Skip navigation
× You have 2 more free articles available this month. Subscribe today.

TDCJ-ID Must Provide Procedures for Prisoners to Identify Evidence Supporting Grievances

by Matthew T. Clarke

A Texas court of appeals has ruled that the Texas prison system is required by law to provide procedures for a prisoner to identify evidence to substantiate the prisoner's claim.

Charles William Ingram, Jr., M.D., a Texas state prisoner, sued Wayne Scott, the Executive Director of the Texas Department of Criminal justice (TDCJ), alleging that Scott was violating Section. 501.008 of the Texas Government Code which governs TJCJ's development of a system to handle prisoner grievances. Ingram asked that the district court issue a writ of mandamus ordering Scott to comply with Section 501.008. Both Scott and Ingram filed motions for summary judgment. The district court granted Scott's and denied Ingram's. Ingram appealed.

The Court of Appeals of Texas at Austin held that Scott failed to establish the affirmative defenses of official and sovereign immunity raised in his motion for summary judgment. Furthermore, "the defense of official immunity is inapplicable here, where Ingram is seeking to compel Scott to perform a nondiscretionary act. Section 501.008 requires that the Department's grievance system must provide procedures ... for an inmate to identify evidence to substantiate the inmate's claim' Tex. Govt Code Ann. § 501.0088(b). While Scott has discretion to decide the structure of those procedures, it is mandatory that such procedures be in place. Official immunity is not a defense to a suit arising out of the nonperformance of a ministerial act."

The court of appeals also held that sovereign immunity is not applicable. Sovereign immunity shields public officials from damages in some cases, but Ingram did not seek damages. Therefore, the summary judgment could not have been properly granted on the basis of sovereign immunity. Furthermore, both official and sovereign immunity are affirmative defenses, which must be pled and proven by the defendant. However, in his motion for summary judgment, Scott merely listed the elements of the immunity defenses and stated that Ingram had failed to disprove Scott's entitlement to the defenses. This is insufficient to prove an affirmative defense as the burden to prove entitlement is on Scott and there is no burden of proof on Ingram.

In his motion, Scott claimed that Ingram had failed to prove Scott's failure to comply with Section 501.008 because the statute contained no requirement that the procedures be in writing and grievance investigators had the discretion to interview witnesses and obtain other evidence. Ingram had countered that, if the identification of evidence was left to the grievance investigator's discretion, it ran afoul of Section 501.008's mandate that the Department must provide such procedures for every grievance.

Via affidavit, Ingram had offered proof of a conversation with a grievance investigator in which the investigator told Ingram that he did not personally investigate each grievance he received and was unable to find or discern any policy regarding a procedure for identifying evidence supporting a prisoner's grievance. Ingram also submitted proof of a specific instance in which a key witness was not interviewed.

Viewing all this evidence in the light most favorable to Ingram, the Court of Appeals held that Scott had failed to establish his entitlement to judgment as a matter of law. "Scott's grounds for seeking summary judgment boil down to the argument that the procedures need not be in writing under the statute. However, Scott produced no evidence that the Department has any unwritten procedures .. . . Furthermore, we believe Scott's contention that the procedures do not have to be in writing flies in the face of common sense."

Turning to the issue of whether the district court erred in denying Ingram summary judgment, the court of appeals noted that during discovery Scott admitted that "there is no written procedure for an inmate to identify evidence to substantiate the inmate's claim in the prison grievance procedure in Texas as required by § 501.008 of the Texas Government Code" and other admissions relating to the total lack of such a procedure. "The deemed admissions clearly establish as a matter of law Ingram's contention that section 501.008(b)(1), a nondiscretionary act, is being violated." Thus, Ingram was entitled to judgment as matter of law. Therefore, the court of appeals reversed the district court's judgment granting summary judgment for Scott and remanded the cause to the district court with instructions to grant Ingram summary judgment and issue a writ of mandamus requiring Scott to comply with section 501.008(b) of the Texas Government Code. This is an unpublished opinion.

As a digital subscriber to Prison Legal News, you can access full text and downloads for this and other premium content.

Subscribe today

Already a subscriber? Login

Related legal case

Ingram v. Scott

FN8. It is not clear from the record exactly how Ingram's mailings have been addressed. We note Ingram has sent all of his documents by mail and appears to have addressed all of them in the same manner; it also appears that most of his mailings have made their way to Scott's attorney except for the requests for admission and Ingram's appellate brief.

Should the trial court have granted Ingram's motion to compel discovery
In his fourth issue, Ingram argues the trial court erred in denying his motion to compel Scott to comply with Ingram's discovery requests. We disagree.

A trial court's decision on discovery matters is reviewed under an abuse of discretion standard. See Markham v. Diversified Land & Exploration Co., 973 S.W.2d 437, 441 (Tex.App.--Austin 1998, pet. denied). Ingram's motion to compel does not appear in the record before us. The docket sheet indicates the motion was filed on February 22, 1999, but does not reflect that it was ever ruled on. It is not clear from the record what Ingram sought from Scott and it is not clear the motion was brought to the district court's attention. Ingram has not demonstrated the district court abused its discretion in refusing to rule on his motion to compel. We overrule Ingram's fourth issue.

We sustain Ingram's second and third issues. We overrule issues one and four. We reverse the district court's judgment granting summary judgment for Scott and remand the cause to the district court for further proceedings.

Not Reported in S.W.3d, 2000 WL 795869 (Tex.App.-Austin)