University of Michigan Law School
Civil Rights Litigation Clearinghouse
new search
page permalink
Case Name Cruz v. Beto PC-TX-0010
Docket / Court 70-H-1098 ( S.D. Tex. )
State/Territory Texas
Case Type(s) Prison Conditions
Case Summary
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 ... read more >
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

compress summary

- click to show/hide ALL -
Issues and Causes of Action
click to show/hide detail
Constitutional Clause
Freedom of speech/association
Access to lawyers or judicial system
Religious programs / policies
Plaintiff Type
Private Plaintiff
Type of Facility
Causes of Action 42 U.S.C. ยง 1983
Defendant(s) Texas Department of Corrections
Plaintiff Description A Buddhist prisoner of the State of Texas. (Cruz was the most famous writ-writer in the Texas prison system.)
Indexed Lawyer Organizations None on record
Class action status sought Yes
Class action status granted Unknown
Prevailing Party Plaintiff
Public Int. Lawyer Yes
Nature of Relief Injunction / Injunctive-like Settlement
Source of Relief Litigation
Form of Settlement None on record
Order Duration 1972 - n/a
Case Closing Year n/a
Case Ongoing No
Additional Resources
click to show/hide detail
Case Studies Civil Rights Injunctions Over Time: A Case Study of Jail and Prison Court Orders
N.Y.U. Law Review
By: Margo Schlanger (Washington University)
Citation: 81 N.Y.U. L. Rev. 550 (2006)
[ Detail ] [ PDF ] [ External Link ]

  Judicial Policy Making and the Modern State: How the Courts Reformed America's Prisons
By: Malcolm M. Feeley & Edward Rubin (UC Berkeley Boalt Hall School of Law & Vanderbilt School of Law Faculty)
Citation: (1998)
[ Detail ]

By: Susanne Mason (New Day Films)
Citation: (New Day Films 2008)
[ Detail ] [ External Link ]

Links A Guide to the Frances Jalet-Cruz Papers, 1966-1986
Center for American History,The University of Texas at Austin
By: The University of Texas at Austin
[ Detail ] [ External Link ]

  Cruel Confinement: Abuse, Discrimination and Death Within Alabama's Prisons
Written: Jun. 04, 2014
(Southern Poverty Law Center )
[ Detail ] [ External Link ]

No docket sheet currently in the collection
General Documents
Memorandum and Order on Motion to Dismiss (329 F.Supp. 443) (S.D. Tex.)
PC-TX-0010-0001.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 12/23/1970
Source: Westlaw
Appellate Opinion (445 F.2d 801)
PC-TX-0010-0002.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | External Link | Detail
Date: 07/15/1971
Opinion (405 U.S. 319)
PC-TX-0010-0003.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | External Link | Detail
Date: 03/20/1972
Opinion (497 F.2d 496)
PC-TX-0010-0004.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | External Link | Detail
Date: 07/19/1974
Judges Blackmun, Harry Andrew (Eighth Circuit, SCOTUS)
Burger, Warren Earl (D.C. Circuit, SCOTUS)
Coleman, James Plemon (Fifth Circuit)
PC-TX-0010-0002 | PC-TX-0010-0004
Connally, Ben Clarkson (S.D. Tex.)
Rehnquist, William Hubbs (SCOTUS)
Simpson, John Milton Bryan (M.D. Fla., Eleventh Circuit, S.D. Fla., Fifth Circuit)
PC-TX-0010-0002 | PC-TX-0010-0004
Wisdom, John Minor (Fifth Circuit)
PC-TX-0010-0002 | PC-TX-0010-0004
Monitors/Masters None on record
Plaintiff's Lawyers Duke, Lonnie W. (District of Columbia)
PC-TX-0010-0001 | PC-TX-0010-0002
Schwartz, Herman (New York)
Defendant's Lawyers Craddock, Michael J (Texas)
Flowers, Robert (Texas)
Flusche, Max P. Jr. (Texas)
Hill, John L. (Texas)
Martin, Crawford (Texas)
Pena, Gilbert J. (Texas)
PC-TX-0010-0001 | PC-TX-0010-0002
Walker, Alfred (Texas)
White, Nola (Texas)
Other Lawyers None on record

- click to show/hide ALL -

new search
page permalink

- top of page -