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Guzman v. Fuentez

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

December 20, 2019

WARDEN FUENTEZ, et al, Defendants.



         The Court is in receipt of Magistrate Judge B. Janice Ellington's Memorandum and Recommendation to Dismiss Case (“M&R”), Dkt. No. 12. The Court is also in receipt of Plaintiff Uvaldo Guzman's (“Guzman”) Objections to the M&R, Dkt. No. 13. The Court ADOPTS IN PART and DECLINES TO ADOPT IN PART in Magistrate Judge's Memorandum and Recommendation.

         I. Background

         Guzman is incarcerated in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, Criminal Institutions Division (TDCJ-CID) and is housed at the McConnell Unit in Beeville Texas. Dkt. No. 1. In his complaint Guzman alleges claims against Head Warden Fuentez; Assistant Warden Fernandez; Lieutenant Skinner C. Sturgis (“Sturgis”); and Sergeant Tommy L. West (“West”). Id. at 1. He alleges deliberate indifference and retaliation claims against Defendants. Id.; Dkt. No. 12 at 2. The M&R adequately summarizes the facts underlying his complaint:

At all relevant times, Plaintiff was housed in administrative segregation in a single cell. His placement in administrative segregation resulted from being charged with assaulting a TDCJ officer at another prison unit. Early in the morning on May 23, 2018, Plaintiff met with his attorney's investigator to discuss the pending charge. Because both Plaintiff and the investigator have bad hearing, a prison official moved Plaintiff to a room containing seven shakedown cages. The room containing the cages is located in the same building as Plaintiff's cell.
Plaintiff was placed into one of the shakedown cages by Lt. Sturgis while the investigator remained on the outside. Plaintiff described the cage as seven feet tall with just enough room for one person to spread out his arms. The cage contains one place to sit down, and the meshing wire allows the occupant to see through and to communicate to people on the outside. The cage contains no running water and no toilet.
Only one door leads into the room containing the shakedown cages, and there were no cameras placed inside the room. The door is locked by a regular key. According to Plaintiff, a camera in the hallway watches the door leading into the room containing the shakedown cages. Plaintiff did not know whether the camera watching the door was monitored by a picket officer. No. other person was inside any other cage during the time Plaintiff was locked in the shakedown cage.
Plaintiff's meeting with his attorney's investigator began at 9:00 a.m. When Plaintiff met with the investigator, the door to the room was open. Plaintiff's meeting with his investigator took around forty minutes, at which time the investigator left through the open door.
Plaintiff remained locked in the shakedown cage after the investigator left. Lt. Sturgis entered the room sometime after lunch. Plaintiff informed Lt. Sturgis that he was done and would like to return to his cell. Lt. Sturgis responded that he would be right back to take Plaintiff to his cell. Lt. Sturgis further informed Plaintiff that the investigator had failed to inform him that the meeting was completed.
Sometime later that day, Sgt. West entered the room. Sgt. West informed Plaintiff that the officers did not know his meeting was over with the investigator and that he would be right back to return Plaintiff to his cell. Plaintiff never saw Sgt. West again during the rest of the time he was inside the cage. Lt. Sturgis returned to the room three more times every two hours or so. Lt. Sturgis made fun of Plaintiff, saying to Plaintiff that he was going to stay in the cage and that Lt. Sturgis had Plaintiff right where he wanted him. Plaintiff was aware that people were walking by the door all day long. Plaintiff yelled out a couple of times but nobody answered from the hallway. He also feel asleep at various times during his stay in the cage. The door remained open until shift change which occurred around 6:00 p.m. An inmate walking down the hall way closed the door Plaintiff was never offered water or food by Lt. Sturgis and Sgt. West. Plaintiff had no access to bathroom facilities. After shift change, Plaintiff did not see anyone again until he was released from the cage. During his stay in the cage, Plaintiff went to the bathroom one time in his pants. Plaintiff estimates there were two or three roster counts in his cell during the time he languished in the shakedown cage. Plaintiff ultimately was released from the cage at 4:00 a.m. the next morning, which meant that he spent approximately nineteen hours in the cage. Several officers participated in releasing Plaintiff from the cage. When asked why they left Plaintiff in the cage, Lt. Sturgis and Sgt. West said they were unaware that Plaintiff was in the cage. During the time Plaintiff was left in the cage, he had no access to water, food, or the bathroom. Plaintiff missed three meals while in the cage. Plaintiff testified that he felt fine physically when he was released. He was immediately taken to the infirmary where he was given water to drink for possible dehydration.

         Dkt. No. 12 at 2-5.

         The Magistrate Judge issued her M&R on April 1, 2019 as a frivolousness screening pursuant to the Prison Litigation Reform Act. See 42 U.S.C.A. § 1997e; 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B). The Magistrate Judge recommends dismissing Guzman's claims against Defendants in their official capacities as barred by the Eleventh Amendment. Dkt. No. 12 at 1-2. The Magistrate Judge also recommends dismissing all of Guzman's other claims for failure to state and claim and/or frivolousness and to count the dismissal as a “strike.” Id.

         Guzman is illiterate but through the assistance of another incarcerated person he objects to the M&R on the grounds that the Magistrate Judge has misinterpreted the severity of the harm that occurred; that Guzman has alleged facts which demonstrate retaliation and a deliberate indifference by Defendants to his 19-hour containment in the cell. Dkt No. 13 at 2.

         II. ...

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