On May 21, 1971, an inmate in a Texas state prison filed this class action lawsuit on behalf of himself and other inmates in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against the Texas Department of Corrections ("TDC"), now known as Texas Department of Criminal Justice--Institutional Division ("TDCJ-ID"). The plaintiff, proceeding pro se, asked the court for declaratory and injunctive relief, claiming that several of TDC's rules and practices on inmate correspondence and mail violated the inmates' First and Fourteenth Amendment rights. Specifically, he alleged that TDC prevented inmates from receiving and reading certain books, magazines, and newspapers, prohibited them from corresponding with anyone not officially approved by prison officials, and otherwise censored their incoming and outgoing mail in violation of their constitutional rights.
After a trial, on September 25, 1972, the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas (Judge John Virgil Singleton, Jr.) held that many of the prison's rules were unconstitutional under the First, Sixth, and Fourteenth Amendments. The court accordingly granted the plaintiffs' request for injunctive relief, ordering that TDC revise its rules and regulations. Guajardo v. McAdams, 349 F. Supp. 211 (S.D. Tex. 1972). On December 26, 1973, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit (Judge Irving L. Goldberg) reversed and remanded, holding that under 28 U.S.C. § 2281 only a three-judge court could enjoin the statewide TDC rules and regulations. Sands v. Wainwright, 491 F.2d 417 (5th Cir. 1974), cert. denied sub nom. Guajardo v. Estelle, 416 U.S. 992 (1974). The plaintiff then amended his complaint, asking for permission to withdraw his request for injunctive relief and seek only a declaratory judgment instead.
The parties then began lengthy settlement negotiations, and the district court preliminarily approved a proposed agreement on June 9, 1976. The plaintiffs determined that even the new rules set forth in the agreement failed to meet constitutional requirements, however, and they moved to vacate the settlement agreement in part. In September 1976, the district court severed the issues still in dispute for trial while conditionally approving the rules as further modified. At trial, the district court (Judge Singleton) noted that a one-judge court had jurisdiction to grant declaratory relief in the case and then held that several of the prison's mail rules and regulations remained unconstitutional. Guajardo v. Estelle, 432 F. Supp. 1373 (S.D. Tex. 1977). The TDC appealed, and the Fifth Circuit (Judge William Homer Thornberry) began its opinion by agreeing with the district court that because the plaintiffs sought only declaratory relief no three-judge court or jury trial were required. Guajardo v. Estelle, 580 F.2d 748 (5th Cir. 1978). The Fifth Circuit then addressed the constitutionality of the TDC's mail rules, adopting the district court's approach of dividing the correspondence into categories of general correspondence (mail between an inmate and the general public), special correspondence (correspondence to courts, attorneys, and the media), and publications (various magazines and manuals). The Fifth Circuit affirmed all but two of the district court's rulings on general correspondence, it affirmed all the rulings on attorney and media mail, and it affirmed most of the publication-censorship rulings.
After the Fifth Circuit's decision, the parties continued settlement negotiations. The plaintiffs then sought an injunction in July 1979 preventing the TDC from violating the modified rules. Before the district court issued its decision, however, the parties signed a Memorandum of Understanding under which the TDC would create a program to monitor its compliance with the correspondence rules. The district court approved this memorandum on September 28, 1979. Under the agreement, the parties provided that an independent consultant would oversee the monitoring program, assess the prison's mail practices more generally, and recommend changes to those practices. The consultant submitted several reports to the court in 1981-82, setting forth his recommendations for changes to the TDC's practices and procedures. After signing another memorandum to extend the consultant's appointment, the parties reached a settlement agreement on February 23, 1983. The district court (Judge Singleton) approved the agreement and the revisions to the correspondence rules, along with the related consent decree, on July 14, 1983. Guajardo v. Estelle, 568 F. Supp. 1354 (S.D. Tex. 1983). The court determined that the settlement was fair, adequate, and reasonable given that the plaintiffs had received almost all the benefits they could have received from the injunction they originally sought.
The consent decree was modified by stipulation several times over the next fifteen years. In 1997, the TDCJ-ID filed a motion to terminate the decree's prospective relief under the Prison Reform Litigation Act, which prevents a district court from sanctioning prospective relief unless the court determines that such relief (1) is narrowly drawn; (2) extends no further than necessary to remedy the violation of the federal right; and (3) constitutes the least intrusive means to cure the violation. On September 20, 2002, the district court (Judge Lee H. Rosenthal) issued an order terminating the consent decree. The court concluded that the decree afforded greater prospective relief than federal law required and that it should be terminated because the plaintiffs failed to demonstrate that the relief remained necessary to cure ongoing constitutional violations. The district court also determined that the decree was neither narrowly drawn nor the least intrusive remedy. The court did note, however, that prisoners with First Amendment claims could still bring an action under § 1983.
The plaintiffs appealed, and the Fifth Circuit (per curiam) affirmed the district court's decision on March 16, 2004. Guajardo v. Tex. Dep't of Crim. Justice, 363 F.3d 392 (5th Cir.), cert. denied, 543 U.S. 818 (2004). The Fifth Circuit rejected the plaintiffs' argument that the TDCJ-ID carried the burden of proof for terminating the injunction. To justify prospective relief under the PLRA, the plaintiffs had the burden of demonstrating ongoing constitutional violations, and they failed to meet that burden. The Fifth Circuit also disagreed with the plaintiffs that the TDCJ-ID's motion to terminate the decree should have been treated as a motion for summary judgment and that all the evidence of alleged constitutional violations accordingly should have been viewed in the light most favorable to the prisoner nonmovants. Finally, the Fifth Circuit held that the district court did not abuse its discretion by terminating the entire consent decree rather than preserving it for particular prison units with ongoing violations or for certain rules implicated by those violations. The court concluded that the plaintiffs failed to identify any individual units with ongoing violations that would justify continuing the decree.
On August 24, 2012, the district court (Judge Rosenthal) issued an order denying an inmate's motion to reinstate a consent decree because the inmate failed to present facts showing that the decree was improperly terminated. The court (Judge Rosenthal) then rejected an inmate's motion to enforce the judgment on January 14, 2014, noting that the court had already terminated the consent decree and therefore could not enforce any judgment. Finally, on June 17, 2014, the court (Judge Rosenthal) issued an order denying two motions that inmates had filed. One inmate challenged a new TDCJ-ID regulation that prohibited prisoners from buying stationary materials from outside vendors. The other inmate tried to reopen the case based on alleged violations of the consent decree.
There has been no further activity in this docket.Megan Raynor - 01/30/2006
Brian Tengel - 03/11/2015