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Aucoin v. Cupil

United States District Court, M.D. Louisiana

December 4, 2018

LAYNE AUCOIN
v.
ANDREW CUPIL, ET AL.

          RULING AND ORDER

          BRIAN A. JACKSON, JUDGE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT.

         Before the Court is Defendants' Motion to Dismiss (Doc. 78) Plaintiff's claims as barred by Heck v. Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477 (1994). For the reasons that follow, in addition to those stated in Court on the record on November 27, 2018, the Motion to Dismiss (Doc. 78) is construed as a Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(c) motion for judgment on the pleadings and is GRANTED.

         I. BACKGROUND

         This is an excessive-force case. (Docs. 13). Plaintiff Layne Aucoin is an inmate who was incarcerated at Dixon Correctional Institute in Jackson, Louisiana. (Id.). He sued Lieutenant Andrew Cupil and Master Sergeant Reginald Robinson, guards at Dixon Correctional Institute, alleging they sprayed him with mace and then kicked and punched him when he was restrained. (Id.). On the morning of trial, Defendants invoked Heck and moved to dismiss Plaintiff's claims.[1]

         The incident happened on August 24, 2015. (Doc. 13 at ¶ 5). That morning, Plaintiff was an inmate on suicide watch at Dixon Correctional Institute. (Id. at ¶ 7). Around 11:00 A.M., Plaintiff placed a paper cup over a video camera in his prison cell to see if anyone was watching him. (Id.). Plaintiff alleges that Master Sergeant Robinson and Lieutenant Cupil then “snuck up” on him in his cell, sprayed him with mace, and beat him after he had been restrained. (Id. at ¶ 8). Plaintiff sued Defendants for negligence and for using excessive force against him in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1983. (Docs. 1, 13).

         The day after the incident, Dixon Correctional Institute issued two disciplinary reports against Plaintiff.[2] (Docs. 33-13, 33-14). The reports charged Plaintiff with “defiance, ” “aggravated disobedience, ” and “destruction of property” for his conduct on the morning of August 24, 2015. (Doc. 33-13). According to the reports, Plaintiff disobeyed Master Sergeant Robinson's direct orders to uncover the camera in Plaintiff's cell, spat on Master Sergeant Robinson, and yelled expletives at both Defendants. (Docs. 33-13, 33-14). The reports reflect that the Dixon Correction Institute held disciplinary hearings on the charges on September 2, 2015 and September 4, 2015, and that Plaintiff was found guilty of two counts of “defiance, ” two counts of “aggravated disobedience, ” and one count of “property destruction.” (Id.). The reports also reflect that Plaintiff's disciplinary convictions resulted in his loss of 30 days of good-time credit. (Id.).

         Now, Defendants move to dismiss Plaintiff's claims under Heck. (Doc. 78). Defendants contend that Plaintiff's claims are barred by Heck because success on the claims would imply the invalidity of Plaintiff's disciplinary convictions. (Doc. 78-1 at p. 4). Plaintiff disagrees.[3] (Doc. 79). He argues that Heck does not apply because his suit does not challenge his disciplinary convictions or his loss of good-time credit.[4] (Id.).

         II. LEGAL STANDARD

         A party may move for judgment on the pleadings after the pleadings are closed but early enough not to delay trial. Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(c). Entry of judgment on the pleadings is proper if the material facts are not in dispute and the Court can render judgment on the merits by looking to the substance of the pleadings and any judicially noticed facts. Linicomn v. Hill, 902 F.3d 529, 533 (5th Cir. 2018).

         III. DISCUSSION

         The Court must dismiss Plaintiff's suit if judgment in his favor would necessarily imply the invalidity of the prison disciplinary convictions that resulted in his loss of 30 days of good-time credit.[5] Heck, 512 U.S. at 487; Clarke v. Stalder, 154 F.3d 186, 189 (5th Cir. 1998) (en banc) (a “conviction” under Heck includes “a ruling in a prison disciplinary proceeding that results in a change to the prisoner's sentence, including the loss of good-time credits”).

         A. Excessive Force

         To succeed on his excessive-force claim, Plaintiff would have to show that Defendants used force against him “maliciously and sadistically to cause harm.” Hudson v. McMillian, 503 U.S. 1, 7 (1992).

         Plaintiff's prison disciplinary proceedings found that Lieutenant Cupil sprayed Plaintiff with a one-second burst of a chemical agent only after Plaintiff (1) disobeyed direct orders to come to the bars of his cell to be restrained; (2) spat on Master Sergeant Robinson's face; (3) attempted to flood his prison cell by placing his gown in the toilet; (4) yelled expletives in response to Lieutenant Cupil's ...


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