CA9: Vacated and dismissed case on post-conviction doesn’t invoke Heck bar

Three men convicted in Alaska state court got their convictions vacated and dismissed when someone else confessed to the crime. The lack of a criminal judgment rendered the Heck bar inapplicable. Roberts v. City of Fairbanks, 2020 U.S. App. LEXIS 1927 (9th Cir. Jan. 22, 2020)*:

The panel held that where all convictions underlying § 1983 claims are vacated and no outstanding criminal judgments remain, Heck does not bar plaintiffs from seeking relief under § 1983. The panel held that because all convictions in this case were vacated and the underlying indictments ordered dismissed, there remained no outstanding criminal judgment nor any charges pending against plaintiffs. The absence of a criminal judgment here rendered the Heck bar inapplicable; the plain language of the Supreme Court’s decision in Heck required the existence of a conviction in order for a § 1983 suit to be barred. The panel further held that the district court’s ruling to the contrary and the dissent’s proposed disposition conflicted with this Circuit’s decisions in Rosales-Martinez v. Palmer, 753 F.3d 890 (9th Cir. 2014), and Taylor v. County of Pima, 913 F.3d 930 (9th Cir. 2019).

. . .

The panel considered defendants’ arguments that plaintiffs’ § 1983 claims may be dismissed based on the equitable doctrine of judicial estoppel, and that plaintiffs failed to state claims for malicious prosecution, even if not barred by Heck, because they did not allege a favorable termination. The panel held that because these arguments turned in part on the enforceability of the settlement agreement—an issue not passed upon below—the district court should be allowed to address these issues in the first instance.

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