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Garrett v. Davis

United States District Court, S.D. Texas, Corpus Christi Division

March 20, 2017

MICHAEL GARRETT, Plaintiff,
v.
LORIE DAVIS, Defendant.

          ORDER ADOPTING MEMORANDUM AND RECOMMENDATION

          NELVA GONZALES RAMOS UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Plaintiff Michael Garrett (Garrett) is a prisoner housed in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice - Correctional Institutions Division (TDCJ-CID) McConnell Unit and he has sued the TDCJ-CID Director, [1] complaining of the conditions of his confinement. In particular, he alleges that the prison schedule, noise, light, and inmate counts prevent him from getting more than four hours of continuous sleep and that six hours of sleep is a basic need, part of the minimal civilized measure of life's necessities. He contends that sleep deprivation presents serious health risks and that Defendant is deliberately indifferent to that health risk. Garrett seeks declaratory and injunctive relief to require administrative changes that expand the amount of continuous sleep he can get.

         Pending before the Court is Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment (D.E. 101). The Motion challenges whether Garrett can establish (1) a violation of the Eighth Amendment and/or (2) entitlement to injunctive relief. On December 9, 2016, United States Magistrate Judge B. Janice Ellington issued a Memorandum and Recommendation to Deny Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment (D.E. 118), finding that Garrett had raised disputed issues of material fact regarding both his right and his remedy. After obtaining an extension of time, Defendant timely filed objections (D.E. 127) on January 11, 2017, to which Plaintiff has responded (D.E. 130).

         Defendant's objections are not clearly itemized. However, the Court has extracted from her briefing the following issues:

A. Whether the Walker case is binding precedent and dictates a different result;
B. Whether the Magistrate Judge is permitted to treat sleep deprivation as a substantial health risk on this record;
C. Whether Garrett's evidence, on which the Magistrate Judge relied, is competent;
D. Whether the Magistrate Judge misplaced the burden of proof on this record; and E. Whether this action is barred by limitations.

         The Court considers each objection below and concludes that the objections are without merit. Defendant's motion for summary judgment should be, and is, DENIED.

         DISCUSSION

         A. Walker is Not Binding, Requiring a Different Result.

         In the context of nearly identical allegations, the Fifth Circuit dismissed a prisoner's sleep deprivation claim in Walker v. Nunn, 456 Fed. App'x 419 (5th Cir. 2011) (per curiam). The Fifth Circuit determined that the Walker “opinion should not be published and is not precedent except under the limited circumstances set forth in 5th Cir. R. 47.5.4.” Id., fn*. That rule states that such opinions “are not precedent, except under the doctrine of res judicata, collateral estoppel or law of the case (or similarly to show double jeopardy, notice, sanctionable conduct, entitlement to attorney's fees, or the like).”

         On May 7, 2013, the Magistrate Judge dismissed Garrett's case as failing to state a claim upon which relief could be granted. D.E. 16. That decision was largely based upon the Walker decision. On appeal, the Fifth Circuit reversed and remanded, stating,

Walker constitutes persuasive authority yet was decided on summary judgment on a developed record, and it nowhere indicates how many hours were devoted to sleep (presumably more than four) under the prison schedule at issue. Analysis of deprivation of “the minimal civilized measure of life's necessities” and “deliberate ...

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