Williams v. Travis County
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATIONS that Williams federal constitutional claims be dismissed without prejudice to refile once the conditions of Heck are met. Alternatively, it is recommended that Williams' federal constitutional claims against Travis County be dismissed for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. IT IS FURTHER RECOMMENDED that the District Court decline to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over Plaintiffs state law claims. Signed by Judge Mark Lane. (klw)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE WESTERN DISTRICT OF TEXAS
(Travis Co. No. 1644464)
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
OF UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
THE HONORABLE SAM SPARKS
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
The Magistrate Judge submits this Report and Recommendation to the District Court
pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §636(b) and Rule 1(f) of Appendix C of the Local Court Rules of the United
States District Court for the Western District of Texas.
Before the Court is Plaintiff’s complaint. Plaintiff, proceeding pro se, has been granted leave
to proceed in forma pauperis.
STATEMENT OF THE CASE
At the time he filed his complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, Plaintiff was confined in the
Travis County Correctional Complex on a probation violation and on a new charge for failing to
register as a sex offender. Plaintiff sues Travis County for harassment, defamation, and wrongful
Plaintiff explains, when he was 17 and in the Navy, he dated a 14-year-old girl. He was
convicted in Washington and was released from jail in 2005. When he moved to Texas, the crime
was converted to indecency with a child by contact. Plaintiff contends his sex-offender registration
term should have only been for 10 years. However, Plaintiff also asserts he was told by officials at
the Department of Public Safety and Bexar County that his conviction was not reportable.
While living in Austin, Plaintiff went to a bar and bought a woman a drink. When Plaintiff
discovered the woman was underage, he allegedly told her to leave him alone. Plaintiff asserts all
he and the woman did was text, but she started making false statements. Plaintiff claims he
cooperated with the Austin Police Department (“APD”). The APD officer allegedly told Plaintiff
to go register as a sex offender, or she was going to arrest him. While at the police department,
Plaintiff showed a Facebook message to the officer, who was completing Plaintiff’s paperwork. The
officer allegedly told Plaintiff to forward the message to a detective. Plaintiff complied and contends
the forwarded message led to police officers kicking in the door of the apartment where he was
temporarily staying. Plaintiff was arrested and does not have the money to bond out of jail. Plaintiff
complains his court appointed counsel is ineffective.
DISCUSSION AND ANALYSIS
Standard Under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)
An in forma pauperis proceeding may be dismissed sua sponte under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)
if the court determines the complaint is frivolous, malicious, fails to state a claim upon which relief
may be granted or seeks monetary relief against a defendant who is immune from suit. A dismissal
for frivolousness or maliciousness may occur at any time, before or after service of process and
before or after the defendant’s answer. Green v. McKaskle, 788 F.2d 1116, 1119 (5th Cir. 1986).
When reviewing a plaintiff’s complaint, the court must construe plaintiff’s allegations as
liberally as possible. Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519 (1972). However, the petitioner’s pro se status
does not offer him “an impenetrable shield, for one acting pro se has no license to harass others, clog
the judicial machinery with meritless litigation and abuse already overloaded court dockets.”
Farguson v. MBank Houston, N.A., 808 F.2d 358, 359 (5th Cir. 1986).
Plaintiff’s federal constitutional challenge regarding sex-offender registration and wrongful
imprisonment is barred by Heck v. Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477, 486-87 (1994) and the Fifth Circuit’s
application of Heck to state prisoner § 1983 lawsuits in Boyd v. Biggers, 31 F.3d 279 (5th Cir.
1994). In Heck, the Supreme Court held:
[I]n order to recover damages for allegedly unconstitutional conviction or
imprisonment, or for other harm caused by actions whose unlawfulness would render
a conviction or sentence invalid, a § 1983 plaintiff must prove that the conviction or
sentence has been reversed on direct appeal, expunged by executive order, declared
invalid by a state tribunal authorized to make such determination, or called into
question by a federal court’s issuance of a writ of habeas corpus.
Plaintiff cannot challenge the registration requirement in this case until his charges have been
dismissed, reversed, expunged, invalidated, or called into question by a federal court’s issuance of
writ of habeas corpus. Accordingly, Plaintiff’s claims with regard to sex-offender registration and
wrongful imprisonment should be dismissed without prejudice to refile once the conditions of Heck
are met. Plaintiff should be allowed to refile only upon a showing that his conviction “has been
reversed on direct appeal, expunged by executive order, declared invalid by a state tribunal
authorized to make such determination, or called into question by a federal court’s issuance of a writ
of habeas corpus.” Heck, 512 U.S. at 486-87.
Plaintiff only sues Travis County. A political subdivision cannot be held responsible for a
deprivation of a constitutional right merely because it employs a tortfeasor; in other words a local
government unit cannot be held responsible for civil rights violations under the theory of respondeat
superior. Johnson v. Moore, 958 F.2d 92, 94 (5th Cir. 1992). The standard for holding a local
government unit responsible under § 1983 requires that there be a custom or policy that caused the
plaintiff to be subjected to the deprivation of a constitutional right. Id; Collins v. City of Harker
Heights, Tex., 916 F.2d 284, 286 (5th Cir. 1990), aff'd, 503 U.S. 115 (1992). Thus, Travis County
would violate an individual’s rights only through implementation of a formally declared policy, such
as direct orders or promulgations or through informal acceptance of a course of action by its
employees based upon custom or usage. Bennett v. City of Slidell, 728 F.2d 762, 768 (5th Cir.
1984). A single decision made by an authorized governmental decisionmaker to implement a
particular course of action represents an act of official government "policy." Pembaur v. Cincinnati,
475 U.S. 469, 481 (1986). Plaintiff failed to identify a policy, practice or custom of Travis County
that caused a deprivation of his constitutional rights. Accordingly, Plaintiff’s claims against Travis
County should alternatively be dismissed.
Plaintiff also asserts state law claims. Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1367, a district court generally
has supplemental jurisdiction over claims that are so related to claims in the action over which it has
original jurisdiction that they form part of the same case or controversy. However, a district court
may decline to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over a claim if the court has dismissed all claims
over which it has original jurisdiction. Because the dismissal of Plaintiff’s federal claims is
recommended, the District Court should decline to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over Plaintiff’s
state law claims.
It is therefore recommended that Plaintiff’s federal constitutional claims be dismissed without
prejudice to refile once the conditions of Heck are met. Alternatively, it is recommended that
Plaintiff’s federal constitutional claims against Travis County be dismissed for failure to state a
claim upon which relief can be granted. It is also recommended that the District Court decline to
exercise supplemental jurisdiction over Plaintiff’s state law claims.
It is further recommended that Plaintiff be warned that if Plaintiff files more than three
actions or appeals while he is a prisoner which are dismissed as frivolous or malicious or for failure
to state a claim on which relief may be granted, then he will be prohibited from bringing any other
actions in forma pauperis unless he is in imminent danger of serious physical injury. See 28 U.S.C.
In the event this Report and Recommendation is accepted, adopted or approved, it is
recommended that the Court direct the Clerk to e-mail a copy of its order and judgment to the keeper
of the three-strikes list.
Within 14 days after receipt of the magistrate judge’s report, any party may serve and file
written objections to the findings and recommendations of the magistrate judge. 28 U.S.C. § 636
(b)(1)(C). Failure to file written objections to the proposed findings and recommendations contained
within this report within 14 days after service shall bar an aggrieved party from de novo review by
the district court of the proposed findings and recommendations and from appellate review of factual
findings accepted or adopted by the district court except on grounds of plain error or manifest
injustice. Douglass v. United Servs. Auto. Assoc., 79 F.3d 1415 (5th Cir. 1996)(en banc); Thomas
v. Arn, 474 U.S. 140, 148 (1985); Rodriguez v. Bowen, 857 F.2d 275, 276-277 (5th Cir. 1988).
SIGNED on March 8, 2017.
UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
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