132 F.3d 225 (5th Cir. 1998), 96-40088, McDonald v. Steward

Docket Nº96-40088.
Citation132 F.3d 225
Party NameWillie Ray McDONALD, Plaintiff-Appellant, v. J. STEWARD, Library Supervisor, Michael Unit; Director TDCJ-ID, Defendants-Appellees.
Case DateJanuary 02, 1998
CourtUnited States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit

Page 225

132 F.3d 225 (5th Cir. 1998)

Willie Ray McDONALD, Plaintiff-Appellant,

v.

J. STEWARD, Library Supervisor, Michael Unit; Director

TDCJ-ID, Defendants-Appellees.

No. 96-40088.

United States Court of Appeals, Fifth Circuit

January 2, 1998

Rehearing Denied Jan. 26, 1998.

Page 226

[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

Page 227

Willie Ray McDonald, Tennessee Colony, TX, pro se.

Edward P. Sanchez, Austin, TX, for Steward.

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Texas.

Before DeMOSS and DENNIS, Circuit Judges, and ROSENTHAL [*], District Judge.

DeMOSS, Circuit Judge:

Willie Ray McDonald ("McDonald"), a Texas inmate, filed this 42 U.S.C. § 1983 action against Officer James Steward ("Steward"), a prison supervisor, alleging that Steward intentionally denied McDonald access to the prison law library in retaliation for a lawsuit McDonald helped file against the personnel of the prison mail room. After a bench trial, the magistrate judge entered judgment in Steward's favor. McDonald appeals. The main issue for decision is whether McDonald waived his right to a jury trial by consenting to the jurisdiction of the magistrate judge, and by participating in the bench trial without objection. We also must decide whether the magistrate judge erred in excluding the trial testimony of one of McDonald's named witnesses. Finding no reversible error, we affirm the judgment of the magistrate judge. 1

I.

McDonald is an inmate of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, Institutional Division, and was housed at the "Michael Unit" at the time this action arose. At that facility, a law library was made available to the prison population. To gain access to the library, prisoners were required to complete a request slip, providing a name, identification number, work hours, school hours, and days off. The completed request slip was then submitted to Steward, the prison law library supervisor, who scheduled the prisoners for library time. By his own account, McDonald used the law library about three times a week and provided legal assistance to fellow inmates.

While incarcerated at the Michael Unit, McDonald worked on "Medical Utility Squad No. 3." This work detail was comprised of prisoners with medical problems who could

Page 228

perform only light tasks. Officially, members of the squad had designated work hours. In practice, they did not work regular hours because they were seldom called to duty.

Several times in August and September, 1994, McDonald was denied access to the prison law library. McDonald, accustomed to free and regular access, filed grievances with the prison administration. Through that process, McDonald learned that he was denied access to the law library because he had failed to list his work hours on several of his library request slips. He was advised that his official work hours were 10:30 p.m. to 6:00 a.m. From then on, McDonald, by his own admission, experienced no further difficulties in gaining access to the law library.

In June 1995, McDonald filed this pro se 42 U.S.C. § 1983 action, alleging that Steward had willfully and intentionally denied him access to the law library on several occasions between August 12 and September 12, 1994. 2 McDonald alleged that Steward had been dating one of the workers at the prison mailroom, and had denied him access in retaliation for a lawsuit McDonald helped file against the mailroom personnel. 3 An evidentiary hearing subsequently was conducted pursuant to Spears v. McCotter, 766 F.2d 179 (5th Cir.1985), in which the magistrate judge ordered Steward to answer McDonald's complaint. At the close of the hearing, McDonald and Steward signed a written consent form, styled "Consent to Jurisdiction by a United States Magistrate Judge," which provided:

In accordance with the provisions of Title 28, U.S.C. § 636(c), the undersigned party or parties to the above-captioned civil matter hereby voluntarily consent to have United States Magistrate Judge Judith K. Guthrie conduct any and all further proceedings in the case, including trial, and order the entry of a final judgment.

McDonald's case was then referred to the magistrate judge by order of the district court.

Shortly after, the magistrate judge entered an order scheduling the case for a bench trial. McDonald objected. In a written motion filed the day before trial, McDonald moved the magistrate judge to recuse herself from the case based in part on her refusal to grant him a jury trial. For reasons not contained in the record, the magistrate judge did not address McDonald's motion prior to trial. Strangely, this apparent oversight was not challenged by McDonald. On the day of trial, McDonald made several pretrial objections, but did not reassert his motion for recusal. 4 Similarly, McDonald lodged numerous objections at trial, but never objected to the bench trial itself.

In a subsequent memorandum opinion, the magistrate judge denied McDonald's Section 1983 claims. The magistrate judge found that McDonald was not wrongfully denied access to the law library. The magistrate judge also held that McDonald had not proven that Steward had retaliated against him. In closing, the magistrate judge ordered "that any and all motions which may be

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pending in this lawsuit, by either party, are hereby denied." (emphasis omitted). 5

II.

On appeal, McDonald complains that he was deprived of his constitutional right to a jury trial because he never consented to a bench trial. McDonald directs our attention to his original complaint, in which he plainly demanded a jury trial. He also contends that he repeated his desire for jury trial at the Spears hearing. Steward responds by arguing that McDonald waived his right to a jury trial at both the Spears hearing and at trial. We find that McDonald did not waive his right to a jury trial, and was mistakenly denied this right.

The right to a jury trial may be waived in civil cases. Rideau v. Parkem Indus. Serv., Inc., 917 F.2d 892, 896 (5th Cir.1990) (citing Country (Social) Club of Savannah, Inc. v. Sutherland, 411 F.2d 599, 600 (5th Cir.1969)). Waiver of the right, while often seen in an express statement or stipulation, may also be inferred from a party's conduct. See Casperone v. Landmark Oil & Gas Corp., 819 F.2d 112, 116 (5th Cir.1987) (failure to appear at trial may constitute implied waiver of right to jury trial); Southland Reship, Inc. v. Flegel, 534 F.2d 639, 644 (5th Cir.1976) (implied waiver of right to jury trial resulting from failure to object at consolidated hearing on preliminary and permanent injunctions); Bass v. Hoagland, 172 F.2d 205, 209 (5th Cir.) (observing in dicta that "the right to jury trial ... may be waived ... by mere acquiescence, when the party or his counsel is present and not objecting"), cert. denied, 338 U.S. 816, 70 S.Ct. 57, 94 L.Ed. 494 (1949). Nevertheless, we must be mindful that "[m]aintenance of the jury as a fact-finding body is of such importance and occupies so firm a place in our history and jurisprudence that any seeming curtailment of the right to a jury trial should be scrutinized with the utmost care." Bowles v. Bennett, 629 F.2d 1092, 1095 (5th Cir.1980) (quoting Dimick v. Schiedt, 293 U.S. 474, 486, 55 S.Ct. 296, 301, 79 L.Ed. 603 (1935)). Thus, courts should "indulge every reasonable presumption against waiver." McAfee v. U.P. Martin, 63 F.3d 436, 437 (5th Cir.1995) (quoting Bowles, 629 F.2d at 1095). Waiver should not be found in a "doubtful situation." Id.

Here, McDonald requested a jury trial in his initial complaint and was entitled to rely on that demand. Steward, however, argues that McDonald later waived his right to a jury trial at the Spears hearing when he "consented to allow the United States Magistrate Judge to enter final judgment in this case." Steward's argument is without merit.

At the Spears hearing, which was captured on videotape, the following colloquy occurred between McDonald and the magistrate judge:

The Court: Right now your case is assigned to me to hold this hearing today to get an understanding of the facts. If you have no objection I can remain as the judge on the case through any trial we might have and the final judgment. Do you have any objection to me remaining as the judge on your case?

McDonald: Well, I'd rather have the judge make the final ruling.

The Court: I am a judge.

McDonald: Are you judge? I thought you was the magistrate.

The Court: Well I am a magistrate judge. I am a judge of the federal court.

McDonald: [short unintelligible utterance]

The Court: I mean, but, its up to you. I mean, do you have a ... ?

McDonald: I wanted a jury to handle....

The Court: I can give you a jury trial. That's....

McDonald: [short unintelligible utterance] I just wanted a jury trial on the matter, you know?

The Court: Well, so, do you have an objection to me presiding at any jury trial?

McDonald: No m'am, I don't have no objection.

Page 230

The Court: Okay. Warden Caskey has a form there then if you'll sign it to confirm that you have no objection to my remaining as the judge on your case.

McDonald: Yes ma'am.

McDonald and Steward then signed the written consent, as described above, authorizing the magistrate judge to conduct all further proceedings in the case.

On these facts, it is evident that at the Spears hearing McDonald consented to the magistrate judge presiding over a jury trial, not a bench trial. Steward is incorrect in suggesting that McDonald, by consenting to the authority of the magistrate judge, waived his jury trial right. Mere consent to the jurisdiction of a magistrate judge is not tantamount to an express waiver of the right to a jury trial.

Steward contends, however, that "[McDonald] made no objection at the bench trial on January 3, 1996, waiving any such error for appellate purposes." Essentially, Steward is arguing that McDonald's failure to voice any opposition at trial...

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354 practice notes
  • 268 S.W.3d 763 (Tex.App.-Waco 2008), 10-07-00094, Brewer v. Simental
    • United States
    • Texas Court of Appeals of Texas
    • 10 Septiembre 2008
    ...showing that " but for the retaliatory motive, the complained of incident would not have occurred." McDonald v. Steward, 132 F.3d 225, 231 (5th Cir.1998). Id. Indisputably, " a prison official may not retaliate against or harass an inmate for exercising the right of access to......
  • Jones v. Copeland, 081612 TXCA7, 07-11-00437-CV
    • United States
    • Texas Court of Appeals of Texas
    • 16 Agosto 2012
    ...of the alleged violative conduct. See Lewis v. Casey, 518 U.S. 343, 349–51, 116 S.Ct. 2174, 135 L.Ed.2d 606 (1996); McDonald v. Steward, 132 F.3d 225, 230–31 (5th Cir. 1998); Brewer v. Simental, 268 S.W.3d 763, 771 n.2 (Tex.App.—Waco 2008, no pet.). That is, he must establish that "his......
  • Keaghey v. Securus Technologies And T-Netix Inc., 080720 LAEDC, C. A. 19-12899
    • United States
    • Federal Cases United States District Courts 5th Circuit Eastern District of Louisiana
    • 7 Agosto 2020
    ...264 F.3d 1142, No. 00-41276, 2001 WL 822779, at *1 (5th Cir. June 29, 2001) (Table, Text in Westlaw); McDonald v. Steward, 132 F.3d 225, 230 (5th Cir. 1998); Degrate v. Godwin, 84 F.3d 768, 768-69 (5th Cir. 1996). However, “[w]hile the precise contours of a prisoner......
  • Taylor v. Nelson, 120120 TXWDC, W-19-CA-467-ADA
    • United States
    • Federal Cases United States District Courts 5th Circuit Southern District of Texas
    • 1 Diciembre 2020
    ...and (4) a retaliatory adverse action. Jones v. Greninger, 188 F.3d 322, 324 (5th Cir. 1999) (citing McDonald v. Steward, 132 F.3d 225, 231 (5th Cir. 1998)). The Fifth Circuit has explained that “[t]he purpose of allowing inmate retaliation claims under § 1983 is to ......
  • Free signup to view additional results
353 cases
  • 268 S.W.3d 763 (Tex.App.-Waco 2008), 10-07-00094, Brewer v. Simental
    • United States
    • Texas Court of Appeals of Texas
    • 10 Septiembre 2008
    ...showing that " but for the retaliatory motive, the complained of incident would not have occurred." McDonald v. Steward, 132 F.3d 225, 231 (5th Cir.1998). Id. Indisputably, " a prison official may not retaliate against or harass an inmate for exercising the right of access to......
  • Jones v. Copeland, 081612 TXCA7, 07-11-00437-CV
    • United States
    • Texas Court of Appeals of Texas
    • 16 Agosto 2012
    ...of the alleged violative conduct. See Lewis v. Casey, 518 U.S. 343, 349–51, 116 S.Ct. 2174, 135 L.Ed.2d 606 (1996); McDonald v. Steward, 132 F.3d 225, 230–31 (5th Cir. 1998); Brewer v. Simental, 268 S.W.3d 763, 771 n.2 (Tex.App.—Waco 2008, no pet.). That is, he must establish that "his......
  • Keaghey v. Securus Technologies And T-Netix Inc., 080720 LAEDC, C. A. 19-12899
    • United States
    • Federal Cases United States District Courts 5th Circuit Eastern District of Louisiana
    • 7 Agosto 2020
    ...264 F.3d 1142, No. 00-41276, 2001 WL 822779, at *1 (5th Cir. June 29, 2001) (Table, Text in Westlaw); McDonald v. Steward, 132 F.3d 225, 230 (5th Cir. 1998); Degrate v. Godwin, 84 F.3d 768, 768-69 (5th Cir. 1996). However, “[w]hile the precise contours of a prisoner......
  • Taylor v. Nelson, 120120 TXWDC, W-19-CA-467-ADA
    • United States
    • Federal Cases United States District Courts 5th Circuit Southern District of Texas
    • 1 Diciembre 2020
    ...and (4) a retaliatory adverse action. Jones v. Greninger, 188 F.3d 322, 324 (5th Cir. 1999) (citing McDonald v. Steward, 132 F.3d 225, 231 (5th Cir. 1998)). The Fifth Circuit has explained that “[t]he purpose of allowing inmate retaliation claims under § 1983 is to ......
  • Free signup to view additional results