Hahn v. Waddington (2017)
June 9, 2017
Horvitz & Levy LLP, along with the Pepperdine Law School Ninth Circuit Appellate Clinic, successfully reversed the dismissal of Aaron Hahn’s prisoner civil rights lawsuit. Mr. Hahn, a Washington state prisoner and army veteran, has a history of various mental illnesses. Despite the fact that Mr. Hahn informed Washington Correction Center officials about his mental illnesses and warned them that he feared for his safety if he were transferred to Washington State Penitentiary, they transferred him to the penitentiary. Shortly after the transfer, Hahn was attacked by another inmate and suffered serious injury. Hahn timely filed a pro se complaint in federal court, alleging officials at the corrections center and penitentiary were deliberately indifferent to his safety and mental health needs. The district court, with one day left on the statute of limitations period, dismissed some defendants with prejudice, and then summarily dismissed the remainder of his complaint without prejudice on the basis that venue was no longer proper once it had dismissed certain of the defendants.
Mr. Hahn then refiled his complaint in the proper district, but he could only do so after the statute of limitations period had expired. The district court dismissed his new complaint on the basis that it was untimely. Hahn appealed and the Ninth Circuit appointed the Pepperdine Clinic and Horvitz & Levy as his pro bono counsel.
The Ninth Circuit reversed and remanded the dismissal in an unpublished opinion, holding that Washington law mandated equitable tolling under these circumstances. The court held that the original district court should have transferred the action to the proper venue instead of dismissing the lawsuit with one day left on the statute of limitations. Because the original court improperly failed to transfer, justice requires tolling. The Ninth Circuit remanded the case to district court for further proceedings. Judge O’Scannlain filed a dissenting opinion, arguing that Washington requires bad faith before equitable tolling can apply.
Horvitz & Levy attorneys Jeremy Rosen and Mark Kressel supervise the Pepperdine Law School Ninth Circuit Appellate Clinic in representing clients like Mr. Hahn pro bono under appointment by the Ninth Circuit. This is the Pepperdine clinic’s seventh win in nine cases.