Eason v. Thaler

Decision Date17 January 1996
Docket NumberNo. 95-10316,95-10316
Citation73 F.3d 1322
PartiesDanny Ray EASON, Plaintiff-Appellant, v. Warden THALER, et al., Defendants-Appellees. Summary Calendar.
CourtU.S. Court of Appeals — Fifth Circuit

Danny Ray Eason, Abilene, TX, pro se.

Chris Lee Lemens, Dan Morales, Atty. Gen., Office of the Attorney General for the State of Texas, Austin, TX, for defendants-appellees.

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

Before GARWOOD, WIENER and PARKER, Circuit Judges.


Plaintiff-appellant Danny Ray Eason (Eason), an inmate confined in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice-Institutional Division (TDCJ), brought this suit against five TDCJ officials pursuant to 42 U.S.C. Section 1983 alleging violations of his civil rights. Eason appeals the district court's grant of summary judgment for the defendants-appellees.

Facts and Procedural Background

Eason's claims can be traced to a disturbance that occurred at TDCJ's Preston E. Smith Unit (Smith Unit), where Eason was confined, on November 12, 1992. Sometime in the evening on that date, a potentially explosive situation developed in the recreation yard of the Smith Unit. Large groups of African-American and Hispanic inmates became hostile towards one another, and prison officials averted a dangerous situation by quickly segregating the Hispanic and African-American inmates and moving all of the prisoners, in stages, back into their cells. During this episode in the yard, Eason--apparently an African-American--had been in the Smith Unit's recreation room. He and the other prisoners in the recreation room were likewise directed to return to their respective wings, and subsequently to their cells. Warden Richard Thaler, who was senior warden at the Smith Unit on November 12, 1992, contacted the TDCJ regional director's office and it was determined that several buildings of the unit should be immediately "locked-down" pending an investigation into this disturbance. During the lockdown, the impacted inmates were essentially confined to their cells. The wing of the building in which Eason was housed remained on lockdown until December 7, 1992, for a duration of approximately twenty-six days. Because the inmates were not permitted to leave their cells--except for periodic showers--meals, library books, medical assistance and all other necessities and services had to be brought to the inmates' cells. Eason's claims arise out of this lockdown and events which occurred during the twenty-six day period.

Eason filed this action under 42 U.S.C. Section 1983 in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Texas, Lubbock Division. The district court dismissed Eason's claims pursuant to 28 U.S.C. Section 1915(d). In Eason v. Thaler, 14 F.3d 8 (5th Cir.1994), this Court vacated the district court's judgment, finding that Eason's section 1983 claims might not have been frivolous if he had been given the opportunity to develop these claims through the use of a questionnaire or a hearing (Spears hearing) as provided for in Spears v. McCotter, 766 F.2d 179 (5th Cir.1985). On remand, the district court required Eason to answer a questionnaire and held a Spears hearing so that he might develop the facts related to his claims. The parties filed cross-motions for summary judgment, and, in accordance with the district court's order, they also filed post-Spears hearing summaries of the facts and their arguments. On March 16, 1995, United States Magistrate Judge J.Q. Warnick, Jr. entered his findings, conclusions and recommendation (Magistrate's findings) based on all of the evidence. Expressly adopting the Magistrate's findings, the district court granted summary judgment for the defendants and dismissed Eason's complaint with prejudice on March 24, 1995.

Eason filed a timely notice of appeal.


We review the district court's grant of summary judgment de novo. Topalian v. Ehrman, 954 F.2d 1125, 1131 (5th Cir.) (citing International Shortstop, Inc. v. Rally's, 939 F.2d 1257, 1263 (5th Cir.1991)), cert. denied, 506 U.S. 825, 113 S.Ct. 82, 121 L.Ed.2d 46 (1992). Summary judgment is proper if the moving party demonstrates the absence of a genuine issue of material fact, a showing which entitles the movant to summary judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c); see also Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 242-257, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 2506-2514, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986). If the movant produces evidence tending to show that there is no genuine issue of material fact, the nonmovant must then direct the court's attention to evidence in the record sufficient to establish the existence of a genuine issue of material fact for trial. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 321-323, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 2552, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986). In this analysis, we review the facts and draw all inferences most favorable to the nonmovant. Herrera v. Millsap, 862 F.2d 1157, 1159 (5th Cir.1989). However, mere conclusory allegations are not competent summary judgment evidence, and such allegations are insufficient, therefore, to defeat a motion for summary judgment. Topalian, 954 F.2d at 1131.

In his first point of error, Eason contends that his constitutional rights were violated when he was placed on lockdown without notice or an opportunity to be heard. Eason cites the Supreme Court's decision in Hewitt v. Helms, 459 U.S. 460, 103 S.Ct. 864, 74 L.Ed.2d 675 (1983), in support of this contention. Hewitt involved the segregation of a Pennsylvania state prisoner from the general prison population during the investigation into his role in a prison riot. The Court held that, "It is plain that the transfer of an inmate to less amenable and more restrictive quarters for nonpunitive reasons is well within the terms of confinement ordinarily contemplated by a prison sentence." Id. at 468, 103 S.Ct. at 869. The Court further concluded that such "administrative segregation" in the prison context--segregation "used to protect the prisoner's safety, to protect other inmates from a particular prisoner, to break up potentially disruptive groups of inmates, or simply to await later classification or transfer"--did not implicate an interest independently protected by the Due Process Clause. Id. at 466-470, 103 S.Ct. at 869-870. However, after examining the Pennsylvania statutes and regulations governing the administration of state prisons, the Court found that Pennsylvania had gone beyond the creation of simple procedural guidelines; instead, the Pennsylvania regulations used language "of an unmistakably mandatory character", prohibiting the employment of administrative segregation absent specific circumstances. Id. at 470-472, 103 S.Ct. at 871. The Court held that Pennsylvania had vested in Helms a state-created liberty interest in remaining in the general prison population, thereby affording Helms the minimum protections of the Due Process Clause. Id.

Recently, however, the Supreme Court has reconsidered the step it took in Hewitt, observing that "the search for a negative implication from mandatory language in prisoner regulations has strayed from the real concerns undergirding the liberty protected by the Due Process Clause." Sandin v. Conner, --- U.S. ----, ----, 115 S.Ct. 2293, 2300, 132 L.Ed.2d 418 (1995). In Sandin, the Supreme Court considered a state inmate's due process challenge to his punitive segregation from the general prison population, and concluded:

"The time has come to return to the due process principles we believe were correctly established and applied in [Wolff v. McDonnell, 418 U.S. 539, 94 S.Ct. 2963, 41 L.Ed.2d 935 (1974) ] and [Meachum v. Fano, 427 U.S. 215, 96 S.Ct. 2532, 49 L.Ed.2d 451 (1976) ]. Following Wolff, we recognize that States may under certain circumstances create liberty interests which are protected by the Due Process Clause. But these interests will be generally limited to freedom from restraint which, while not exceeding the sentence in such an unexpected manner as to give rise to protection by the Due Process Clause of its own force, nonetheless imposes atypical and significant hardship on the inmate in relation to the ordinary incidents of prison life." Id. (internal citations omitted).

In this case, however, we do not reach the impact of Sandin on the methodology, developed in Hewitt and its progeny, for finding a state-created liberty interest. 1 Eason has failed to identify a single statute, regulation or even internal TDCJ policy directive as evidence of a state-created liberty interest in the present case. Instead, Eason suggested at his Spears hearing that he was entitled to official notice of the reasons for, and expected duration of, the lockdown, and that he had not received such notice. In an effort to substantiate this assertion, Eason asked Warden Richard Thaler (Thaler) about this purported requirement of formal notice. Thaler replied that there was no such requirement under TDCJ regulations or policy, and that any progressive schedule distributed--by word of mouth or otherwise--to the inmates during a lockdown represented nothing more than a voluntary effort on the part of prison officials to provide incentive for cooperation between officials and inmates. Eason likewise failed to produce any evidence in support of his contention that it was TDCJ policy to collect the identification cards of prisoners involved in a disturbance so as to limit lockdown status to only those inmates who had been involved in the disturbance. In sum, there is an absence of any evidence of a state-created liberty interest protected under the Due Process Clause in the present case.

After conducting the Spears hearing in this case, the magistrate judge concluded that Eason's due process rights had not been violated. First, the magistrate judge found no evidence to indicate that Eason's segregation from the general prison population constituted punishment; this established, the defendant-prison officials...

To continue reading

Request your trial
1117 cases
  • Douglas v. Gusman
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — Eastern District of Louisiana
    • June 9, 2008
    ...or omissions upon which plaintiffs claims are based. "There is no respondeat superior liability under section 1983." Eason v. Thaler, 73 F.3d 1322, 1327 (5th Cir.1996). Thus, neither Sheriff Gusman nor former Sheriff Foti can be held liable under Section 1983 pursuant to a theory of respond......
  • Sanchez v. Griffis
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — Western District of Texas
    • November 2, 2021
    ...and unsupported speculation are not competent summary judgment evidence. Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(e)(1) ; see, e.g., Eason v. Thaler , 73 F.3d 1322, 1325 (5th Cir. 1996) ; McIntosh v. Partridge , 540 F.3d 315, 322 (5th Cir. 2008) ; see also Little , 37 F.3d at 1075 (noting that a non-movant's bur......
  • Hicks v. Bexar County, Tex.
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — Western District of Texas
    • June 13, 1997
    ...88 L.Ed.2d 662 (1986); Davidson v. Cannon, 474 U.S. 344, 347-48, 106 S.Ct. 668, 670-71, 88 L.Ed.2d 677 (1986); Eason v. Thaler, 73 F.3d 1322, 1329 n. 3 (5th Cir.1996); Campbell v. City of San Antonio, 43 F.3d 973, 977 (5th Cir. 1995); Salas v. Carpenter, 980 F.2d at 307; Streetman v. Jordan......
  • Wingard v. Louisiana
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — Middle District of Louisiana
    • March 29, 2022
    ...668, 88 L.Ed.2d 677 (1986) ; Mendoza v. Lynaugh , 989 F.2d 191, 195 (5th Cir. 1993) (negligent medical care); and Eason v. Thaler , 73 F.3d 1322, 1328-29 (5th Cir. 1996) (other citations omitted)).82 R. Doc. 8, pp. 12-13.83 R. Doc. 1-1, ¶ 36.84 2021 WL 3204741 at *4.85 R. Doc. 4-1, pp. 9-12......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
1 books & journal articles
  • Muslims and Religious Liberty in the Era of 9/11: Empirical Evidence from the Federal Courts
    • United States
    • Iowa Law Review No. 98-1, November 2012
    • November 1, 2012
    ...of Corr., 183 F.3d 1205 (10th Cir. 1999); Mack v. O’Leary, 80 F.3d 1175 (7th Cir. 1996), vacated , 522 U.S. 801 (1997); Eason v. Thaler, 73 F.3d 1322 (5th Cir. 1996); Hudson v. Maloney, 326 F. Supp. 2d 206 (D. Mass. 2004); Brown v. Johnson, No. 98-CV-6260CJS(F), 2003 WL 360118 (W.D.N.Y. Feb......

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT