On May 21, 1970, Fred Cruz, the most famous writ-writer in the Texas prison system, filed a pro se class action lawsuit under 42 U.S.C. Section 1983 against the State of Texas in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas. Cruz wrote his complaint on toilet paper. He asked the ...
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On May 21, 1970, Fred Cruz, the most famous writ-writer in the Texas prison system, filed a pro se class action lawsuit under 42 U.S.C. Section 1983 against the State of Texas in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas. Cruz wrote his complaint on toilet paper. He asked the district court for declaratory and injunctive relief, as well as damages, complaining that as a Buddhist, he was not allowed to use the prison chapel, that he was prohibited from writing to his religious adviser, and that he was placed in solitary confinement for sharing his religious material with other prisoners.
On December 23, 1970, the district court (Judge Ben Clarkson Connally) denied relief without a hearing or findings, holding the complaint to be in an area that should be left "to the sound discretion of prison administration." Cruz v. Beto, 329 F.Supp. 443 (S.D.Tex. Dec 23, 1970). The plaintiff appealed, and on July 15, 1971, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's decision. Cruz v. Beto, 445 F.2d 801 (5th Cir.(Tex.) Jul 15, 1971). The plaintiff filed a petition for certiorari with the U.S. Supreme Court.
On March 20, 1972, the U.S. Supreme Court per curiam vacated the holding of the lower courts, finding that Texas had discriminated against petitioner by denying him a reasonable opportunity to purse his Buddhist faith comparable to that offered to other prisoners. The Court remanded the case. Cruz v. Beto, 405 U.S. 319 (1972).
After the Supreme Court opinion was issued, there was a dispute in the district court about whether the Supreme Court opinion had ruled out the possibility of a class action damages award. The district court held that those things were no longer issues in the case. The plaintiff appealed. On July 19, 1974, the Fifth Circuit vacated that ruling and remanded the case back to the district court, holding that a class could still be certified and that damages could still be awarded. Cruz v. Estelle, 497 F.2d 496 (5th Cir. 1974).
We have no further information on this case.Kristen Sagar - 02/27/2009