9th District Court upholds dismissal of suit against Joe Corley Detention Facility

By Elizabeth Alt | Nov 27, 2018

BEAUMONT – The Court of Appeals of the 9th District at Beaumont affirmed a trial court order dismissing Valentin Ayala-Gutierrez’s suit claiming Civil Rights Act violations, noting Ayala-Gutierrez failed to appear at the hearing that was scheduled to establish why his suit should not be dismissed and never requested any citations to be prepared.

 “Ayala-Gutierrez never requested the District Clerk to have citations prepared for the defendants that he named in his suit…the record fails to show that any defendants were ever served with Ayala-Gutierrez’s suit,” the Nov. 15 ruling states.

Justice Horton Hollis wrote the court order, which was decided with Justices Steve McKeithen and Charles Kreger.

Ayala-Gutierrez filed a petition in 2016, claiming “eight individuals committed various acts that injured him over a two-year period that began in October 2012,” naming the Joe Corley Detention Facility and Corley warden Chris Strickland as two of the defendants.

Ayala-Gutierrez alleges the defendants are liable to him under the Texas Tort Claims Act and alleged several of the defendants acted “under color of state law and violated his rights under the Civil Rights Act.”

A federal judge dismissed his suit without prejudice, finding that Ayala-Gutierrez failed to state a valid claim. Ayala-Gutierrez filed a state petition, including several more defendants and expanding his claims.

The trial court dismissed the suit in 2017, stating that “[a]fter being duly notified to appear and show why said cause should not be dismissed from the docket of this court, no appearance was made by any party to said suit,” the ruling states.

Horton noted that the records show that Ayala-Gutierrez never requested for the clerk to prepare citations to serve the defendants or for his motions to “to proceed without paying costs and to appoint counsel,” agreeing with the trial court that Ayala-Gutierrez failed to prosecute his suit.

Hollis, in reply to Ayala-Gutierrez’s complaint that the trial court never ruled on his motion to appoint counsel, stated that Ayala-Gutierrez was not entitled to counsel. 

“Under Texas law, '[t]he mere fact that an indigent inmate brings a cause of action against an employee of the prison in which the inmate is incarcerated does not constitute exceptional circumstances such that it warrants appointed counsel,'” Hollis wrote.

“The record shows that Ayala-Gutierrez never asked the trial court to set hearings on his motions…he failed to preserve his complaints that the trial court never ruled on motions for our review,” Hollis wrote.

Hollis stated that Ayala-Gutierrez’s suit was not dismissed because it was without merit, but “because he failed to prosecute it in a timely manner…We conclude that the trial court did not abuse its discretion by dismissing Ayala-Gutierrez’s case.”

Court of Appeals, 9th District of Texas at Beaumont case number 09-17-00119-CV

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