MARVIN RAY YATES; KEITH COLE; JACKIE BRANNUM; RICHARD ELVIN KING; FRED WALLACE; LAVAR JOHN SANTEE, Plaintiffs - Appellees
BRYAN COLLIER; ROBERTO M. HERRERA; TEXAS DEPARTMENT OF CRIMINAL JUSTICE, Defendants-Appellants
from the United States District Court for the Southern
District of Texas
REAVLEY, DAVIS, and JONES, Circuit Judges.
interlocutory appeal arises out of a preliminary injunction
that Appellees obtained and have since allowed to expire. For
the reasons set out below, we DISMISS the
appeal as MOOT, VACATE the district
court's order, and REMAND for
proceedings consistent with this opinion.
a conditions of confinement case brought by prisoners housed
in the Wallace Pack Unit ("Pack Unit") of the Texas
prison system. The prisoners allege that they are exposed to
extreme heat throughout the summer months and that such
exposure, without sufficient mitigation, violates the Eighth
Amendment's ban on cruel and unusual punishment. To
mitigate the effects of the heat, the Texas Department of
Criminal Justice ("TDCJ") encourages its prisoners
to drink water. However, the water served at the Pack Unit
contains more arsenic than the maximum prescribed (but not
yet fully enforced) under federal regulations promulgated by
the Environmental Protection Agency ("EPA").
with these undisputed facts, the prisoners, on May 23, 2016,
filed a motion for preliminary injunction, seeking any and
all relief necessary to "stop the Texas Department of
Criminal Justice from exposing them to the combination of
dangerously high temperatures 'mitigated' primarily
by water poisoned with arsenic." On June 21, 2016, the
district court issued the injunction, ordering the TDCJ
"to provide drinking water to the inmates at the Wallace
Pack Unit that conforms with EPA maximum contaminant level
requirements for arsenic beginning not later than [July 6,
2016] and continuing until September 22, 2016."
September 23, 2016, the preliminary injunction automatically
expired pursuant to the Prison Litigation Reform Act
("PLRA"), 18 U.S.C. § 3626(a)(2). We must
therefore first determine whether we have jurisdiction to
address the merits of this injunction.
mootness is jurisdictional, " we cannot reach the merits
of an injunction that is moot. Generally, when an injunction
"expires by its own terms, " it is moot and
"there is nothing to review."
TDCJ, however, asserts that this appeal falls into an
exception to mootness known as capable of repetition yet
evading review. A dispute is capable of repetition yet
evading review if: (1) the challenged action is too short in
duration "to be fully litigated prior to its cessation
or expiration, " and (2) "there is a reasonable
expectation that the same complaining party will be subject
to the same action again." The Supreme Court has noted that "the
capable-of-repetition doctrine applies only in exceptional
situations . . . .""Accordingly, a party seeking to
invoke this exception . . . bears the burden of showing its
TDCJ has not established that it will be subject to the same
preliminary injunction in the future. The Pack Unit was, as
of last summer, the only Texas prison unit serving water that
violates the EPA's current arsenic-related guidelines.
And the TDCJ has assured us that, by next summer, the Pack
Unit will enjoy "a new filtration system" that will
ensure that these violations do not recur.
no evidence that the TDCJ will be subject to the same
injunction in the future. The injunction is therefore moot,