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McCann v. TDCJ-CID

Court of Appeals of Texas, Thirteenth District, Corpus Christi-Edinburg

October 3, 2019

MICHAEL MCCANN, TDCJ NO. 879919, Appellant,
v.
TDCJ-CID, ET AL., Appellees.

          On appeal from the 343rd District Court of Bee County, Texas.

          Before Chief Justice Contreras and Justices Longoria and Perkes

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          NORA L. LONGORIA, JUSTICE.

         Appellant Michael McCann is an inmate housed in the McConnell Unit of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice-Institutional Division (TDCJ-ID). McCann brought suit pro se and in forma pauperis against appellees TDCJ-ID, and Laurie Davis and Philip Sifuentes, employees of TDCJ-ID. The trial court dismissed McCann's claims with prejudice pursuant to Chapter 14 of the Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code, see Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code Ann. §§ 14.001-.014, and declared McCann a vexatious litigant subject to a prefiling order requirement, see id. § 11.101. McCann contends that the trial court erred in dismissing his claims. We affirm.

         I. Background

         McCann filed his original complaint against appellees on November 14, 2018, alleging claims pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Specifically, he asserted that he was denied his right to marry in violation of the First and Fourteenth Amendments and that his right to marry was impermissibly burdened by TDCJ-ID's marriage policy. In his complaint, McCann alleged that he was denied marriage to Diane Miskell, a female inmate in the custody of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice at the Carol Young Medical Complex. He claims that a prison official told him he could not marry because he was still married with no divorce on record and the decision to deny his marriage was made in retaliation against McCann for his previous lawsuits. McCann argued that he completed all of the necessary requirements to marry Miskell.

         On January 9, 2019, appellees, through the Office of the Attorney General (OAG), filed their original answer and on January 11, 2019, they filed their motion to declare McCann a vexatious litigant pursuant to Chapter 11 of the civil practice and remedies code. See id. Appellees also filed a motion for a prefiling order and a motion for dismissal under Chapter 14 of the civil practice and remedies code. See id. § 14.003. McCann filed his response and a motion for sanctions against appellees. The trial court held a telephonic hearing where both parties appeared. The trial court declared McCann a vexatious litigant subject to a prefiling order, prohibited him from filing any new litigation in a court of this state without first obtaining permission from a local administrative judge, and dismissed McCann's claims with prejudice pursuant to Chapter 14. See id. §§ 11.101, 14.003. This appeal followed.

         II. Chapter 14

         In his first issue, McCann argues that the trial court abused its discretion by dismissing his claims under Chapter 14 because his claim was cognizable by law.

         A. Standard of Review and Applicable Law

         When reviewing a dismissal order under Chapter 14 of the civil practice and remedies code, the standard of review on appeal is for abuse of discretion. Hickson v. Moya, 926 S.W.2d 397, 398 (Tex. App.-Waco 1996, no writ). The trial court abuses its discretion if it acts without reference to any guiding legal principles. Id.

         The trial court has broad discretion to dismiss a lawsuit brought under Chapter 14 as frivolous or malicious. Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code Ann. § 14.003(a)(2); Jackson v. Tex. Dep't of Crim. Justice-Institutional Div., 28 S.W.3d 811, 813 (Tex. App.-Corpus Christi-Edinburg 2000, pet. denied); Lentworth v. Trahan, 981 S.W.2d 720, 722 (Tex. App.-Houston [1st Dist.] 1998, no pet). Chapter 14 provides in relevant part:

(a) A court may dismiss a claim, either before or after service of process, if ...

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