United States District Court, S.D. Texas, Galveston Division
MANUEL CAUDILLO RAMIREZ; aka ZAFEER'ANEEF, TDCJ #01294326, Plaintiff,
BRYAN COLLIER,  et al, Defendants.
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
C. Hanks Jr. United States District Judge
plaintiff, Manuel Caudillo Ramirez (“Ramirez”),
is a state inmate who is currently in the custody of the
Texas Department of Criminal Justice (“TDCJ”) at
the Wynne Unit in Huntsville. Ramirez originally brought this
civil rights action for injunctive relief under 42 U.S.C.
§ 1983 and the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized
Persons Act (“RLUIPA”), alleging that he was
wrongfully punished in a series of disciplinary cases for
wearing a beard in violation of the prison grooming policy.
He is pro se and he proceeds in forma
pauperis (Dkt. 15). On August 12, 2016, the Court
dismissed most of Ramirez's claims without prejudice
after determining that they were moot (Dkt. 12). His sole
remaining claim is that he is entitled to relief from a
series of disciplinary convictions that he received when he
was confined at the Ramsey Unit in Rosharon.
Court's request, the Office of the Attorney General, as
amicus curiae, filed a Martinez Report
(Dkt. 24), which the Court has converted to a motion for
summary judgment (Dkt. 25). The report includes an affidavit
from Regional Director Tony O'Hare, who explains that
offenders are currently allowed to wear a 4-inch beard if
they are approved for a religious beard under the recently
amended TDCJ grooming policy (Exhibit A); copies of
Ramirez's pertinent disciplinary, classification, and
housing records (Exhibit B); and copies of the relevant
Administrative Directives for identification cards and
grooming standards (Exhibit C).
has not filed a response in opposition to any of the
arguments or evidence presented in the Martinez
Report, and his time to do so has expired. The Court has
considered the pleadings, the Martinez Report, the
evidence in the record, and the applicable law, and concludes
that this case must be dismissed for the reasons that follow.
Sunni Muslim, Ramirez contends that he is required to wear a
beard as a tenet of his religious faith (Dkt. 1 at 9). On
January 20, 2015, the Supreme Court held that a grooming
policy enforced by the Arkansas Department of Corrections,
which prohibited prisoners from growing a quarter-inch beard,
violated the RLUIPA. See Holt v. Hobbs, 135 S.Ct.
853 (2015). On February 8, 2015, Ramirez filed a Step 1
Grievance (Grievance No. 2015088390) “challenging the
constitutionality of [TDCJ's] grooming policy, ”
which at that time required all inmates to be clean shaven
unless they qualified for a medical exemption (Dkt 1-1 at 1).
Citing the decision in Hobbs, Ramirez requested
permission to wear a half-inch beard (Id. at 2). On
February 17, 2015, prison officials responded to the Step 1
Grievance by explaining that existing policy did not allow
offenders to wear beards without the proper authorization
(Dkt. 1-1 at 2). Ramirez filed a Step 2 Grievance to appeal
that result (Dkt. 1-1 at 3-4).
Ramirez submitted his Step 2 Grievance appeal he incurred a
series of disciplinary convictions at the Ramsey Unit. On
March 10, 2015, Ramirez was charged in two cases
(#20150200332 and #20150195054) stemming from separate
incidents in which he created a disturbance and then later
failed to obey an order to submit to hand restraints (Dkt.
24, Ex. B, at 23, 31). He was convicted of both disciplinary
offenses (Id.). As a result, Ramirez temporarily
lost an assortment of privileges, forfeited 15 days of
previously earned good-time credit, and was reduced in
classification status (Id.).
March 29 and 30, 2015, Ramirez was charged in two additional
cases (#20150217730 and #20150217736) with refusing to shave
in compliance with the prison grooming policy (Dkt. 24, Ex.
B, at 38, 47). Ramirez was found guilty as charged in both
cases following a hearing that he declined to attend on April
6, 2015 (Id.). As a result of these convictions,
Ramirez lost additional privileges, forfeited a total of 75
days of previously earned good-time credit, and was further
reduced in classification status (Id.). Shortly
thereafter, Ramirez was transferred from the Ramsey Unit to
the Eastham Unit (Dkt. 24, Ex. B, at 20).
April 30, 2015, prison officials responded to the Step 2
Grievance appeal that had been filed by Ramirez, noting that
TDCJ was “preparing to permit any TDCJ offender to grow
up to a half-inch beard for religious purposes, ” but
that it was “expected to take approximately six months
before this policy is implemented” (Dkt. 1-1, at 4). On
August 1, 2015, TDCJ changed its grooming policy to allow
inmates with a religious exemption to wear a beard of up to a
half inch in length (Dkt. 24-1, Ex. A at 1).
October 13, 2015, Ramirez filed his complaint in this case
(Dkt. 1). By this time, Ramirez had been transferred to the
Clements Unit in Amarillo and the new policy allowing
half-inch beards was already in effect (Dkt. 1 at 1). On
February 1, 2017, TDCJ again changed its policy to allow
religious beards up to 4 inches in length (Dkt. 24-1, Exhibit
A at 1). Ramirez contends in his sole remaining
claim that he is entitled to relief under the Due Process
Clause from the disciplinary convictions entered against him
at the Ramsey Unit for refusing to shave pursuant to the
grooming policy that was in effect at the time.
STANDARDS OF REVIEW
The PLRA and Pro Se Pleadings
the plaintiff is an inmate proceeding in forma
pauperis, the Court is required by the PLRA to
scrutinize the claims and dismiss the complaint, in whole or
in part, if it determines that the complaint “is
frivolous, malicious, or fails to state a claim upon which
relief may be granted, ” or “seeks monetary
relief from a defendant who is immune from such
relief.” 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915A(b),
1915(e)(2)(B); see also 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(c)
(providing that the court “shall on its own motion or
on the motion of a party dismiss an action” if it is
satisfied that the complaint is “frivolous, malicious,
fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, or
seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from
such relief”). An administrative report submitted by
state officials pursuant to Martinez v. Aaron, 570
F.2d 317 (10th Cir. 1978) (a “Martinez
report”), is a tool to assist courts in making a
determination of frivolity under 28 U.S.C. § 1915.
See Norton v. Dimazana, 122 F.3d 286, 292-93 (5th
Cir. 1997); see also Cay v. Estelle, 789 F.2d 318,
323 & n.4 (5th Cir. 1986) (discussing the utility of a
reviewing the pleadings, the Court is mindful of the fact
that the plaintiff in this case proceeds pro se.
Complaints filed by pro se litigants are entitled to
a liberal construction and, “however inartfully
pleaded, must be held to less stringent standards than formal
pleadings drafted by lawyers.” Erickson v.
Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007) (internal quotation marks
and citation omitted). Even under this lenient standard a
pro se plaintiff must allege more than “labels
and conclusions' or a ‘formulaic recitation of the
elements of a cause of action[.]” Ashcroft v.
Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell
Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 ...