CA11: The Heck bar is to the cause of action; it isn’t jurisdictional

The Heck bar is to the cause of action; it isn’t jurisdictional. Teagan v. City of McDonough, 2020 U.S. App. LEXIS 4055 (11th Cir. Feb. 11, 2020):

First, the Supreme Court’s own language suggests that Heck deprives the plaintiff of a cause of action—not that it deprives a court of jurisdiction. See id. at 489 (“We do not engraft an exhaustion requirement upon § 1983, but rather deny the existence of a cause of action. … Just as a cause of action for malicious prosecution does not accrue until the criminal proceedings have terminated in the plaintiff’s favor … so also a § 1983 cause of action for damages attributable to an unconstitutional conviction or sentence does not accrue until the conviction or sentence has been invalidated.”). As a result, some of our sister circuits have concluded that Heck is an affirmative defense and not a jurisdictional rule. See, e.g., Carr v. O’Leary, 167 F.3d 1124, 1126 (7th Cir. 1999) (“The failure to plead the Heck defense in a timely fashion was a waiver[.]”); Washington v. Los Angeles Cty. Sheriff’s Dep’t, 833 F.3d 1048, 1056 (9th Cir. 2016) (“[C]ompliance with Heck most closely resembles the mandatory administrative exhaustion of PLRA claims, which constitutes an affirmative defense and not a pleading requirement.”). We have not definitively answered that question. See Dixon v. Hodges, 887 F.3d 1235, 1237-40 (11th Cir. 2018) (describing Heck in dicta as “strip[ping] a district court of jurisdiction,” but reversing the district court’s dismissal based on Heck without directly addressing whether Heck is jurisdictional); Topa v. Melendez, 739 F. App’x 516, 518 & n.1 (11th Cir. 2018) (noting that “other circuits have treated Heck as an affirmative defense subject to waiver”).

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