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Barnes v. Givens

United States District Court, W.D. Texas, San Antonio Division

October 29, 2019

JOSHUA DUANE BARNES, Plaintiff,
v.
RONALD GIVENS, Senior Warden, Connally Unit; FRANK STENGEL, Assistant Warden, Connally Unit; JOE CASTILLO, Major, Connally Unit; BRYAN COLLIER, Executive Director, Texas Department of Criminal Justice; JOE GRIMES, Director of TDCJ Region IV; P. CHAPA, Assistant Director of TDCJ Region IV; AMBER JENKINS, Mailroom Supervisor, Connally Unit, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANTS' MOTION TO DISMISS AND DISMISSING PLAINTIFF'S CIVIL RIGHTS COMPLAINT

          XAVIER RODRIGUEZ, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Before the Court is “Defendants Givens, Stengel, Robinson, [1] Collier, Martinez, [2] Gaitan, [3]and Jenkins' Motion to Dismiss Pursuant to Rule 12(b)(1) & 12(b)(6).” Def.'s Mot. to Dismiss, ECF No. 22. Briefing on this motion is complete in the wake of Plaintiff Joshua Barnes's “Response to Defendants First Motion to Dismiss.” Pl.'s Resp, ECF No. 24. After reviewing the pleadings and for the reasons discussed below, the Court will grant Defendants' Motion and dismiss Plaintiff Joshua Barnes's “§ 1983 Complaint.” Pl.'s Compl., ECF No. 1.

         I. BACKGROUND AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         Barnes, Texas prisoner number 01546645, is currently incarcerated at the Telford Unit of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) in New Boston, Texas. Pl.'s Notice of Address Change, ECF No. 25; https://offender.tdcj.texas.gov/OffenderSearch/search.action (search for TDCJ No. 01546645, last visited Oct. 21, 2019). He is serving sentences imposed by state courts after his convictions for aggravated assault, burglary of a habitation, tampering with evidence, and escape. His maximum sentence date is January 25, 2052.

         Barnes objects to his prison classification and placement in a Complaint filed pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 on October 19, 2017. Pl.'s Compl., ECF No. 1. His supporting documentation establishes he received a Security Precaution Designator (SPD) Code due to his three prior convictions for escape. Pl.'s Compl., Ex. 1 (Offender Grievance Form), p. 2, ECF No. 1-1. He alleges-apparently as a consequence of the SPD Code-Defendants placed him in administrative segregation with “cell rotation” during his confinement at the Connally Unit in Kenedy, Texas. Pl.'s Compl. 1. His supporting documentation suggests he will be “eligible for SPD Review on 10/4/18 which is ten (10) years from the date of placement of SPD Code.” Pl.'s Compl., Ex. 1, p. 2.

         Barnes alleges he remained in administrative segregation continuously from October 4, 2008, until he filed his Complaint on October 19, 2017. Pl.'s Compl. 3; Ex. 1, p. 2. He claims the cell rotation required him to change cells every three-to-seven days. Pl.'s Compl. 3. He maintains this placement (1) threatened his mental and physical health because he was housed in “filthy cells smeared with feces and other body fluids”, (2) put him at greater risk from other inmates who suspected he was an informant, and (3) interfered with his ability to receive his mail. Id. at 1, 4, 6, 10. He asserts “the Defendants have never even once provided Plaintiff . . . a hearing or any other process to review his continued placement on ‘cell rotation status.'” Id. at 9. He argues these “conditions [were] so harsh and unlawful that they . . . violate the First and Eighth Amendments. Id.

         Barnes sues the Connally Unit Warden and other TDCJ personnel in their official capacities seeking declaratory and injunctive relief. Id. at 3. Specifically, he asks the Court to “[i]ssue a declaratory judgment stating that the acts and omissions of the Defendants have violated [his] rights under the First, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendments.” Id. at 20. He further asks the Court to order Defendants to “[f]ormulate and provide inmates access to an official policy with regard to ‘cell rotation status.'” Id. He finally asks the Court to order Defendants to “[i]mmediately provide [him] with a fair and meaningful review hearing for removal from ‘cell rotation status' and if the decision is to maintain [him] on this status, provide specific written reasons for the decision.” Id. at 21.

         The Court dismissed Barnes's Complaint for failure to state a non-frivolous claim. Dismissal Order, ECF No. 5. The Court reasoned a prison classification decision is “not subject to due process challenge unless it ‘imposes atypical and significant hardship on the inmate in relation to the ordinary incidents of prison life.'” Id. at 3 (quoting Sandin v. Conner, 515 U.S. 472, 484 (1995)). The Court concluded “[t]he record fail[ed] to show the requisite ‘extraordinary circumstances' that would warrant a constitutional claim.” Id.

         The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals vacated the Court's judgment and remanded the case for further proceedings. Barnes v. Givens, 746 Fed.Appx. 401, 402-03 (5th Cir. 2018). It explained the Court “did not analyze ‘the severity of the restrictive conditions and their duration.'” Id. at 402 (citing Wilkerson v. Goodwin, 774 F.3d 845, 854-55 (5th Cir. 2014) (indicating that “the severity of the restrictive conditions and their duration [are] key factors” in deciding whether a prisoner has a liberty interest in his custodial classification)). Hence, “[f]urther development of Barnes's claim is warranted, especially in light of his allegation that he has been in administrative segregation on cell rotation for a least 10 years.” Id. at 402 (citing Bailey v. Fisher, 647 Fed.Appx. 472, 476-77 (5th Cir. 2016) (“The duration of . . . confinement is a necessary component in the Sandin analysis.”). “In addition, . . . the district court failed to address his First Amendment claim involving the interference with his mail and his Eighth Amendment claim involving the conditions of his cells.” Id.

Further development of Barnes's First Amendment claim is needed based on his allegation that his incoming mail is frequently given to other inmates or ‘delayed weeks or sometimes months.' Likewise, development of Barnes's Eighth Amendment claim is warranted in light of his allegation that he was forced to live in cells that were covered with feces, urine, blood, rotten food, and chemical agents and that some of his cells also had broken light fixtures, clogged toilets, and no running water.

Id.

         The Court ordered Barnes to submit a more definite statement of his claims-which he provided. See Pl's Answer, ECF No. 19. The Court then ordered service on Defendants. Order, ECF No. 20.

         Defendants Givens, Stengel, Robinson, Collier, Martinez, Gaitan, and Jenkins responded with a Motion to Dismiss Pursuant to Rule 12(b)(1) & 12(b)(6). Mot. to Dismiss, ECF No. 22. Givens, Stengel, Robinson, Martinez, Gaitan, and Jenkins asserted they “lack[ed] the authority to create policies for TDCJ.” Id. at 3 (citing Volk v. Gonzales, Nos. 97-51032, 98-50199, 98-50386, 2000 WL 122381, at *1 (5th Cir. 2000) (“Neither defendant [warden or correctional officer] in this action had the power to effect the court's directives to expunge disciplinary cases, restore custodial classification, and restore lost good-time credits, and the district court therefore lacked power to order such relief.”). All Defendants-including TDCJ Executive Director Bryan Collier-maintained they “lack[ed] the authority to change custodial classification.” Id. Consequently, they argued:

Essentially, these are not the defendants who can effectuate Barnes requested relief. . . . Thus, Barnes fails to establish the redressability element necessary to establish a case or controversy. The Court should dismiss these claims for lack of Article III standing.

Id. (citing Okpalobi v. Foster, 244 F.3d 405, 425 (5th Cir. 2001) (“it must be likely, as opposed to merely speculative, that the injury will be redressed by a favorable decision.”).

         Defendants also asserted Barnes's claims against them in their official capacities were barred by the Eleventh Amendment. Id. at 4; see U.S. CONST. amend. XI (“The Judicial power of the United States shall not be construed to extend to any suit in law or equity, commenced or prosecuted against one of the United States by Citizens of another State, or by Citizens or Subjects of any Foreign State.”).

         Defendants noted “Barnes filed this suit October 19, 2017. Barnes complain[ed] that the unconstitutional actions began in January 2013. However, the statute of limitations bars any claims more than two years prior to the filing of his suit. Thus, any claims prior to October 19, 2015” were time barred. Id. at 8-9.

         Defendants also noted “Barnes fail[ed] to specifically allege how Defendants were personally involved in . . . violating his constitutional rights.” Id. at 9. They argued “ ‘[p]ersonal involvement is an essential element of a civil rights cause of action.' ” Id. (quoting Thompson v. Steele, 709 F.2d 381, 382 (5th Cir. 1983)).

         II. ...


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