United States District Court, S.D. Texas, Galveston Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
C. HANKS JR. UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Aaron Striz, an inmate at the Texas Department of Criminal
Justice- Correctional Institutions Division
(“TDCJ”), filed this civil rights action alleging
that he is confined in administrative segregation at the
Darrington Unit in violation of the Due Process Clause and
other constitutional guarantees. The Court ordered service on
three Defendants at TDCJ's Darrington Unit: Warden
Butcher, Major Pharr, and Unit Classification Manager Davis.
Defendants filed a motion to dismiss (Dkt. 12), to which
Plaintiff responded (Dkt. 13). Simultaneously with his
response, Plaintiff filed a proposed supplemental pleading
(Dkt. 13-1). In addition, Plaintiff has filed a motion for
leave to file an amended complaint (Dkt. 11), a motion for
appointment of counsel (Dkt. 14), and a letter inquiring
about whether discovery motions are permitted at this stage
of the case (Dkt. 15).
alleges that he has been confined in administrative
segregation for more than 17 years and that TDCJ has no valid
penological reason to continue to confine him there. He also
alleges that, although he receives regular classification
reviews, the hearings are a perfunctory sham. He claims that
he has fulfilled every requirement listed by TDCJ for release
from administrative segregation and has satisfied all
requirements to disassociate from gang membership, but that
TDCJ continues to deny him release based on gang affiliation
information that TDCJ acknowledges is outdated. He also
claims that TDCJ imposes conditions for release, such as
completion of the GRAD program, with which TDCJ then makes it
impossible for him to comply by denying him admission to the
has filed multiple grievances regarding his classification
every year since 2010, at three different TDCJ units,
including after every periodic classification review of his
housing status. All of the grievances have been denied.
brings claims for violation of his constitutional rights
under the Due Process Clause, the Equal Protection Clause,
and the Eighth Amendment (Dkt. 1). His proposed amended
pleadings seek to add claims under the Ex Post Facto Clause
and the First Amendment's prohibition on retaliation
(Dkt. 11-1). The proposed amended pleadings also seek to add
two new Defendants from the Darrington Unit: Assistant Warden
James Powers and Classification Chief Myra M. Montez.
Plaintiff's proposed supplemental complaint (Dkt. 13-1)
alleges that in February 2019, after he filed this suit,
Defendants changed their reason for his confinement in
administrative segregation and continue to deny him release
to general population. Defendants have not opposed
Plaintiff's requests to amend or supplement his
seeks (1) a declaratory judgment that his rights have been
violated; (2) injunctive relief in the form of either (a)
release from administrative segregation or (b) an order
directing TDCJ to allow him to participate in the GRAD
program and thus earn his release from administrative
segregation; and (3) punitive damages in the amount of $125
for each day he was wrongfully confined in administrative
segregation (Dkt. 1; see Dkt. 11-1).
Motion to Dismiss (Dkt. 12)
Butcher, Pharr, and Davis, the three defendants on whom the
Court ordered service, have filed a motion to dismiss (Dkt.
12) and Plaintiff has responded (Dkt. 13). A motion to
dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) may be granted if the pleading
“fail[s] to state a claim upon which relief can be
granted.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). In considering a Rule
12(b)(6) motion, courts generally must accept the factual
allegations contained in the complaint as true.
Harrington v. State Farm Fire & Cas. Co., 563
F.3d 141, 147 (5th Cir. 2009). Federal pleading rules require
“only ‘a short and plain statement of the claim
showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.'”
Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007)
(quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2)). The complaint must, however,
contain sufficient factual allegations, as opposed to legal
conclusions, to state a claim for relief that is
“plausible on its face.” Ashcroft v.
Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 677-78 (2009); see Patrick v.
Wal-Mart, Inc., 681 F.3d 614, 617 (5th Cir. 2012). The
pleadings also must claim that the plaintiff is entitled to
relief under a valid legal theory. See Neitzke v.
Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 327 (1989); Geiger v.
Jowers, 404 F.3d 371, 373 (5th Cir. 2005).
first urge that Plaintiff may not seek monetary damages
against Defendants in their official capacities. A claim
against a state employee in his or her official capacity is a
claim against the State of Texas. See Mayfield v. Tex.
Dep't of Crim. Justice, 529 F.3d 599, 604 (5th Cir.
2008). Because the Eleventh Amendment protects the
states' sovereign immunity, federal courts lack
jurisdiction over suits against a state for money damages
unless the state has waived its immunity or Congress has
clearly abrogated that immunity. NiGen Biotech, L.L.C.,
v. Paxton, 804 F.3d 389, 393- 94 (5th Cir. 2015);
Moore v. La. Bd. Of Elem. And Secondary Educ., 743
F.3d 959, 963 (5th Cir. 2014). Texas has not waived its
Eleventh Amendment immunity, and Congress did not abrogate
that immunity when enacting Section 1983. NiGen, 804
F.3d at 394. Therefore, any claims for money damages against
Defendants in their official capacities are subject to
dismissal for lack of jurisdiction under the Eleventh
Amendment. Plaintiff does not oppose this portion of
Defendants' motion, and clarifies in his response that he
is not seeking money damages against Defendants in their
official capacities (Dkt. 13, at 1). Defendant's motion
to dismiss on this issue therefore will be
granted under Rules 12(b)(1) and 12(b)(6).
other respects, Defendants' motion to dismiss will be
denied without prejudice to Defendants'
arguments raised in the motion. Simply put, the motion to
dismiss does not comprehensively engage the facts alleged by
Plaintiff, including his allegation that he has been confined
in administrative segregation for 17 years with perfunctory
hearings that offer no realistic possibility of release to
general population. Defendants cite authority that
confinement in administrative segregation, absent atypical or
extraordinary circumstances, does not implicate a
constitutional liberty interest (Dkt.12, at 3-4 (citing,
e.g., Sandin v. Conner, 515 U.S. 472
(1995)). However, as Plaintiff argues in response,
Defendants' briefing does not address whether
extraordinary circumstances are present in this case, and
does not analyze the applicability of other potentially
relevant authorities. See, e.g., Wilkinson v.
Austin, 545 U.S. 209 (2005); Wilkerson v.
Goodwin, 774 F.3d 845 (5th Cir. 2014); Hernandez v.
Velasquez, 522 F.3d 556 (5th Cir. 2008). As the Fifth
Circuit recently has held, the duration of an inmate's
confinement in segregation and the nature of the confinement
are relevant under the Sandin test and, in some
cases, “effectively indefinite” detention in
segregation may constitute an “atypical and significant
hardship” under Sandin. See
Wilkerson, 774 F.3d at 855. On the current record, the
Court cannot assess the applicability of these authorities to
motion also wholly fails to address Plaintiff's claims
under the Equal Protection Clause or the Eighth Amendment.
these reasons, Defendants' request that the Court dismiss
all of Plaintiff's claims against them with prejudice is
not warranted on this record. See Fed. R. Civ. P.
12(b)(6); Harrington, 563 F.3d at 147 (in reviewing
a motion under Rule 12(b)(6), a plaintiff's claims must
be viewed “in the light most favorable to the plaintiff
and with every doubt resolved on his behalf”) (internal
citations and quotation marks omitted). Defendants'
motion will be denied without prejudice
except as specifically granted above.
Motion to Amend (Dkt. 11) and Motion to
Supplement (Dkt. 13)
has filed a motion for leave to amend his pleadings (Dkt. 11)
and also seeks to file supplemental pleadings (Dkt. 13-1).