This is an appeal from a dismissal with prejudice of appellant's pro se, in forma pauperis action. The trial court dismissed appellant's suit as frivolous under TEX.CIV. PRAC. & REM.CODE ANN. § 13.001(a)(2) (Vernon Supp.1992). Appellant had sued certain
Appellant is a prisoner at the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, Institutional Division (Michael Unit). The trial court dismissed appellant's cause of action 15 days after it was filed. The record does not reflect whether the petition was served on appellees, and the transcript is void of any response by appellees. The docket sheet does not reflect that a hearing was held on whether the case should be dismissed. The proceedings of the administrative hearing, made the basis of this appeal, are not included in the record.
On October 25, 1991, a hearing was held to determine whether appellant was liable for the destruction of a pair of handcuffs under TEX.GOV'T CODE ANN. § 500.002 (Vernon Supp.1993). The hearing examiners found appellant guilty and assessed damages of $22.64. On December 16, 1991, $22.64 was withdrawn from appellant's inmate trust fund.
Appellant filed suit alleging negligence and violations of his due process rights guaranteed by the state and federal constitutions. Appellant requested "liquidated statutory damages of $100 to single person and $300 single occurrence of deprivation of his rights." The trial court dismissed appellant's cause of action with prejudice after deciding "that the purported cause of action is frivolous ... the claim has no arguable basis in law or in fact." TEX.CIV. PRAC. & REM.CODE ANN. § 13.001(a)(2).
Section 500.002 of the Government Code, entitled "Destruction of Property," provides:
TEX.GOV'T CODE ANN. § 500.002 (Vernon Supp.1993). Procedures for the hearing are to be established by the institutional division.
Although appellant does not separately list his points of error, we must review his pro se inmate petition with liberality and patience. See Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520, 92 S.Ct. 594, 595, 30 L.Ed.2d 652 (1972); Eubanks v. McCotter, 802 F.2d 790, 792 (5th Cir.1986); Johnson v. McAdams, 781 S.W.2d 451, 452 (Tex. App.-Houston [1st Dist.] 1989, no pet.). We discern a sole point of error: appellant asserts that the trial court erred in dismissing his complaint as frivolous because his complaint has reasonable bases in law or fact. Appellant claims that the trial court
The trial court dismissed appellant's cause of action as frivolous under section 13.001 of the Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code, which provides:
TEX.CIV.PRAC. & REM.CODE ANN. § 13.001 (Vernon Supp.1993).
Trial courts have broad discretion in determining whether to dismiss a suit as frivolous under section 13.001. Onnette v. Reed, 832 S.W.2d 450, 452 (Tex.App.-Houston [1st Dist.] 1992, no writ). An abuse of discretion occurs when a trial court acts arbitrarily, capriciously, and without reference to any guiding rules or principles. Smithson v. Cessna Aircraft Co., 665 S.W.2d 439, 443 (Tex.1984); Craddock v. Sunshine Bus Lines, 134 Tex. 388, 133 S.W.2d 124, 126 (1939); Pedraza v. Tibbs, 826 S.W.2d 695, 699 (Tex.App.-Houston [1st Dist.] 1992, writ dism'd w.o.j.).
The proper factor to be considered is whether the complaint "lacks an arguable basis in law or in fact." Johnson v. Lynaugh, 796 S.W.2d 705, 706 (Tex. 1990). The Fifth Circuit has cast doubt upon the appropriateness of dismissal when "it is clear that the party cannot prove a set of facts in support of the claim." Johnson, 796 S.W.2d at 706; see Payne v. Lynaugh, 843 F.2d 177, 178 (5th Cir.1988). The Texas Supreme Court has discouraged reliance on section 13.001(b)(1) when "the action's realistic chance of success is slight." Brown v. Lynaugh, 817 S.W.2d 813, 814 (Tex.App.-Houston [1st Dist.] 1991, no writ) (citing Johnson, 796 S.W.2d at 707). Therefore, this Court will consider only whether the trial court abused its discretion in determining that plaintiff's claim has no arguable basis in law or in fact. Brown, 817 S.W.2d at 815.
Section 13.001(c) permits the trial court to dismiss the suit even before service of process. Tex.Civ.Prac. & Rem.Code Ann. § 13.001(c); Pedraza, 826 S.W.2d at 698. Early dismissal spares prospective defendants the inconvenience and expense of answering frivolous complaints. Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 325, 109 S.Ct. 1827, 1831-32, 104 L.Ed.2d 338 (1989).
In his brief, appellant acknowledges that the disciplinary action of deducting money from his trust account met the "usual minimum due process." He does not argue that he was not given notice or a hearing. Section 500.002 provides that after a hearing, the institution may seize inmate trust funds. Instead, appellant argues that the hearing was not conducted within the meaning of the statute. He maintains that the "minimum level" of due process does not suffice for the purpose of assessing monetary damages at a disciplinary hearing.
The fourteenth amendment of the United States Constitution protects against deprivation of life, liberty, or property by the State "without due process of law." Parrat v. Taylor, 451 U.S. 527, 537, 101 S.Ct. 1908, 1914, 68 L.Ed.2d 420 (1981). The opportunity to be heard is the fundamental requirement of due process; it is an "`opportunity which must be granted at a meaningful time and in a meaningful manner.'"
We examine procedural due process questions in two steps: we first ask whether an existing liberty or property interest has been interfered with; we next determine whether the procedures attendant upon that interference were constitutionally sufficient. Kentucky Dep't. of Corrections v. Thompson, 490 U.S. 454, 462, 109 S.Ct. 1904, 1909, 104 L.Ed.2d 506 (1989).
In this case, the State seized funds from appellant's inmate trust fund, which under Tex.Gov't Code Ann. § 501.014 and § 501.015 (Vernon Supp.1993), belong to appellant. We therefore hold that the State has interfered with appellant's property interest. We now focus on whether the procedures authorizing the seizure of appellant's funds were constitutionally sufficient.
Appellant does not assert that he was not given notice and a hearing or that he did not have an opportunity to be heard. He challenges the hearing itself, asserting that the implementing procedures did not afford him his guaranteed due process rights. We must decide whether the State provided appellant a meaningful hearing, sufficient to guard against arbitrary action by government officials.
Appellant describes the hearing in his petition as follows (verbatim):
It is apparent from appellant's description that the destruction of the handcuffs occurred during an incident subject to a disciplinary report and hearing.
In Hewitt v. Helms, 459 U.S. 460, 103 S.Ct. 864, 74 L.Ed.2d 675 (1983), the United States Supreme Court determined the minimum requirements of a disciplinary hearing conducted to determine whether the inmate should be held in administrative segregation. The Court reasoned:
459 U.S. at 472-73, 103 S.Ct. at 872 (citations omitted). Appellant's description of his hearing meets the Hewitt standard for the scope of due process in a disciplinary situation.
We have found no Texas case defining the scope of due process afforded an inmate for a disciplinary hearing. We are confident that, at minimum, state law requires procedures that ensure that an inmate's property right is not arbitrarily abrogated. See, e.g., Ex parte Henderson, 645 S.W.2d 469, 472 (Tex.Crim.App.1983) (revocation of good-time credit).
In this case, appellant was present at the hearing. He does not claim that he did not
Because appellant does not assert any claim that has an arguable basis in law or in fact, the trial court did not abuse its discretion in dismissing his claim as frivolous.
We overrule appellant's point of error.
We affirm the order of dismissal.