United States District Court, W.D. Texas, Austin Division
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION OF THE UNITED STATES
W. AUSTIN UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
HONORABLE LEE YEAKEL UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
the Court is Plaintiff Sam Houston's Response to Order to
Show Cause (Dkt. No. 86).
District Court referred the above case to the undersigned
Magistrate Judge for report and recommendation pursuant to 28
U.S.C. § 636(b) and Rule 1(c) of Appendix C of the Local
George Sam Houston has a long history of litigiousness in the
Western District of Texas. The instant action is one of ten
cases Houston has brought since 2012. Acknowledging this
history, the Court issued a Show Cause Order to Houston
following the dismissal of all of the claims in his most
recent case, to address whether he should be sanctioned for
his continued frivolous filings. A brief history of his past
cases is warranted here.
began his foray into the federal courts when he complained of
the care provided by the Department of Veterans Affairs'
(VA) medical centers. Houston v. Seneski, No.
1:15-CV-015, Dkt. No. 1-1 at 1 (W.D. Tex. Jan. 6, 2012).
Here, Houston appeared to argue that Eric Seneski, then
Secretary of the Veteran's Administration, was
responsible for the allegedly inadequate mental heath
treatment he received at one of the clinics for his
post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Houston further
claimed that his veterans disability payments were incorrect.
This first suit was dismissed as frivolous, but even after
dismissal, Houston continued to file a number of motions in
the case, including a Motion to Amend, Motion for Recusal of
Judge Yeakel for bias, Motion to Respond, and a Motion for
New Trial, all of which were denied. Rather than accepting
the court's determination, Houston filed a second case
against Seneski making similar-though not
identical-arguments. Houston v. Seneski (Seneski
II), No. 1:13-CV-097, Dkt. No. 4 at 4 (W.D. Tex. Apr. 8,
2013). In addition to adding a number of other defendants,
Houston once again complained of the medical care he received
at the VA centers, but this time couched his claims as
various constitutional and statutory violations. Once again,
the Court found Houston's claims to be frivolous and the
lawsuit was dismissed.
point, Houston turned his attention to other matters. It
appears that Houston's home had been foreclosed on and
sold to a new owner; this set of facts was at the heart of
Houston's next five lawsuits. Houston first sued the Bank
of America (among other defendants) for torture, cruel,
inhuman and degrading treatment, wrongful taking of property,
and infliction of emotional distress-all based on claims that
the bank allegedly wrongfully foreclosed on and sold his
property. Houston v. Bank of America, N.A. (I), No.
1:13-CV-299-LY, Dkt. No. 39 (W.D. Tex. July 16, 2013).
Houston had originally filed suit in state court, but the
defendants removed to federal court. Upon motion by the
defendants, Houston's suit was dismissed for failure to
state a claim. Shortly after, Houston joined his wife, Meera
Singh, as they attempted to remove a case to federal court in
which they were the plaintiffs. This suit sought to
relitigate Bank of America's authority to enforce a lien
on the property. Singh v. Bank of America, N.A., No.
2:13-CV-0030-AM, Dkt. No. 12 (W.D. Tex. Aug. 27, 2013). As
Houston and Singh had improperly removed the case, it was
remanded to state court.
did not deter Houston, as he once again joined his wife in
filing a suit for declaratory and injunctive relief
challenging the foreclosure of his property. Singh v.
Perry, No. 5:14-CV-199-FB, Dkt. No. 9 (W.D. Tex. Apr.
23, 2014). However, as the court in that case noted, Singh
had previously brought three prior suits-solely on her own
behalf-on the exact same claims, all of which had been
dismissed as frivolous. Id. at 2-3; see Singh v.
Bank of America, N.A., 1:12-CV-0388-LY; In re Meera
Singh, No. 1:13-CV-266-LY; Singh v. Bank of
America, 1:12-CV-389-LY. The Court accordingly dismissed
Houston's fifth action. Failing to succeed in that case,
Houston and Singh attempted to remove a state court action in
which the plaintiffs sought a forcible detainer-ostensibly
for the property recently foreclosed upon. Houston v.
Perry, No. 5:14-CV-549-DAE, Dkt. No. 5 (W.D. Tex. July
31, 2014). The Court once again remanded, finding no
federal jurisdiction. To complete this line of cases, Houston
again sued the Bank of America for the fraudulent sale of his
home. Houston v. Bank of America, N.A. (II), No.
1:15-CV-570-RP, Dkt. No. 4 (W.D. Tex. Aug. 4, 2015). As with
all of the above cases, Houston's claims were dismissed
as frivolous. In that case, however, the court went one step
further, warning Houston that his continued filing of
frivolous actions could result in his being barred from
filing further suits without judicial permission.
Id., Dkt. No. 11 at 4.
appears that Houston, possibly after the warning, took a
short recess from federal court. However, in the fall of
2016, Houston returned with two new suits in federal court.
Houston v. Gonzalez, No 1:16-CV-986-LY; Nuckols
Crossing, Ltd.v. Houston, 1:16-CV-1064-LY. Houston
brought the instant suit alleging that the defendants
conspired to violate his rights. Specifically, he argued that
the VA-conspiring with the Housing Authority of the City of
Austin-improperly included his veterans disability income
when calculating the amount of rent assistance he should
receive from a voucher program funded by the Department of
Housing and Urban Development (HUD). When his rent assistance
was decreased-thus increasing Houston's share of the
rent-Houston was unable to make his monthly rent payments and
was evicted. He then filed suit alleging a variety of claims
against the defendants. Houston originally filed suit in the
Justice of the Peace Court in Travis County, Texas, but
following the addition of VA employees, the United States
removed the case to federal court. At that time, Houston also
attempted to remove a related case-his appeal of the
apartment management company's suit to evict him-also
from the Justice of the Peace Court. Nuckols Crossing,
Ltd., No. 1:16-CV-1064-LY. Houston attempted to
consolidate the two cases, but the second suit was remanded
for lack of subject matter jurisdiction, id., Dkt.
No. 21, and this case was dismissed for lack of jurisdiction
and failure to state a claim.
Court's recommendation to remand in Nuckols Crossing,
Ltd., Houston was once again warned of the consequences
of his continued pursuit of frivolous claims. Rather than
heeding this warning, Houston continued to file a number of
motions and advisories in both lawsuits. As such, in the
Court's recommendation to dismiss the instant suit, it
requested the District Court re-refer the case after adopting
the Report and Recommendation so that the Court could address
sanctions against Houston. Dkt. No. 75. The Report and
Recommendation was adopted on February 17, 2017, and this
Court issued an order to Houston to show cause why he should
not be sanctioned. Dkt. No. 85. In his response, Houston once
again addressed the merits of his claims, focusing
particularly on his claims of bias by Judge Yeakel, whom he
had previously attempted to recuse on multiple occasions.
Dkt. No. 86. In addition, he filed a report completed by a VA
vocational expert describing Houston's post-traumatic
stress disorder and the effect it has on his ability to
maintain work. The Court has considered the response and
attached exhibits and issues the following recommendation.
may, on its own initiative, impose sanctions under
Fed.R.Civ.P. 11(c)(3). Rule 11 sanctions may be appropriate
when a pro se litigant has a history of submitting multiple
frivolous claims. See Mendoza v. Lynaugh, 989 F.2d
191, 195-97 (5th Cir. 1993). Pro se litigants have no
“license to harass others, clog the judicial machinery
with meritless litigation, and abuse already overloaded court
dockets.” Farguson, 808 F.2d at 359. The first
inquiry in this determination is “how much havoc has
this litigant wreaked on the judicial system relative to the
harm inflicted by other litigants who have been
sanctioned.” Birdo v. Carl, 32 F.3d 565, *2
(5th Cir. 1994) (citing Mendoza, 989 F.2dat 195-97).
However, “[t]he imposition of a sanction without a
prior warning is generally to be avoided.” Moody v.
Baker, 857 F.2d 256, 258 (5th Cir. 1988). Before
imposing sanctions, the court must issue a show cause order
describing the offending conduct and giving both notice and
an opportunity for the party to be heard. Elliott v.
Tilton, 64 F.3d 213, 216 (5th Cir. 1994).
gives courts broad discretion in determining which sanctions
are appropriate in any given case. See Thomas v. Capital
Servs., Inc., 836 F.2d 866, 877 (5th Cir. 1988). The
sanctions imposed should be the “least severe sanction
adequate to serve the purpose.” Id. at 878.
One of the well-settled appropriate exercises of a
court's power to sanction is issuing pre-filing
injunctions against vexatious litigants. Baum v. Blue
Moon Ventures, LLC, 513 F.3d 181, 187 (5th Cir. 2008)
(citing Farguson v. M Bank Houson, N.A., 808 F.2d
358, 360 (5th Cir. 1986)). Any injunction issued “must
be tailored to protect the courts and innocent parties, while