Rice v. Williams et al
ORDER ADOPTING REPORT AND RECOMMENDATIONS for 43 Report and Recommendations, 42 Motion to Alter Judgment filed by Earl Rice. Signed by Judge Robert W. Schroeder, III on 08/04/2015. (nkl, )
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE EASTERN DISTRICT OF TEXAS
CIVIL ACTION NO. 5:13cv82
MEMORANDUM ADOPTING REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
OF THE UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
AND DENYING MOTION TO ALTER OR AMEND THE JUDGMENT
The Plaintiff Earl Rice, proceeding pro se, filed this civil rights lawsuit under 42 U.S.C.
§1983 complaining of alleged violations of his constitutional rights during his confinement in the
Texas Department of Criminal Justice, Correctional Institutions Division. This Court ordered that
the case be referred to the United States Magistrate Judge pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §636(b)(1) and (3)
and the Amended Order for the Adoption of Local Rules for the Assignment of Duties to United
States Magistrate Judges.
Rice complained on October 29, 2011, he received a major disciplinary case for possession
of contraband (money) after a visit from his brother Earnest Rice and his mother Ivogene Rice. On
November 15, 2011, he was notified his mother and brother had been removed from his approved
visitation list due to their alleged involvement in introducing money onto the unit and giving it to
him during a visit. He was found guilty on the disciplinary case and appealed the guilty verdict
without success, but relief was subsequently granted by Elaina Fields, a program supervisor in the
Region II office. Documents furnished by Rice state the case was overturned because “a procedural
error was noted.”
After the case was overturned, Rice asked the Director’s Review Committee to have his
mother and brother put back on his approved visitation list, but the Committee refused. Rice claims
the failure to place his mother and brother back on his visitation list after the case was overturned
violated his right to due process as well as his right to freedom of speech and association.
In response to the lawsuit, the Defendants stated the disciplinary case was overturned because
the hearing officer did not sign the paperwork at the conclusion of the hearing. This procedural error
did not affect the decision of the Director’s Review Committee to deny the request for reinstatement
of visitation privileges. The Defendants also asserted Rice cannot show the violation of a
constitutional right and invoked qualified immunity.
Rice maintains there was no evidence the case was overturned because the hearing officer
did not sign the form. He stated he raised insufficiency of the evidence on appeal, not the failure of
the hearing officer to sign the form, and argued the case was actually overturned based on the lack
of evidence, although he points to no documentation citing lack of evidence to overturn the case.
Rice also argued the First Amendment prohibits prison officials from subjecting prisoners to denial
of visitation privileges.
The district court granted the Defendants’ motion for summary judgment and dismissed the
lawsuit, concluding the disciplinary case was overturned on procedural rather than evidentiary
grounds, and the fact his disciplinary case was overturned for procedural reasons did not entitle him
to the restoration of visitation privileges with persons who sought to convey contraband to him. The
district court also concluded the Defendants were entitled to qualified immunity.
Rice then filed a motion to alter or amend the judgment under Fed. R. Civ. P. 59(e), arguing
the judgment should be altered based on the “unresolved issue” of why the disciplinary case was
overturned. He states the inter-office communication he received from Elaina Fields simply states
a procedural error was noted and the case would be overturned with the option to rehear, but did not
identify the procedural error. Rice acknowledges Warden Calfee “insinuated” the case was
overturned because of the failure by the hearing officer to sign the form, but maintains there is a
genuine issue of material fact precluding the granting of summary judgment.
The Magistrate Judge issued a Report recommending Rice’s motion to alter or amend the
judgment be denied. The Magistrate Judge determined the summary judgment evidence showed the
disciplinary case was overturned on procedural grounds, stating “no documents in the record
suggested the disciplinary case was overturned based on insufficient evidence.” The Magistrate
Judge also stated the information available to the Defendants showed the disciplinary case was
overturned based on a procedural error and they acted reasonably given the information they
possessed; thus, the Defendants were entitled to qualified immunity.
In his objections, Rice contends the summary judgment evidence shows the disciplinary case
was overturned because the evidence was insufficient, but he points to no documents or other
evidence substantiating this claim. He then goes on to state “the summary judgment evidence does
not show the specific procedural error was ]sic] committed” and states “without an explanation from
Elaina Fields, the reviewing authority on appeal, we are in a genuine dispute over material facts that
Rice’s objections are without merit. Nothing in the record indicated the disciplinary case was
overturned for evidentiary insufficiency. Instead, the summary judgment evidence shows the case
was overturned because of the procedural error of the hearing officer’s failure to sign the form at the
conclusion of the hearing. Rice did not object to or address the Magistrate Judge’s determination
that the Defendants were entitled to qualified immunity.
The Court has conducted a careful de novo review of those portions of the Magistrate Judge’s
proposed findings and recommendations to which the Plaintiff objected. See 28 U.S.C. §636(b)(1)
(district judge shall “make a de novo determination of those portions of the report or specified
proposed findings or recommendations to which objection is made.”) Upon such de novo review,
the Court has determined that the Report of the Magistrate Judge is correct and the Plaintiff’s
objections are without merit. It is accordingly
ORDERED that the Plaintiff’s objections are overruled and the Report of the Magistrate
Judge (docket no. 43) is ADOPTED as the opinion of the District Court. It is further
ORDERED that the Plaintiff’s motion to alter or amend the judgment (ECF TXED 5:13-cv82, 42) is DENIED. Fed. R. Civ. P. 59(e).
SIGNED this 4th day of August, 2015.
ROBERT W. SCHROEDER III
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Disclaimer: Justia Dockets & Filings provides public litigation records from the federal appellate and district courts. These filings and docket sheets should not be considered findings of fact or liability, nor do they necessarily reflect the view of Justia.
Why Is My Information Online?