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Woodard v. County of Waller

United States District Court, Fifth Circuit

December 20, 2013

EDWARD LOUIS WOODARD, TDCJ#1621335, Plaintiff,
v.
COUNTY OF WALLER, et al., Defendants.

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

NANCY F. ATLAS, District Judge.

State inmate Edward Louis Woodard (TDCJ #1614126) has filed a complaint under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging violations of his constitutional right of access to the courts. Woodard has named Waller County, an unnamed state official in Austin, Texas, and an unnamed official of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice - Correctional Institutions Division ("TDCJ") as defendants. Woodard proceeds pro se and he has moved for leave to proceed in forma pauperis. After reviewing all of the pleadings as required by 28 U.S.C. § 1915A, the Court concludes that the motion should be grantedand that this case must be dismissedfor reasons that follow.

I. BACKGROUND

Woodard is currently in custody at the TDCJ Boyd Unit. He states that in 1991 he was sentenced in Washington County, Texas, to ten years in TDCJ for possession of a prohibited weapon. State v. Woodard, No. 10657 (21st Dist. Ct, Washington County, Tex. Oct. 22, 1991). Woodard further states that in 1992, while serving his weapon possession sentence, a charge of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon was brought against him in Waller County, Texas. He alleges that the 9th District Court in Waller County found him guilty and sentenced him to three years based upon a plea in absentia [Doc. # 1, p. 4]. State v. Woodard, No. 6793 (9th Dist. Ct., Waller County, Tex. Jul. 8, 1992).

Woodward states that he was erroneously released on November 2, 1992, because TDCJ failed to recalculate his parole eligibility date in light of his recent sentence for the Waller County offense. He then states that he was returned to TDCJ in February, 1994, after violating the terms and conditions of his parole. Woodard contends that TDCJ unlawfully recalculated the sentence in Cause No. 6793 to expire on June 6, 1997, and he was again released on parole during either October or November of that year. Id. at 5.

Subsequently, Woodard was convicted of aggravated sexual assault of a child and sentenced to 32 years in TDCJ. State v. Woodard, No. 13, 280 (506th Dist. Ct., Waller County, Tex. Jan. 6, 2010). He asserts that the aggravated assault conviction in Cause No. 6793 was used to enhance the punishment for the aggravated sexual assault conviction in Cause No. 13, 280.

Woodard filed two state applications for writs ofhabeas corpus challenging the aggravated sexual assault of a child conviction. Both of the applications were unsuccessful. Ex parte Woodard, No. 76, 391-01 (Tex. Crim. App. Sept. 28, 2011) (relief denied without written order); Ex parte Woodard, No. 76, 391-02 (Tex. Crim. App. Sept. 11, 2013) (returned to district clerk without action by the Court of Criminal Appeals). He has recently filed a third state habeas application which is currently pending before the Court of Criminal Appeals. Ex parte Woodard, No. 76, 391-03 (Tex. Crim. App. rec'd Dec. 9, 2013). Woodard also filed a state application for a writ ofhabeas corpus challenging the aggravated assault conviction in Cause No. 6793. The Court of Criminal Appeals granted relief on the basis that Woodard was not represented by an attorney at the proceedings and had not waived his right to counsel. Ex parte Woodard, No. 76, 391-03, 2013 WL 5872889 (Tex. Crim. App. Oct. 30, 2013). Woodard asserts that the trial court subsequently dismissed the charge [Doc. # 1, p. 7]. Woodard alleges that an unknown state official denied him access to his records because he did not have an attorney. Id. at 8. He contends that the records are necessary to support his claim.

In summary, Woodard presents the following claims:

1. Waller County convicted him without affording him due process in Cause No. 6793 [Doc. # 1, p. 5]. This wrongful conviction was used to enhance punishment for a subsequent conviction [Doc. # 1, p. 7].
2. An unknown TDCJ official unlawfully or erroneously miscalculated Woodard's sentence in Causes 6793 and 10657 causing him to serve approximately five years for the three year sentence in Cause No. 6793 and causing him to serve approximately eleven years and three to six months for the ten year sentence in Cause No. 10657 [Doc. #1, pp. 6-7].
3. An unnamed state official wrongly denied him copies of his records using a state statute which prohibits access by prisoners to court records unless they are represented by counsel. Id. at 8.

Woodard seeks compensatory, nominal, and punitive damages. He also seeks an injunction allowing him access to his records. Id. at 4, 8.

II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

The complaint in this case is governed by the Prison Litigation Reform Act (the "PLRA"), which mandates the dismissal of a prisoner's civil rights complaint under the following circumstances. Upon initial screening of a prisoner civil rights complaint, the PLRA requires a district court to scrutinize the claims and dismiss the complaint, in whole or in part, if it determines that the complaint "is frivolous, malicious, or fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted;" or "seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief." 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b). A reviewing court may dismiss a complaint for these same reasons "at any time" where a party proceeds in forma pauperis. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B) (mandating dismissal where the complaint is "frivolous or malicious, " "fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, " or "seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief'). The PLRA also provides that the court "shall on its own motion or on ...


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