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Edwards v. Davis

United States District Court, S.D. Texas, Corpus Christi Division

March 14, 2019

WILLIAM DARRELL EDWARDS, Plaintiff,
v.
LORIE DAVIS, et al, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM AND RECOMMENDATION TO DENY DIRECTOR DAVIS'S MOTION TO DISMISS

          Jason B. Libby, United States Magistrate Judge.

         Plaintiff William Darrell Edwards is an inmate appearing pro se and in forma pauperis. In this prisoner civil rights action filed pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, Plaintiff claims that his due process and equal protections rights were violated when his custody classification level was lowered to a more restrictive level. Pending before the Court is a Motion to Dismiss filed by Defendant Lorie Davis. (D.E. 12). For the reasons stated herein, it is respectfully recommended that the Court DENY this motion.

         I. JURISDICTION

         The Court has federal question jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331. This case has been referred to the undersigned magistrate judge for case management and making recommendations on dispositive motions pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636.

         II. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff is a prisoner at the McConnell Unit of the TDCJ. He is currently serving several life sentences on four convictions for aggravated sexual assault of a child and two twenty-year sentences on convictions for indecency with a child by sexual contact. These convictions were entered on December 19, 2001, in Potter County, Texas.

         Plaintiff sues the following defendants: (1) TDCJ Director Lorie Davis; and (2) Joni White, the TDCJ Assistant Director-Classifications and Records. Plaintiff claims that his due process and equal protection rights were violated when the TDCJ applied a new policy to reclassify Plaintiff from his G2 custody classification level to the more restrictive G3 classification level. Plaintiff seeks declaratory and injunctive relief.

         A Spears[1] hearing was held on August 8, 2018. On August 21, 2018, the undersigned issued a Memorandum and Recommendation (M&R), recommending that the Court: (1) retain Plaintiff's equal protection claim against TDCJ Director Davis in her official capacity for injunctive and declaratory relief; and (2) dismiss all remaining claims and Defendant White for failure to state a claim and/or as frivolous. (D.E. 8). The undersigned ordered service of Plaintiff's complaint on Director Davis. (D.E. 10). On October 5, 2018, Director Davis filed a Motion to Dismiss. (D.E. 12). Plaintiff subsequently filed his response to Director Davis's motion. (D.E. 15).

         III. PLAINTIFF'S ALLEGATIONS

         The following representations relevant to Plaintiff's equal protection claim against Director Davis were made either in Plaintiff's original complaint (D.E. 1) or at the Spears hearing: In January 2002, Plaintiff entered into the TDCJ prison system and was subsequently classified at the G3 custody level in late March 2002.

         Under the G3 custody level, inmates are only allowed to have certain jobs such as working in the kitchen. In contrast, inmates with a G2 custody level have more favorable options with regard to jobs assignments within the prison. G2 prisoners also have the ability to learn a trade. With regard to housing, G3 inmates are assigned to the main building in a two-man cell where the cell door is locked during the day. Inmates classified at the G2 custody level live in dormitories where the door is not locked, and inmates can come and go from their cells.

         In 2010, Plaintiff was classified at the G2 custody level and was subsequently moved into the prison dorms. As a G2 inmate, Plaintiff was assigned to work in the garment factory. On September 13, 2016, the Unit Classification Committee (UCC) applied a new policy, effective September 1, 2016, to reclassify Plaintiff back to the more restrictive G3 custody level. The new policy applied to any inmate who has consecutive sentences where the total amount of time needed to become parole eligible on the consecutive sentences exceeds 60 years. The UCC explained to Plaintiff that he was reclassified due to having received consecutive life sentences and twenty-year sentences out of Potter County.

         Plaintiff testified that other inmates with multiple consecutive life sentences have remained classified at the G2 custody level. Plaintiff specifically cited one inmate with multiple consecutive life sentences who still lives in the dorms. Plaintiff has filed both informal and formal grievances challenging his reclassification to the G3 custody level.

         Plaintiff attached a set of Step 1 and Step 2 grievances to his complaint, in which he identified other inmates with similar consecutive sentences as receiving more favorable treatment in being returned to G2 status, remaining in the dorms, and getting their former jobs back. (D.E. 1, pp. 7, 9). Nevertheless, all of Plaintiff's ...


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