Prediction: The Zimmerman Civil Suit Will Be Dismissed

December 7, 2012

Friday, December 7, 2012

In Heck v. Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477, 487 (1994) the SCOTUS said,

We hold that, in order to recover damages for allegedly unconstitutional conviction or imprisonment, or for other harm caused by actions whose unlawfulness would render a conviction or sentence invalid, a § 1983 plaintiff must prove that the conviction or sentence has been reversed on direct appeal, expunged by executive order, declared invalid by a state tribunal authorized to make such determination, or called into question by a federal court’s issuance of a writ of habeas corpus, 28 U. S. C. § 2254. A claim for damages bearing that relationship to a conviction or sentence that has not been so invalidated is not cognizable under § 1983. Thus, when a state prisoner seeks damages in a § 1983 suit, the district court must consider whether a judgment in favor of the plaintiff would necessarily imply the invalidity of his conviction or sentence; if it would, the complaint must be dismissed unless the plaintiff can demonstrate that the conviction or sentence has already been invalidated. But if the district court determines that the plaintiff’s action, even if successful, will not demonstrate the invalidity of any outstanding criminal judgment against the plaintiff, the action should be allowed to proceed, in the absence of some other bar to the suit.

Pursuant to the rule in Heck v. Humphrey, GZ’s lawsuit seeking compensatory and punitive damages for defamation and outrage must be dismissed by the trial court upon motion by the defendant NBC, or any of the three individually named plaintiffs, if a judgment in favor of the plaintiff GZ “would necessarily imply the invalidity of his conviction or sentence” for second degree murder.

Assuming the jury in the criminal case were to find GZ guilty of murder in the second degree, the verdict and sentence imposed would necessarily be called into doubt by a verdict in favor of GZ in the civil case because we can reasonably predict that the defendants in the civil case will be claiming truth as a defense. Therefore, a verdict for the plaintiff would necessarily constitute a rejection of the claim that the allegedly objectionable statements were true. Yet, a verdict of guilty in the criminal case would appear to accept the statements as true.

In addition, assuming a verdict for the plaintiff in the civil case, the amount of damages awarded might reasonably be expected to vary considerably from nominal damages of $1, if GZ is convicted of second degree murder, to potentially millions of dollars, if he is acquitted.

Put another way, there are too many issues common to both lawsuits that should preclude the civil case proceeding before the criminal case is decided.

This would be a dismissal without prejudice which means the civil suit could be refiled after the criminal case has been concluded. Meanwhile, the statute of limitations would be tolled (stop running) until the criminal case was resolved.

There also is a substantial likelihood that the civil matter will not go to trial before the criminal case goes to trial, given the precedence of criminal cases over civil cases in scheduling trial dates and the likely inability of the parties in the criminal case to complete discovery before the criminal case goes to trial. Notwithstanding GZ’s compulsion to keep talking and digging himself ever deeper into a hole, I find it hard to imagine that he will submit to a deposition by the defendants in the civil case. He will take the Fifth and this is a major stumbling block to the civil case going to trial first.

Finally, for the reasons expressed by Piranha Mom in the preceding article, Featuring Piranha Mom and her Devastating Analysis of the Lawsuit Against NBC, I would expect the trial court in the civil case, which will probably be a United States District Court judge without a sense of humor or patience for GZ’s narcissistic and sociopathic claims, will grant pretrial motions to dismiss his civil suit pursuant to Civil Rule 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, or for summary judgment pursuant to Civil Rule 59.

Civil Rule 12(b)(6) motions are based on the pleadings before any discovery has taken place. The test is whether the moving party (NBC and the individually named defendants) is entitled to have the lawsuit dismissed because as a matter of law the non-moving party (plaintiff) would not be entitled to a judgment in its favor, even if all of the allegations in the complaint are assumed to be true, including all of the reasonable inferences to be drawn from those statements. I believe Heck v. Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477 (1994), constitutes an insurmountable obstacle to this lawsuit. This would be a dismissal without prejudice (see above).

Civil Rule 59 motions for summary judgment are filed after discovery has been completed. The same legal test is applied to the information obtained during discovery. I believe Heck v. Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477 (1994), the First Amendment and the requirement to prove actual malice to establish defamation constitute an insurmountable obstacle to this lawsuit. This would be a dismissal with prejudice ( the lawsuit could not be refiled).

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