United States District Court, E.D. Texas, Tyler Division
MEMORANDUM ADOPTING REPORT AND
RECOMMENDATION OF THE
UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE AND ENTERING FINAL JUDGMENT
Clark, United States District Judge
Petitioner Michael Lane, proceeding pro se, filed
this application for the writ of habeas corpus under 28
U.S.C. §2254 complaining of a classification and housing
change during his confinement in the Texas Department of
Criminal Justice, Correctional Institutions Division. This
Court referred the matter to the United States Magistrate
Judge pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §636(b)(1) and (3) and the
Amended Order for the Adoption of Local Rules for the
Assignment of Duties to United States Magistrate Judges.
petition, Lane states that he is classified as a
“3g” prisoner [i.e. serving an aggravated
sentence or convicted of one of a list of violent crimes] and
thus had to serve 10 years before being eligible for a
promotion to minimum custody (G2), from medium custody (G3).
In December of 2012, he was moved to minimum custody.
September 2, 2016, however, he was reclassified back down to
medium custody. He was told this was done pursuant to what
Lane describes as “a repealed and deleted legislative
bill, to-wit SB-341.” The prison officials would not
give him a copy of the bill, but told him it had been passed
in 1987. Lane argues that he has met the prison's
requirements as well as the requirements of the Texas
Government Code and should be allowed to remain in minimum
to Lane, other similarly situated prisoners are allowed to
remain in minimum custody. He contends that he is a
“writ writer” and has provided legal advice to
numerous other inmates.
states that he is being classified under the “Life
Without Parole” sentence guidelines even though he was
not sentenced to life without parole. As a result, he
complains that he is prohibited from seeking rehabilitation
or a safer housing area, and he has been provided with no
paperwork or documents to justify this decision. He did
receive a response to a Step Two grievance, which reads as
A review of your Step One grievance has been conducted and
you were appropriately advised at the unit level. Due to
Legislature's passing SB341, calculation of stacked
sentences changed from cumulative totaling of all sentences
to requiring inmates to serve them consecutively with
separate parole review for each sentence. TDCJ Administration
determined that offenders who must serve a minimum of 60
years flat before they are eligible for release are serving
the consecutive equivalent of life without parole and LWOP
offenders should remain in G-3 custody throughout the
duration of their incarceration. Due to your two life
sentences your G-3 custody is appropriate. No. further action
The Report of the Magistrate Judge
review of the pleadings, the Magistrate Judge issued a Report
recommending that Lane's petition be denied. The
Magistrate Judge observed that Lane is serving two
consecutive life sentences for aggravated sexual assault of a
child, and as such, he must serve 60 years before becoming
eligible for parole.
Magistrate Judge stated that in July of 2005, TDCJ-CID
implemented a regulation providing that prisoners sentenced
to life without parole cannot be placed in minimum custody,
but can be promoted to higher than G3 medium custody.
According to the response to Lane's grievance, the prison
administration considers him to be serving the equivalent of
life without parole because he must serve 60 calendar years
before becoming eligible for parole. Because he is serving
the functional equivalent of life without parole, he is not
eligible for minimum custody.
Magistrate Judge determined that as a general rule, prisoners
do not have a liberty interest in their custodial
classification, although a narrow exception exists where the
challenged classification amounts to an atypical and
significant hardship in relation to the ordinary incidents of
prison life. The Magistrate Judge stated that requiring Lane
to remain in medium custody did not amount to an atypical or
significant hardship and did not implicate any
constitutionally protected liberty interests.
Magistrate Judge further stated that the fact that Lane was
not formally sentenced to “life without parole”
did not deprive him of any protected liberty interest in the
fact that the prison treats his sentence as the functional
equivalent of life without parole. The on-line records of
TDCJ show that Lane was 41 years old when he received two
consecutive life sentences, meaning he will be eligible for
parole when he is 101 years old.
Lane complained that similarly situated prisoners are
permitted to have minimum custody status, the Magistrate
Judge noted that Lane did not identify any such persons.
Thus, the Magistrate Judge ...