Metropolitan News-Enterprise


Thursday, June 9, 2005


Page 1


Jail Inmate Convicted of Refusing Order to Shower Cannot Sue Officers for Assault—Court of Appeal


By a MetNews Staff Writer


A jail inmate convicted of interfering with correctional officers by refusing their order to disrobe and shower cannot sue on her claim that she was assaulted as she disrobed, the Fourth District Court of Appeal has ruled.

Hong Cuc Truong’s claim against the Orange County Sheriff’s Department and several individual officers is barred because it calls into question the validity of the conviction, Justice Eileen Moore wrote May 10. Her opinion was certified yesterday for publication.

Truong was arrested for shoplifting in May 2002. In her complaint for a federal civil rights violation, assault, negligent retention and training, and infliction of emotional distress, she admitted that she initially “balked at disrobing in front of other inmates or deputies,” but claimed that she “tried to comply and commenced to disrobe by removing her sweater” before deputies “pounced upon her and began twisting her arms and striking her about the body.”

She did not “resist or strike or even attempt to strike or make any physical movement toward any deputy,” she alleged.

Truong was convicted of three counts of shoplifting. In a separate proceeding, she pled guilty to resisting the exercise of lawful duty in exchange for the dismissal of assault and battery charges.

As part of the plea agreement, she admitted that she “resisted and obstructed” a lawful order by the deputies.

Orange Superior Court Judge Thomas Thrasher granted the county’s motion for judgment on the pleadings in the civil action, and Moore said the trial judge was correct, rejecting the plaintiff’s claim that the allegations of the suit were not inconsistent with the essential facts underlying the conviction.

Moore rejected as “pure hyperbole” the claim that barring someone who disobeys a police order from suing for assault gives “carte blanche to beat to a bloody pulp, with financial impunity, any arrestee, provided they obtained a conviction for the conduct which preceded the beating.”

Citing Heck v. Humphrey (1994) 512 U.S. 477, which held that a defendant convicted of manslaughter could not maintain a 42 U.S.C. Sec. 1983 action for allegedly illegal acts resulting in his arrest and conviction, Moore explained:

Heck limits a narrow class of civil rights actions when allowing the action to proceed would necessarily challenge the legitimacy of the undisturbed conviction.  It applies only in cases where the plaintiff has been convicted of conduct relating to the arrest, such as refusing a lawful order or resisting arrest.  Asserting that Truong was somehow analogous to Rosa Parks is both factually inaccurate and diminishes the legacy of those who risked themselves to fight for civil rights in this country.  It does not impress this court.”

The case is Truong v. Orange County Sheriff’s Department, 05 S.O.S. 2712.


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