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Jackson v. Vaughn

Court of Appeals of Texas, Seventh District, Amarillo

March 29, 2018


          On Appeal from the 72nd District Court Lubbock County, Texas Trial Court No. 2012-500, 295, Honorable Ruben Gonzales Reyes, Presiding

          Before QUINN, C.J., and CAMPBELL and PIRTLE, JJ.


          James T. Campbell Justice

         Appellant Reidie Jackson, a Texas prison inmate appearing pro se, brought suit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against appellees Captain Robert Vaughn a/k/a Vaughan, Lieutenant Nicky Emsoff, Peter Honesto, James Nall, and David Guzman. At all times relevant, appellees were employed by the Texas Department of Criminal Justice at the Montford Unit in Lubbock, Texas. Jackson challenges the trial court's judgment dismissing his suit with prejudice as to each appellee. We will affirm.[1]


         Honesto, Nall, and Guzman were members of a Montford Unit "use of force team" that in March 2011 forcibly removed Jackson from his cell when he would not vacate it. Officer Cindy Mayne[2] operated a camera recording the use-of-force event. Jackson alleged Vaughn, Emsoff, and team members violated his Eighth Amendment right to be free from cruel and unusual punishments. According to Jackson, the male team members struck him in the ribs and face and "kneed" him in the face, all while he was restrained, and Vaughn and Emsoff stood by and watched the events with deliberate indifference to Jackson's safety.

          After Jackson filed suit, Vaughn and Emsoff brought a motion to dismiss under Civil Practice & Remedies Code Chapter 14 which the trial court granted. It signed a final judgment in January 2013 and Jackson appealed. Finding Jackson sufficiently alleged section 1983 excessive force and bystander claims, we reversed and remanded the case.[3] Back in the trial court Honesto, Nall, and Guzman filed answers and a motion to declare Jackson a vexatious litigant and for security. The trial court found Jackson to be a vexatious litigant and ordered he provide security in the amount of $500. When Jackson failed to post the required security, the court dismissed his claims against Honesto, Nall, and Guzman.

         Vaughn and Emsoff then moved for summary judgment. The motion was granted and the trial court rendered a final judgment disposing of all claims and all parties to the litigation.


         Vexatious Litigant claim of Nall, Honesto, and Guzman

         By his first issue Jackson asserts the trial court abused its discretion by granting the motion Honesto, Nall, and Guzman filed to declare him a vexatious litigant under Civil Practice and Remedies Code Chapter 11.[4]

          Jackson's briefing reveals a misunderstanding of the nature of our review of the trial court's order declaring him a vexatious litigant. In his brief, Jackson points to our 2014 holding that his pleadings sufficiently alleged a section 1983 excessive force claim and a bystander claim. See 2014 Tex.App. LEXIS 13354, at *14. We held the trial court abused its discretion by dismissing his suit under Chapter 14 because, we found, his pleadings did not allege claims lacking a basis in law. Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code Ann. § 14.003(b)(2) (West 2017). Jackson's present briefing argues the standard we applied in his previous appeal and the standard we apply to review of the trial court's vexatious-litigant determination under Chapter 11 are "essentially the same and to jump one hurdle is to jump the other." The argument is misguided. Our 2014 review considered only Jackson's pleadings. We took as true the allegations of his petition, and reviewed it only to determine whether, as a matter of law, it stated a cause of action authorizing relief. We sought to determine whether Jackson had plead an indisputably meritless legal theory. 2014 Tex.App. LEXIS 13354, at *9. Our review did not consider at all whether any evidence supported the claims his pleadings asserted.

         Our task this time around is different. A vexatious litigant determination requires the defendant to demonstrate there is not a reasonable probability the plaintiff will prevail in the litigation against the defendant and the plaintiff, in the preceding seven-year period, commenced, prosecuted, or maintained as a pro se litigant at least five litigations, other than in small claims court, that were finally determined adversely to the plaintiff. Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code Ann. § 11.054; Leonard v. Abbott, 171 S.W.3d 451, 457 (Tex. App.- Austin 2005, pet. denied). It is the defendant's burden to prove both requirements of section 11.054. Amir-Sharif v. Quick Trip Corp., 416 S.W.3d 914, 919 (Tex. App.-Dallas 2013, no pet.) (noting also that a defendant who fails to offer any evidence showing why the plaintiff could not prevail on his suit has failed to meet its burden); Drake v. Andrews, 294 S.W.3d 370, 375 (Tex. App.-Dallas 2009, pet. denied).

         We apply an abuse of discretion standard when reviewing a trial court's determinations under Chapter 11. Devoll v. State,155 S.W.3d 498, 502 (Tex. App.-San Antonio 2004, no pet.). The test for an abuse of discretion is whether the court acted arbitrarily or unreasonably and without reference to any guiding rules and principles. Downer v. Aquamarine Operators, Inc.,701 S.W.2d 238, 241-42 (Tex. 1985). Unlike our 2014 ...

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