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Russell v. Dallas County Jail

United States District Court, N.D. Texas, Dallas Division

October 1, 2019

Patrick Gene Russell, #18016446, Plaintiff,
Dallas County Jail, et al., Defendants.



         Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b) and Special Order 3, this case was referred to the United States magistrate judge for case management, including the issuance of findings and a recommended disposition. The Court granted Plaintiff Patrick Gene Russell's motion to proceed in forma pauperis, but did not issue process pending preliminary screening. Doc. 10; Doc. 4. Upon review of the relevant pleadings and applicable law, this case should be summarily DISMISSED WITH PREJUDICE as frivolous.

         I. BACKGROUND

         On July 29, 2019, Russell, a Dallas County Jail inmate, filed a pro se prisoner civil rights complaint against the Dallas County Jail and Officers Frey and Brown. Doc. 3 at 1. He asserts that on June 12, 2019, he was (1) removed from his cell, (2) informed that he had “too many books, ” and (3) ordered to leave all his property behind so that Officer Frey could search for any contraband. Doc. 3 at 4. The following day, however, Russell discovered that all his religious materials, dictionaries, and some of his “legal letters” were missing. Doc. 3 at 6. He requests that the Court “[d]eclare a mistrial in ALL cases in Dallas County Court” and award him $300 “per day for incarseration [sic] since [his] arrival in Dallas, Texas.” Doc. 3 at 6. Upon review, Russell's complaint lacks any legal basis and should be dismissed as frivilous.

         II. ANALYSIS

         Because Plaintiff is proceeding in forma pauperis, his complaint is subject to screening under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B) and 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b). Those statutes provide for the sua sponte dismissal of a complaint if the Court finds that it (1) is frivolous or malicious, (2) fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or (3) seeks monetary relief against a defendant who is immune from such relief. 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 complaint lacks an arguable basis in law when it is “based on an indisputably meritless legal theory, ” Id. at 327, and fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted if it does not plead “enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face, ” Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007).

         The Court must always liberally construe pleadings filed by pro se litigants. See Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007) (noting pro se pleadings “must be held to less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers”); Cf.Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(e) (“Pleadings must be construed so as to do justice.”). Even under the most liberal construction, however, Russell's claims are frivolous.

         A. Loss of Property

         Plaintiff claim that his books and mail were taken lacks any basis in federal law. Whether intentional or negligent, a “random and unauthorized” deprivation of property neither violates the Constitution nor states a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 when adequate state post-deprivation remedies are available. Hudson v. Palmer, 468 U.S. 517, 533 (1984). Texas law provides adequate state post-deprivation remedies, including a state action for the tort of conversion. Brewster v. Dretke, 587 F.3d 764, 768 (5th Cir. 2009) (citing Murphy v. Collins, 26 F.3d 541, 543-44 (5th Cir. 1994)). Because Plaintiff has available state post-deprivation remedies, his federal claim based on the alleged taking of his personal property is legally frivolous under Hudson. See Stauffer v. Gearhart, 741 F.3d 574, 583 (5th Cir. 2014) (“In Texas, when an inmate's property is taken without compensation, his remedy is in state court, not federal court.”).

         B. Habeas Relief

         To the extent Russell seeks a “mistrial” or to dismiss his state criminal charges, his claim is not cognizable under section 1983. See Wilkinson v. Dotson, 544 U.S. 74, 78 (2005) (“a prisoner in state custody cannot use a § 1983 action to challenge ‘the fact or duration of his confinement'” (quoting Preiser v. Rodriguez, 411 U.S. 475, 498 (1973))). Constitutional challenges to state court charges and convictions are generally cognizable in a federal habeas corpus action after exhaustion of state court remedies. See28 U.S.C. §§ 2241, 2254. Thus, this claim also lacks any legal basis.


         Generally “a pro se litigant should be offered an opportunity to amend his complaint before it is dismissed, ” however the court is not required to grant leave to amend “if the plaintiff has already pleaded his ‘best case.” Brewster v. Dretke, 587 F.3d 764, 767-768 (5th Cir. 2009) For the reasons outlined here, Russell's claims are fatally infirm and cannot be cured by amendment. Thus, granting leave to amend would be futile and cause needless delay.

         IV. ...

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