Brewer v. Williams et al
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER Email sent to Manager of Three Strikes List. (Signed by Judge Nancy F Atlas) Parties notified.(sashabranner, 4)
United States District Court
Southern District of Texas
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF TEXAS
EDDIE EUGENE BREWER,
BETTY J. WILLIAMS, et al.,
February 13, 2018
David J. Bradley, Clerk
CIVIL ACTION NO. H-16-3686
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
State inmate Eddie Eugene Brewer (TDCJ #723891) has filed a civil rights
complaint under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, challenging the conditions of his confinement in
the Texas Department of Criminal Justice - Correctional Institutions Division
(“TDCJ”). At the Court’s request, Brewer has also filed a more definite statement of
his claims [Doc. # 26]. Because Brewer is a prisoner proceeding in forma pauperis,
the Court is required by the Prison Litigation Reform Act (“PLRA”) to scrutinize the
pleadings and dismiss the case if it is frivolous or malicious, fails to state a claim on
which relief may be granted, or seeks monetary relief against a defendant who is
immune from such relief. See 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915A(b), 1915(e)(2)(B). After
reviewing all of the pleadings and the applicable law, the Court concludes that this
case must be dismissed for reasons set forth below.
Brewer sues the following health care providers employed by TDCJ at the Ellis
Unit in Huntsville, where Brewer was confined at the time he filed his complaint: (1)
Dr. Betty J. Williams; (2) P.A. Toni L. Deer; (3) N.P. Vivian N. Elege; (4) Practice
Manager B. Davis; and (5) R.N. Paula Reed, who reportedly serves as a “Health
Services Monitor.”1 In addition to these health care providers, Brewer sues Assistant
Warden Keith Gorsuch and Officer Jones.2
Brewer takes issue with his classification and placement in the Ellis Unit, where
he was first assigned in January 2015.3 Brewer explains that he has “bad knees” as
the result of a fall in 2002.4 Due to chronic knee pain and back issues, Brewer has
great difficulty navigating stairs.5 Brewer notes that the law library at the Ellis Unit
is located up “two flights of stairs” on the second floor of the facility.6 Brewer claims
that the stairs impose an impediment to accessing the law library that has frustrated
his ability to work on a probate dispute with his brother and has denied him access to
Complaint [Doc. # 1], at 4.
Id. at 5.
More Definite Statement [Doc. # 26], at 2.
Complaint [Doc. # 1], at 6.
Id. at 7.
the courts as a result.7 Brewer blames the health care providers for failing to impose
a “no climbing” restriction on his classification so that he could be re-assigned to a
unit with a law library on the first floor.8
Brewer also claims that Dr. Williams improperly cleared him to perform work
on a “field squad” on September 29, 2015, despite his knee problems and other
medical issues.9 When Brewer turned out for work on October 21, 2015, he
complained to Officer Jones that he could not perform the work was assigned to do,
which involved chopping down tall grass a hoe.10 Brewer claims that Officer Jones
and Assistant Warden Gorsuch, who were supervising the field squad that day,
threatened him with a disciplinary case if he did not “keep up” and perform this work
More Definite Statement [Doc. # 26], at 6-8.
Id. at 6.
Complaint [Doc. # 1], at 7.
More Definite Statement [Doc. # 26], at 3, 12.
Alleging that he was denied access to courts and forced to perform work that
exceeded his physical ability, Brewer seeks monetary damages under 42 U.S.C.
§ 1983 for the violation of his constitutional rights.12
Access to Courts
Brewer contends that he was denied access to the courts because, unable to
access the law library, he could not work on a probate matter. The Supreme Court
held in Bounds v. Smith, 430 U.S. 817, 821 (1977), that prisoners have a constitutional
right to access the courts. The Supreme Court later clarified, however, that “Bounds
did not create an abstract, freestanding right to a law library or legal assistance.” Lewis
v. Casey, 518 U.S. 343, 351 (1996). Rather, access to a prison law library is only a
means for assuring “a reasonably adequate opportunity [for an inmate] to file
nonfrivolous legal claims challenging . . . convictions or conditions of confinement.”
Id. at 356; see also Jones v. Greninger, 188 F.3d 322, 325 (5th Cir. 1999) (observing
that a prisoner’s right to access the courts encompasses only a reasonably adequate
Complaint [Doc. # 1], at 6. Brewer also seeks injunctive relief in the form of a unit
transfer. See id. Because Brewer was transferred to the McConnell Unit in January 2017
[Doc. # 26, at 1], his request for injunctive relief is moot. See Oliver v. Scott, 276 F.3d 736,
741 (5th Cir. 2002).
opportunity to file nonfrivolous legal claims challenging his conviction or conditions
Brewer’s probate dispute did not involve an attack on his conviction or the
conditions of his confinement. As a result, this is not the kind of claim for which the
Constitution requires a prison system to provide legal resources. See Lewis, 518 U.S.
at 355; see also Terry v. Hubert, 609 F.3d 757, 761 (5th Cir. 2010); Loden v. Hayes,
208 F. App’x 356, 359 (5th Cir. 2006). Therefore, Brewer’s access-to-courts claim
must be dismissed as frivolous because it “rests on an indisputably meritless legal
theory.” Gardner v. Defriend, 699 F. App’x 364, 365 (5th Cir. 2017) (per curiam)
(citing Eason v. Thaler, 14 F.3d 8, 9 n.5 (5th Cir. 1994)).
Brewer complains further that he was assigned to a field squad and forced to
perform work that exceeded his physical capacity. “[P]rison work requirements which
compel inmates to perform physical labor [that] is beyond their strength, endangers
their lives, or causes undue pain constitutes cruel and unusual punishment.” Howard
v. King, 707 F.2d 215, 219 (5th Cir. 1983) (citing Ray v. Mabry, 556 F.2d 881, 882
(8th Cir. 1977)). To demonstrate an Eighth Amendment violation in this context, a
prisoner must show that a prison official knowingly assigned him to perform work
that would “significantly aggravate” a serious medical condition with deliberate
indifference to his serious medical needs. See Jackson v. Cain, 864 F.2d 1235, 1246
(5th Cir. 1989).
To establish deliberate indifference, a prisoner must demonstrate that (1) the
defendant was aware of facts from which he or she could deduce that the inmate’s
health was at risk and (2) that the defendant actually drew an inference that the
potential for harm existed. See Bradley v. Puckett, 157 F.3d 1022, 1025 (5th Cir.
1998) (citing Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 837 (1994)). By requiring him to
perform work that he was medically cleared by Dr. Williams to do, Brewer does not
show that Officer Jones or Assistant Warden Gorsuch knowingly assigned him work
that exceeded his physical ability with the requisite deliberate indifference to his
medical needs. Therefore, Brewer fails to state a claim against these defendants.
Likewise, Brewer does not show that, by clearing him to work on the field
squad, Dr. Williams’s classification decision resulted in a constitutional violation.
Brewer concedes that he worked a five-hour shift on the first day he was assigned to
the field squad on October 21, 2015, and that he was promptly removed from that job
after he complained.13 He was subsequently re-assigned by prison officials to work
on an “inside medical squad.”14 Brewer, who worked only one day on the field squad,
More Definite Statement [Doc. # 26], at 4, 10.
Id. at 6.
does not allege that the assigned work significantly aggravated a physical ailment.
Under these circumstances, Brewer fails to state a claim upon which relief may be
granted and his complaint will be dismissed.
CONCLUSION AND ORDER
Based on the foregoing, the Court ORDERS as follows:
The complaint filed by Eddie Eugene Brewer (TDCJ #723891) is
DISMISSED with prejudice pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B) as
frivolous and for failure to state a claim.
The dismissal will count as a “strike” for purposes of 28 U.S.C.
The Clerk is directed to provide a copy of this order to the plaintiff and to
the Manager of the Three Strikes List for the Southern District of Texas.
SIGNED at Houston, Texas, on February 13, 2018.
NANCY F. ATLAS
SENIOR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
NAN Y F. ATLAS
STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
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