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Edwards v. Davis

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

September 24, 2019

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

          AMENDED [1] MEMORANDUM AND RECOMMENDATION TO DENY DIRECTOR DAVIS'S MOTION FOR JUDGMENT ON THE PLEADINGS

          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 protection rights were violated when his custody classification level was lowered to a more restrictive level. Pending before the Court is a Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings 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.

         An evidentiary hearing was held on August 8, 2018. On August 21, 2018, the undersigned issued a Memorandum and Recommendation (August 21, 2018 M&R), recommending that the Court retain Plaintiffs equal protection claim against TDCJ Director Davis in her official capacity for injunctive and declaratory relief. (D.E. 8, pp. 7-9). The undersigned determined that TDCJ Director Davis, as opposed to Defendant White was more likely to have the authority to grant the injunctive relief requested by Plaintiff. (D.E. 8, p. 8). The undersigned further recommended that the Court dismiss all remaining claims and Defendant White for failure to state a claim and/or as frivolous. (D.E. 8, p. 9). 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). On March 14, 2019, the undersigned issued a Memorandum and Recommendation (March 14, 2019 M&R). recommending that Director Davis's Motion to Dismiss be denied. (D.E. 19). The undersigned first determined in the March 14, 2019 M&R that Plaintiffs request for prospective injunctive relief against Director Davis should not be barred by the Eleventh Amendment because Plaintiff has stated a plausible equal protection claim against Director Davis and, "therefore, should have the opportunity to engage in discovery and prove both his claim and entitlement to the prospective injunctive relief requested." (D.E. 19, p. 7). The undersigned later explained that Plaintiff had alleged sufficient facts to make a "class of one" equal protection claim. (D.E. 19, p. 9). Thus, the undersigned concluded that dismissal of Plaintiff's claim was not appropriate under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). (D.E. 19).

         Senior District Judge Hilda G. Tagle subsequently adopted both the August 21, 2018 M&R and the March 14, 2019 M&R. (D.E. 26). On April 12, 2019, Director Davis filed her answer, asserting the defense of qualified immunity. (D.E. 21). In a scheduling order, the undersigned directed that: (1) discovery in this case is due to expire on September 13, 2019; and (2) dispositive motions are due to be filed on or before the same date. (D.E. 22).

         On June 10, 2019, Director Davis filed a Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(c). (D.E. 28). Director Davis subsequently submitted a supplement to her Rule 12(c) motion. (D.E. 31). On July 11, 2019, Plaintiff filed his response. (D.E. 32).

         III. PLAINTIFF'S ALLEGATIONS

         The following representations relevant to Plaintiffs equal protection claim against Director Davis were made either in Plaintiffs original complaint (D.E. 1) or at the evidentiary 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. ...


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