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Brown v. Jones

Court of Appeals of Texas, Tenth District

May 23, 2018

BOBBY BROWN, Appellant
v.
GEANNIE JONES AND JOHN JACKSON, Appellees

          From the County Court at Law Walker County, Texas Trial Court No. 12070CV

          Before Chief Justice Gray, [*] Justice, Davis, and Justice Scoggins

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          REX D. DAVIS Justice

         Appellant Bobby Brown, an inmate in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, challenges the trial court's dismissal of his case against Appellees Geannie Jones and John Jackson, two TDCJ employees. Brown filed this suit pro se and as an indigent alleging that Jones and Jackson unlawfully deprived him of personal property, including a radio, and legal and religious documents. The trial court dismissed Brown's case for failure to provide a copy of a Step One grievance or an unsworn declaration regarding the denial of his Step One grievance. Brown did include a copy of a Step Two grievance. Because we conclude that the trial court did not err in dismissing Brown's case, we will affirm.

         The statutory scheme for indigent inmate litigation is governed by Chapter 14 of the Civil Practice and Remedies Code. Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code Ann. §§ 14.001-014 (West 2017). The legislature enacted Chapter 14 in an attempt to control "the flood of frivolous lawsuits being filed in Texas courts by prison inmates because these suits consume many valuable judicial resources with little offsetting benefits." Calton v. Schiller, 498 S.W.3d 247, 253 (Tex. App.-Texarkana 2016, pet. denied) (quoting Hamilton v. Pechacek, 319 S.W.3d 801, 809 (Tex. App.-Fort Worth 2010, no pet.)). We review a dismissal under Chapter 14 for an abuse of discretion. Mahuron v. TDCJ, 494 S.W.3d 377, 379 (Tex. App.-Waco 2015, no pet.). A trial court abuses its discretion if it acts "without reference to any guiding rules and principles." Quixtar Inc. v. Signature Mgmt. Team, 315 S.W.3d 28, 31 (Tex. 2010) (quoting Downer v. Aquamarine Operators, Inc., 701 S.W.2d 238, 241-42 (Tex. 1985)); see also Remsburg v. Marquez, No. 07-16-00460-CV, 2018 WL 912590, at *2 (Tex. App.-Amarillo Feb. 15, 2018, no pet.). Another way of stating the test is whether the trial court's actions were arbitrary or unreasonable. Downer, 701 S.W.2d at 242. We will affirm a dismissal if it was proper under any legal theory. See Hamilton, 319 S.W.3d at 809; see also Enriquez v. Thaler, No. 12-14-00016-CV, 2015 WL 4116724, at *3 (Tex. App.- Tyler July 8, 2015, pet. denied) (mem. op.).

         Chapter 14 sets forth the various procedural requirements an indigent inmate must satisfy as a prerequisite to pursuing a lawsuit in the state courts. See Hamilton, 319 S.W.3d at 809. Should an inmate fail to comply with these requirements, his suit will be dismissed. Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code Ann. § 14.005(b); see also Lilly v. Northrep, 100 S.W.3d 335, 336 (Tex. App.-San Antonio 2002, pet. denied); Easter v. TDCJ, No. 10-10-00060-CV, 2011 WL 2242590, at *1 (Tex. App.-Waco June 8, 2011, no pet.) (mem. op.).

         Brown, who is proceeding in forma pauperis, is subject to the procedural requirements of Chapter 14, including the requirements that he exhaust his administrative remedies and provide copies of the documents denying his institutional grievances. See Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code Ann. § 14.005(a)(1)-(2); see also Hatcher v. TDCJ-Institutional Div., 232 S.W.3d 921, 924 (Tex. App.-Texarkana 2007, pet. denied). The requirement in § 14.005(a) that an inmate provide copies of his grievances serves two purposes: "First, the inmate will demonstrate through compliance that he has exhausted his administrative remedies, and second, the information provided by the inmate will enable the court to determine whether the inmate has filed his claim within the requisite time period." Addicks v. Quarterman, No. 12-09-00098-CV, 2011 WL 597148, at *2 (Tex. App.-Tyler Feb. 16, 2011, no pet.) (mem. op.). If an inmate does not substantially comply with § 14.005(a), the trial court does not abuse its discretion in dismissing the inmate's case. Mahuron, 494 S.W.3d at 380.

         A review of the record reveals that Brown did not submit a copy of his Step One grievance with his original petition or at any point prior to the trial court's dismissal of his suit. Nor did he include information in his petition or any other document that reflected the date his Step One grievance was filed, the date it was denied by TDCJ, or any reason for his failure to provide that information. See Mahuron, 494 S.W.3d at 381-82 (inmate may substantially comply with § 14.005 by filing affidavit or unsworn declaration that states filing date of grievance and details why inmate cannot provide copy of grievance or date grievance denied). The trial court did not, therefore, abuse its discretion in dismissing Brown's suit.[1]

         We affirm the trial court's dismissal.

         Affirmed

---------

Notes:

[*]Chief Justice Gray concurs in the Court's judgment to the extent it affirms the trial court's judgment of dismissal. A separate opinion will not issue.

[1] In his brief, Brown does not specifically identify any error committed by the trial court-he merely re-states the allegations of his petition and includes additional incidents that occurred after his lawsuit was filed. While we have addressed whether the trial court abused its discretion in dismissing Brown's case, we have identified no other ...


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