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Nicolaison v. County of Hennepin

United States District Court, D. Minnesota

January 29, 2018

WAYNE NICOLAISON, Plaintiff,
v.
COUNTY OF HENNEPIN, Defendant.

          Wayne Nicolaison, pro se plaintiff.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER ADOPTING REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

          JOHN R. TUNHEIM CHIEF JUDGE

         Plaintiff Wayne Nicolaison has filed this 42 U.S.C. § 1983 action against Hennepin County, Minnesota, alleging that his indefinite civil commitment under the Minnesota Sex Offender Program (“MSOP”) is unconstitutional. Magistrate Judge David T. Schultz recommended that Nicolaison's claim be dismissed without prejudice pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915 because it is barred by Heck v. Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477 (1994). Nicolaison objects that Heck does not apply because this is a § 1983 action, not a Habeas action. This objection misunderstands Heck, which applies exclusively to § 1983 actions. Because judgment in Nicolaison's favor would necessarily imply the invalidity of his commitment, Heck applies to bar his claim. Thus, the Court will overrule Nicolaison's objections, adopt the R&R, and dismiss the case without prejudice.

         BACKGROUND

         Wayne Nicolaison pled guilty to criminal sexual misconduct in 1980 and 1984, in each case for raping a woman at knifepoint - and having committed the latter crime while on parole for the first. See Nicolaison v. Erickson, 65 F.3d 109, 110 (8th Cir. 1995). He repeatedly harassed female prison staff during his incarceration. Id. As a result of his psychopathic personality, he was civilly committed under the Minnesota Sex Offender Program in 1992. (Compl. at 3, Oct. 23, 2017, Docket No. 1.)[1] Nicolaison alleges that this commitment violates his Due Process rights because it is based solely on his risk of reoffending. (Id.) He also alleges violations of the Double Jeopardy and Ex Post Facto Clauses. (Id. at 4.) He seeks $1 million in damages per year of commitment. (Id.)

         This action is the latest in a series brought by Nicolaison, including most recently a substantively-identical § 1983 case against Hennepin County that was dismissed because it was barred by Heck. (See Compl. at 3-4, Apr. 24, 2017, Civil No. 17-1354, Docket No. 1; Order, July 11, 2017, Civil No. 17-1354, Docket No. 9.) Before that, Nicolaison brought a Habeas petition that he voluntarily dismissed after the Magistrate Judge recommended dismissing it as an improper successive petition. (See Order, July 11, 2017, Civil No. 16-2777, Docket No. 20; R. & R., June 21, 2017, Civil No. 16-2777, Docket No. 17 (discussing Nicolaison's three previous unsuccessful Habeas petitions).)

         Now, in considering Nicolaison's pending application to proceed in forma pauperis, the Magistrate Judge concluded that his latest § 1983 claim is also barred by Heck, and that it would be barred as an improper successive petition if the Court were to recharacterize it as a Habeas claim. (Report & Recommendation (“R&R”) at 4, Dec. 12, 2017, Docket No. 8.) Nicolaison objects. (Objs., Dec. 18, 2017, Docket No. 10.)

         DISCUSSION

         I. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         Upon the filing of a report and recommendation by a magistrate judge, “a party may serve and file specific written objections to the proposed findings and recommendations.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(b)(2); accord D. Minn. LR 72.2(b)(1). “The district judge must determine de novo any part of the magistrate judge's disposition that has been properly objected to.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(b)(3); accord D. Minn. LR 72.2(b)(3).

         II. ANALYSIS

         Nicolaison first objects that the Magistrate Judge recommended dismissal of the Complaint because the Court has previously heard his claim. But in fact, the Magistrate Judge recommended dismissal because Heck bars Nicolaison's claim. Nicolaison's objection to that conclusion is therefore the sole question before the Court.[2]

         It is worthwhile to quote the Supreme Court's holding in Heck at some length:

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 ...

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