4 F.3d 410 (5th Cir. 1993), 93-1267, Walker v. Navarro County Jail

Docket Nº:93-1267.
Citation:4 F.3d 410
Party Name:Earnest Ray WALKER, Plaintiff-Appellant, v. NAVARRO COUNTY JAIL, ET AL., Defendants-Appellees.
Case Date:October 19, 1993
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit

Page 410

4 F.3d 410 (5th Cir. 1993)

Earnest Ray WALKER, Plaintiff-Appellant,


NAVARRO COUNTY JAIL, ET AL., Defendants-Appellees.

No. 93-1267.

United States Court of Appeals, Fifth Circuit

October 19, 1993

Rehearing Denied Nov. 19, 1993.

Page 411

Earnest Ray Walker, pro se.

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

Before KING and BARKSDALE, Circuit Judges, and PARKER 1, District Judge.


Appellant, Earnest Ray Walker brought suit against Appellees, the Navarro County Jail and Sheriff Hodge, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. Sec. 1983, alleging that the Appellees acting under color of law, violated his Constitutional rights. Appellant filed the suit pro se and in forma pauperis. The district court dismissed the case as frivolous, and Walker appealed.

At the time he filed this civil rights action, Walker was a pretrial detainee at Navarro County Jail at Corsicana Texas. At mealtime on May 23, 1991, Walker asked Officer Scott to open his cell door to allow him to retrieve some chips to eat. The officer refused and Walker allegedly replied, "Forget it." The officer thought Walker had used an obscenity, and placed him in solitary confinement. The following day, Walker attended a disciplinary hearing which resulted in Walker being assessed a punishment of five days in solitary confinement.

In his Sec. 1983 complaint, he alleged that the defendants, Sheriff Hodge and the Navarro County Jail, deprived him of his rights under the Due Process Clause by placing him in solitary confinement prior to a hearing and by denying him an opportunity to call witnesses at his disciplinary hearing. Walker also complains that he was confined for six days instead of five, his personal mail was returned to the sender during his period in solitary, and his sister was turned away when she came to visit him. He sought damages in the amount of $50,000.

Page 412

The magistrate judge conducted a hearing pursuant to Spears v. McCotter, 766 F.2d 179 (5th Cir.1985) and recommended that the district court deny relief. The district court dismissed the action as frivolous.

Due Process claim

Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. Sec. 1915(d), a district court may dismiss an in forma pauperis proceeding "if satisfied that the action is frivolous or malicious." A finding of frivolousness is appropriate whenever it appears that the claim has no arguable basis in law or fact. Ancar v. Sara Plasma, Inc., 964 F.2d 465, 468 (5th Cir.1992).

Walker contends that his Due Process rights were violated because he was not given a full disciplinary hearing and he was not allowed to call witnesses. He also contends that he was held in solitary for six days, rather than the five days imposed at the hearing.

The Supreme Court has set out two standards in this area [of disciplinary procedures], depending on the sanction imposed upon the prisoner and consequences flowing from it. A prisoner punished by solitary confinement and loss of good-time credits must receive: (1) written notice of the charges against him at least twenty-four hours before the hearing, (2) a written statement of the factfinders as to the evidence relied on and the reasons for the disciplinary action taken, and (3) the opportunity to call witnesses and present documentary evidence in his defense, unless these procedures would create a security risk in the particular case. Wolff, 2 418 U.S. at 563-66, 94 S.Ct. at 2978-80. On the other hand, a mere few days administrative segregation, having no effect on parole, only merits an informal nonadversary evidentiary review as long as the prisoner receives notice and has an opportunity to present a statement. Hewitt, 3 459 U.S. at 476-77, 103 S.Ct. at 874.

Jackson v. Cain, 864 F.2d 1235, 1252 (5th Cir.1989) (internal quotations omitted).

The officer placed Walker in solitary confinement following the incident, and Walker received an informal hearing the next day. Walker and Officer Scott were given opportunities to testify as to their respective versions of the facts. Walker was returned to solitary confinement for five days as discipline for his conduct, but there is no allegation that there was any effect on his parole. The magistrate judge...

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