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Byrd v. Phoenix Police Dep't (2018)

March 16, 2018

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Horvitz & Levy LLP, along with the Pepperdine Law School Ninth Circuit Appellate Clinic, has successfully represented pro se litigant Charles Byrd in two separate civil rights appeals.

The most recent appeal involved the district court’s sua sponte dismissal of Mr. Byrd’s complaint alleging that police officers beat him so severely during a pretextual traffic stop that he lost seventy percent of his vision.

The Ninth Circuit reversed in a published per curiam opinion, holding that Mr. Byrd pleaded a plausible excessive force claim.  The court concluded that Mr. Byrd’s use of a “colloquial, shorthand phrase” made plain that he was alleging the officers’ use of force was unreasonably excessive.  The court further held that Mr. Byrd’s claims were not barred by Heck v. Humphrey because Mr. Byrd’s civil rights claims did not necessarily imply the invalidity of his guilty plea and conviction for conspiracy to commit possession of a dangerous drug for sale.  The court reasoned that Mr. Byrd’s civil suit had nothing to do with the evidentiary basis for his conspiracy conviction.

Judge Eaton, in a concurring opinion, stated that he would have found that Mr. Byrd’s claims were not Heck-barred because a conviction based on a plea agreement is not based on evidence.

Horvitz & Levy attorneys Jeremy Rosen and Mark Kressel supervise the Pepperdine Law School Ninth Circuit Appellate Clinic in representing clients like Mr. Byrd pro bono under appointment by the Ninth Circuit.  This is the Pepperdine clinic’s eighth win in ten cases.

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