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Cole v. Collier

United States District Court, S.D. Texas, Houston Division

May 8, 2018

KEITH COLE, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
BRYAN COLLIER, et al., Defendants.

          AMENDED MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          HON. KEITH P. ELLISON, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         This Amended Memorandum and Order supersedes the Court's Memorandum and Order dated May 3, 2018, docket number 1116. The paragraph pertaining to Mr. Israel Garcia's motion (Doc. No. 925) has been modified.

         Plaintiffs in this class action bring claims related to extreme heat at the Wallace Pack Unit in Grimes County, Texas. (Doc. No. 629.) The Court previously certified a class (Doc. No. 473) and entered preliminary injunctions related to conditions at the Pack Unit (Doc. Nos. 477, 737). The parties reached agreement on a proposed class settlement. The Court granted preliminary approval of the settlement and amended its class certification order. (Doc. No. 1065.)[1] A final approval hearing is scheduled for May 8, 2018.

         Pending before this Court are various motions filed by people who are incarcerated in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice ("TDCJ") prison system. The motions include requests to intervene, requests to be removed from the action, and requests for miscellaneous relief. For the reasons set forth below, the motions are denied.

         I. MOTIONS TO INTERVENE

         A. Legal Standard

         Incarcerated individuals have filed requests with the Court to become parties to this lawsuit. Movants, who are pro se litigants, have styled their requests as motions to be added to the case, motions for joinder, and motions to join. See, e.g., Doc. Nos. 905, 964, 982. Rule 19 governs mandatory joinder of parties. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 19. Rule 20 governs permissive joinder of parties. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 20. Requests for permissive joinder of parties are made by an existing party to the action. Team Worldwide Corp. v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., 287 F.Supp.3d 651, 656 (E.D. Tex. 2018); In re Smith, 521 B.R. 767, 774 (Bankr.S.D.Tex. 2014). Intervention is the appropriate mechanism when a non-party asks the Court to add it as a party to the action. See Fed. R. of Civ. P. 24. The Court will construe requests to join the action as requests to intervene under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 24.

         Under Rule 24(a), an individual has a right to intervene if he makes a timely motion and: "1. is given an unconditional right to intervene by federal statute; or 2. claims an interest relating to the property or transaction that is the subject of the action, and is so situated that disposing of the action may as a practical matter impair or impede the movant's ability to protect its interest, unless existing parties adequately represent that interest." Fed.R.Civ.P. 24(a).

         Rule 24(b) allows the Court to permit intervention by an individual who "has a claim or defense that shares with the main action a common question of law or fact." Fed.R.Civ.P. 24(b)(1)(B). Permissive intervention is "wholly discretionary with the [district] court . . . even though there is a common question of law or fact, or the requirements of Rule 24(b) are otherwise satisfied." Kneeland v. National Collegiate Athletic Ass'n, 806 F.2d 1285, 1289 (5th Cir. 1987) (quoting New Orleans Public Service, Inc. v. United Gas Pipe Line Co., 732 F.2d 452, 470-71 (5th Cir.) (en banc), cert denied, 469 U.S. 1019 (1984)) (internal citation omitted). In considering a request for permissive intervention, it is proper to consider whether the movant will significantly contribute to the full development of the underlying factual interests in the suit. United Gas Pipe Line Co., 732 F.2d at 472. Courts are also required to inquire whether "the intervention will unduly delay or prejudice the adjudication of the original parties' rights." Fed.R.Civ.P. 24(b)(3).

         Some movants are Class members who seek intervention. Non-named class members may intervene in a class action if the requirements of Rule 24(a) are met. "Intervention of right under Rule 24(a) and class action certification under Rule 23 are two separate and distinct theories." Lelsz v. Kavanagh, 710 F.2d 1040, 1043-44 (5th Cir. 1983) (internal quotation and citation omitted).

         B. Mr. Jim Warren's Motion to be Added to Cases (Doc. No. 905)

         Mr. Jim Warren is incarcerated at the Estelle Unit and asks to be named in this action. (Doc. No. 905.) He resided in the Pack Unit from April 2008 through October 2010, before this lawsuit was filed. Id. Mr. Warren is not a member of the Class. See Doc. No. 1065.

         The Court recognizes that Mr. Warren may experience dangerous heat conditions at his unit, but finds that this case is not the proper avenue for seeking relief. Mr. Warren has not demonstrated an unconditional right to intervene under Rule 24(a). He has not identified a statute that provides an unconditional right to intervene, and does not claim an interest relating to the transaction that is the subject of this action, constitutionally adequate temperature-related conditions at the Pack Unit. Mr. Warren is not incarcerated at the Pack Unit, so this action does not impair or impede his ability to protect his own interest in safe heat conditions.

         The Court declines to permit intervention under Rule 24(b). His inclusion in the action would expand the scope of the litigation, causing significant delay at this late stage in the case. The parties have reached settlement and await final approval. The case has already proceeded through extensive discovery, class certification, evidentiary hearings, and multiple preliminary injunctions, all of which relate to the Pack Unit. Disallowing intervention in this case has no effect on Mr. Warren's ability to bring suit in a separate action, nor will the ultimate disposition of this case affect his rights. Mr. Warren's motion is therefore DENIED.

         C. Mr. David Weir's Motion to Join Class ...


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