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Jones v. Harris County

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

May 31, 2019

MATTHEW THOMAS JONES, SPN #02885720, Plaintiff,
v.
HARRIS COUNTY, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          KEITH P. ELLISON, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Plaintiff, a pretrial detainee proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis, filed this section 1983 lawsuit against Harris County for alleged violations of his constitutional rights.

         Having screened the complaint as required by section 1915, the Court dismisses this lawsuit for the reasons explained below.

         I. BACKGROUND AND CLAIMS

         Plaintiff is in custody of the Harris County Sheriffs Office awaiting trial on felony and misdemeanor charges for forgery, possess ion of child pornography, super aggravated sexual assault of a child under the age of six, making terroristic threats to family or household, and online solicitation of a child under the age of fourteen. At the time of his arrest, plaintiff was on deferred adjudication supervised release pursuant to a 2017 charge for enticing a child with intent to commit a felony.

         Plaintiff complains that he has been denied pretrial bonds in his felony cases and speedy trials following his arrest in July 2018i. He further complains that he was denied "problem cause court" after his arrest. He seeks $75, 000.00 in monetary compensation for these alleged denials of his constitutional rights.

         II. ANALYSIS

         A. Section 1915

         Because plaintiff is a prisoner who proceeds in forma pauperis, the Court is required to scrutinize the claims and dismiss his complaint, in whole or in part, if it determines that the complaint "is frivolous, malicious, or fail:; 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. § 1915(e)(2)(B).

         A complaint is frivolous when it "lacks an arguable basis either in law or in fact." Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 325 (1989). A claim lacks an arguable basis in law when it is "based on an indisputably meritless legal theory." Id. at 327. A complaint fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted when it fails to plead "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007); see also Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662 (2009). When reviewing a pro se plaintiffs complaint, a court must construe the allegations as liberally as possible. Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519(1972).

         B. Denial of Pretrial Bond

         A pretrial bond was set in plaintiffs pending misdemeanor case, but not in his four pending felony cases.[1] Plaintiff contends that these denials of felony pretrial bonds violated his constitutional rights under the Eighth Amendment. Plaintiff limits his request for judicial relief to recovery of monetary compensation from Harris County, and does not seek prospective or other non-monetary relief.

         Plaintiffs argument is misplaced. The Excessive Bail Clause of the Eighth Amendment provides that "[e]xcessive bail shall not be required." U.S. CONST., amend. VIII. But the Eighth Amendment "says nothing about whether bail shall be available at all." United States v. Salerno, 481 U.S. 739, 752 (1987); see also Butler v. Harris County Jail, 2019 WL 1438291, at *2 (S.D. Tex. Mar. 29, 2019) (dismissing for failure to state a claim pretrial detainee's Eighth Amendment claim for denial of felony pretrial bond). Consequently, plaintiffs allegation that the state district judges denied him felony pretrial bonds does not, standing alone, establish an actionable Eighth Amendment violation for purposes of section 1983. See Carlson v. London, 342 U.S. 524, 545-46 (1952) ("[The Excessive Bail Clause] has never been thought to accord a right to bail in all cases, but merely to provide that bail shall not be excessive in those cases where it is proper to grant bail.").

         Plaintiffs factual allegations raise no viable claim for violation of the Eighth Amendment, and his ...


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