's Complaint is dated July 12, 2019, therefore
all claims accruing prior to July 11, 2016 are barred by the
applicable statute of limitations. Mr. SunChild is
complaining about testimony which was presumably given during
his criminal proceedings in 2014. As such, his claims accrued
prior to July 11, 2016 and are now barred by the statute of
Defendants are entitled to absolute immunity for any
testimony provided before this Court. Witnesses are immune
from liability for their testimony in earlier proceedings
even if they committed perjury. Briscoe v. LaHue, 460 U.S.
325, 345 (1983).
the Court issues the following:
SunChild's Application to Proceed in District Court
without Prepaying Fees or Costs (Doc. 1) is GRANTED.
Clerk shall edit the text of the docket entry for the
Complaint (Doc. 2) to remove the word “LODGED”
and the Complaint is deemed filed on July 12, 2019.
all times during the pendency of this action, Mr. SunChild
must immediately advise the Court of any change of address
and its effective date. Failure to file a notice of change of
address may result in the dismissal of ...