Crosby v. Dixon, et al. (Published Memo): Prisoner civil rights suits can be dismissed without a hearing.
This is a matter of separating the wheat from the chaff. We want the door to be open to legitimate complaints by prisoners, but with all that time on their hands, prisoners are notorious for taking a “free bite at the apple” with lawsuits alleging violations of civil rights. Perhaps the most notorious is the one where the prisoner complained that he was forced to eat crunchy peanut butter instead of creamy (or was it vice versa?). See this post about the response to such suits in the federal judiciary.
Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code Chapter 14 attempts to strike a balance by imposing requirements that inmates bringing pro se suits in forma pauperis must state certain procedural matters plainly at the outset – or their cases get tossed.
But how, exactly, do they get tossed? The prisoner here asserted that the trial court should have given him a hearing before tossing his case. Chapter 14 states that prisoner suits must be brought within 31 days after the prisoner gets an adverse decision from the prison grievance system. What’s more, their suits must state the date on which they got that notice.
The suit here didn’t state the date. Not much point of a hearing on that. In the words of the Tyler court, the defect is “clear and wholly ascertainable from the record.” Dismissal without hearing was within the trial court’s discretion.
Now you know why this short memorandum opinion was designated for publication. It’s only January (and least as far as trial judges are concerned) it looks like we’ve got a Case-‘o-the-Year frontruner.