Byrd v. Collier et al
MEMORANDUM ON DISMISSAL entered. Byrd's motion to proceed in forma pauperis, (Docket Entry No. 2), is GRANTED. The action filed by Sidney Shawn Byrd (TDCJ -CID Inmate #872404) lacks an arguable basis in law. His claims are DISMISSED without prej udice under 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b)(l). Byrd's Motion for Temporary Restraining Order and Preliminary Injunction, (Docket Entry No.4), is DENIED. Any remaining pending motions are DENIED as moot. Email sent to Manager of Three Strikes List. (Signed by Judge Vanessa D Gilmore) Parties notified. (wbostic, 4)
United States District Court
Southern District of Texas
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF TEXAS
SIDNEY SHAWN BYRD,
BRYAN COLLIER, et al.,
October 31, 2017
David J. Bradley, Clerk
CIVIL ACTION H-17-2984
MEMORANDUM ON DISMISSAL
Sidney Shawn Byrd, an inmate ofthe Texas Department of Criminal Justice- Correctional
Institutions Division, sued in October 2017, alleging civil rights violations resulting from a failure
to protect his safety and improper classification. Byrd, proceeding prose and in forma pauperis, sues
Bryan Collier, Executive Director of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice; C. Furr, Assistant
Warden of the McConnell Unit; (flm) Prestwood, Assistant Warden of the Estelle Unit; Matox B.
Rigsby, officer at the Estelle Unit; and Ms. Ballard, Classification officer at Estelle Unit.
The threshold issue is whether Byrd's claims should be dismissed as frivolous.
Byrd states that while confined at the Coffield Unit, he became aware of a smuggling ring
involving prison guards and inmates who were gang members. Byrd states that he was convicted
of possessing a cell phone in Anderson County. Byrd reported the smuggling of cell phones, drugs,
and other contraband to the FBI and prison wardens. Byrd asserts that prison officials did not want
to admit that there was a systemic problem of contraband, and chose instead to label Byrd as an
informant. As a result, Byrd states that he was harassed and threatened. He was transferred to the
McConnell Unit where the threats to his safety continued. Byrd wrote a letter to Senator John
Whitmire concerning the contraband and fear for his safety. Byrd claims that this letter was
circulated among gang members on the unit. Due to threats to Byrd's safety, he was transferred from
the Coffield Unit to the McConnell Unit.
Byrd complains that Warden Furr refused to take steps to protect Byrd on the ground that
Byrd was unable to prove that a threat existed. Following open heart surgery in April 2017, Byrd
was transferred to the Estelle Unit.
Byrd complains that he was placed in a very restrictive
environment and treated as an inmate with disciplinary problems. Byrd was transferred to a
cellblock for high-profile inmates. Byrd asserts that he has been placed in this dangerous cellblock
as an act of retaliation. Despite the threats to Byrd's safety, Byrd complains that prison officials have
failed to classify him correctly and have denied him placement in protective custody.
Byrd seeks placement in protective custody.
Standard of Review
Under 28 U.S.C. § 1915A, federal courts are authorized to review, before docketing, if
feasible, or in any event as soon as practicable after docketing, a complaint in a civil action in which
a prisoner seeks redress from a governmental entity or officer or employee of a governmental entity.
The court shall identify cognizable claims or dismiss the complaint, or any portion of the complaint,
if the complaint is frivolous, malicious, or fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted,
or seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief.
A complaint is frivolous if it lacks an arguable basis in law or fact. See Denton v. Hernandez,
504 U.S. 25, 31 (1992); Richardson v. Spurlock, 260 F.3d 495,498 (5th Cir. 2001)(citing Siglar v.
Hightower, 112 F.3d 191, 193 (5th Cir. 1997)). "A complaint lacks an arguable basis in law if it is
based on an indisputably meritless legal theory, such as if the complaint alleges the violation of a
legal interest which clearly does not exist." Davis v. Scott, 157 F.3d 1003, 1005 (5th Cir.
1998)(quoting McCormick v. Stalder, 105 F.3d 1059, 1061 (5th Cir. 1997)).
The Claim Based on a Failure to Protect
An inmate's claim that his Eighth Amendment rights were violated because prison officials
failed to protect him from harm requires a showing of deliberate indifference. Farmer v. Brennan,
511 U.S. 825, 847 (1994). The standard compares to "subjective recklessness as used in the criminal
law." !d. at 839-40. The inmate must show that the officials knew facts from which an inference
of risk could be drawn and that they drew the inference. Under special circumstances, official
knowledge of a substantial risk may be inferred from the obviousness of that risk. Reeves v. Collins,
27 F.3d 174, 176 (5th Cir. 1994).
Prison officials must be accorded the widest possible deference in the application of policies
and practices designed to maintain security and preserve internal order. McCord v. Maggio, 910
F.2d 1248 (5th Cir. 1990)(citing Bell v. Wolfish, 441 U.S. 520, 547 (1979)). A court may not
second-guess prison officials' good faith assessment of the facts before them or the adequacy of their
efforts to maintain prison discipline and security.
On January 3, 2017, Byrd filed a Step 1 Grievance complaining that a letter he wrote to
Senator Whitmire was circulated among inmates. Byrd stated that upon his return from Hospital
Galveston, he received a note or "kite" containing a death threat.
On January 30, 2017, Warden Putnam responded:
Your complaint has been reviewed. Investigation revealed that you
were reviewed by the McConnell Unit's Classification Committee on
January 3, 2017 in which the committee recommended a unit transfer
pending the decision of the State Classification Committee. On
January 24, 2017 the State Classification Committee reviewed the
Offender Protection Investigation and denied the unit transfer. No
further action is warranted by this office.
(Docket Entry No. 1-1, p. 2).
On February 7, 2017, Byrd filed a Step 2 Grievance. (Docket Entry No. 1-1, p. 3). Byrd
argued that his life was in danger because gang members on the unit knew that Byrd had written a
letter to Senator Whitmire concerning the smuggling of cell phones onto the unit.
On February 24,2017, Assistant Regional Director P. Chapa responded:
Your complaint has been noted. Investigation revealed SCC denied
the units request for your transfer due to no evidence supporting you
as being threatened and/or targeted. You failed to provide a copy of
the allege kite you claim to have received. You are current housed in
Ad Seg custody and in restrictive housing. Should you receive new or
additional information regarding your allegations an additional
investigation will be conducted. No further action warranted.
/d. at 4.
Byrd alleges that the defendants failed to protect his personal safety. Byrd alleges that the
defendants were aware of the threats to Byrd's safety, but refused to take corrective measures. From
the pleadings, it appears that the defendants knew of a general threat to Byrd's safety. The
defendants did not know of any other details such as who would injure Byrd, where Byrd would be
injured, or when Byrd would be injured. Byrd does not allege that he was actually injured by fellow
inmates. Byrd's pleadings show that prison officials transferred Byrd to a different unit in an effort
to protect Byrd's safety. Byrd indicates that he has been housed in solitary confinement for the past
Byrd has not alleged that the defendants knew of, and disregarded, a substantial risk to Byrd's
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health and safety. The facts Byrd alleges do not demonstrate that he faced an obvious risk to his
personal safety. Byrd has not alleged that the defendants deliberately failed to protect Byrd's
personal safety, in violation of the Eighth Amendment. Byrd's claim is dismissed as frivolous.
The Claim Based on Improper Classification
Byrd complains that the defendants have denied his request to be placed in protective
custody. The Constitution does not provide prison inmates with a liberty interest in any particular
custody classification. Meachum v. Fano, 427 U.S. 215 (1976); Wilson v. Budney, 976 F.2d 957,
958 (5th Cir. 1992). Prison officials are given broad discretion in classifYing inmates according to
internal administrative criteria. See Mikeska v. Collins, 900 F.2d 833 (5th Cir. 1990), substituted op.,
928 F .2d 126 (5th Cir. 1991 ). "[P]rison officials have broad administrative and discretionary
authority over the institutions they manage and lawfully incarcerated persons retain only a narrow
range of protected liberty interest.
Classification of inmates is one of those administrative
functions." Jackson v. Cain, 864 F.2d 1235, 124 7, 1247-48 (5th Cir. 1989)(citing Hewitt v. Helms,
459 U.S. 460, 467 (1983) and Wilkerson v. Maggio, 703 F.2d 909 (5th Cir. 1983)).
Byrd's claim based on the denial of his requested custodial classification is dismissed as
frivolous. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b)(1).
Motion for Injunctive Relief
Byrd filed a Motion for Temporary Restraining Order and Preliminary Injunction, (Docket
Entry No.4), seeking to compel the defendants to transfer him in a single-person van. He explains
that his medical condition renders him vulnerable to attack. He further explains that because he is
on blood thinners, the slightest injury could be fatal.
Four prerequisites must be satisfied before a plaintiff can be awarded preliminary injunctive
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relief: ( 1) substantial likelihood of success on the merits; (2) a substantial threat of irreparable injury
if the injunction is not granted; (3) an evaluation that the threatened injury to the plaintiff outweighs
the threatened injury the injunction may cause the defendants; and (4) a determination that the
injunction does not disserve public interest. Rodriguez v. United States, 66 F.3d 95, 97 (5th Cir.
1995),cert. denied, 516U.S.l166(1996);Hayv. Waldron, 834F.2d481 (5thCir.1987).
Injunctive relief in the form of "superintending federal injunctive decrees directing state
officials," is an extraordinary remedy. Morrow v. Harwell, 768 F.2d 619, 627 (5th Cir. 1985). A
preliminary injunction should not be granted unless the movant, by a clear showing, carries the
burden of persuasion. Cherokee Pump & Equip., Inc. v. Aurora Pump, 38 F.3d 246 (5th Cir. 1994).
Byrd has not satisfied the first requirement because difficult questions oflaw create sufficient
doubt regarding the probability of his success on the merits.
Nor has Byrd met the second
requirement of demonstrating that he faces a substantial risk of irreparable injury if the injunction
is not granted. Byrd makes a broad request for placement in protective custody to prevent potential
injury. He has not shown that he faces a substantial risk of irreparable injury if the injunction is not
Byrd has not clearly carried his burden of persuasion, and therefore, it is ORDERED that his
Motion for Temporary Restraining Order and Preliminary Injunction, (Docket Entry No. 4), is
DENIED without prejudice. Byrd's Motion for Temporary Restraining Order and Preliminary
Injunction, (Docket Entry No.4), is subject to reconsideration by the court as appropriate.
Byrd's motion to proceed in forma pauperis, (Docket Entry No. 2), is GRANTED. The
action filed by Sidney Shawn Byrd (TDCJ -CID Inmate #872404) lacks an arguable basis in law. His
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claims are DISMISSED without prejudice under 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b)(l). Byrd's Motion for
Temporary Restraining Order and Preliminary Injunction, (Docket Entry No.4), is DENIED. Any
remaining pending motions are DENIED as moot.
The TDCJ-CID shall deduct twenty percent of each deposit made to Byrd's inmate trust
account and forward payments to the court on a regular basis, provided the account exceeds $10.00,
until the filing fee obligation of $350.00 is paid in full.
The Clerk will provide a copy of this order by regular mail, facsimile transmission, or e-mail
the TDCJ- Office of the General Counsel, Capitol Station, P.O. Box 13084, Austin,
Texas, 78711, Fax: 512-936-2159;
the Inmate Trust Fund, P.O. Box 629, Huntsville, Texas 77342-0629, Fax:
(3) the Manager of the Three-Strikes List for the Southern District of Texas at:
SIGNED at Houston, Texas, on
VANESSA D. GILMORE
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
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