JOSEPH C. GARCIA, Plaintiff - Appellant,
CARMELLA JONES; ED ROBERTSON; DAVID GUTIERREZ; FRED RANGEL; BRIAN LONG; FRED SOLIS; JAMES LAFAVERS; GREGORY W. ABBOTT, Defendants - Appellees.
from the United States District Court for the Southern
District of Texas
DENNIS, ELROD, and HIGGINSON, Circuit Judges.
Garcia was sentenced to death by a Texas jury and is
scheduled for execution on December 4, 2018. Garcia filed a
complaint under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against the Texas
Governor and the members of the Texas Board of Pardons and
Paroles (the Board) alleging that the Board's composition
violated his Eighth and Fourteenth Amendment rights and
seeking declaratory and injunctive relief, including a
preliminary injunction staying his execution. The district
court denied Garcia's motion for preliminary injunction
and dismissed his § 1983 complaint with prejudice
pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A. Garcia appealed. We
AFFIRM the district court's judgment and DISMISS
Garcia's motion for stay of execution as moot.
filed an Application for Commutation of Death Sentence to
Lesser Penalty with the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles on
November 8, 2018. Three weeks later, Garcia filed this §
1983 action in the district court, alleging that the Board as
currently constituted violates the requirement under Texas
Government Code § 508.032(a) that the Board be
"representative of the general public" because six
of the seven Board members are former employees of the Texas
Department of Criminal Justice or former law enforcement
officers and six of the seven Board members are male.
According to Garcia, this in turn violates his Fourteenth
Amendment due process right to a fair clemency proceeding,
and executing him under these circumstances would violate his
Eighth Amendment right to be free from cruel and unusual
punishment. Garcia simultaneously moved for a preliminary
injunction to bar the Board from making a recommendation on
his clemency request. He also asked the district court to stay
his execution to allow time to "hear the allegations in
district court denied Garcia's motion for preliminary
injunction on two grounds: (1) Garcia was dilatory in
bringing his § 1983 action so as to delay his execution;
and (2) the case had no likelihood of success on the merits
because Garcia had no constitutional right to clemency or any
particular procedures in the evaluation of his clemency
request. Moreover, because Garcia had at most alleged a
violation of Texas law and § 1983 provides a remedy only
for violations of the Constitution and laws of the United
States, the district court dismissed Garcia's complaint
for failure to state a cognizable claim. See 28
U.S.C. § 1915A(b)(1). Garcia filed an appeal in this
court and seeks a stay of his execution.
we lack jurisdiction to consider a claim requesting that we
order the Board to recommend clemency, we have jurisdiction
to consider challenges to state clemency proceedings when the
relief the party seeks "will not spell speedier
release." Young v. Gutierrez, 895 F.3d 829, 831
(5th Cir. 2018) (finding jurisdiction over a challenge to
state clemency proceedings that would "result only in a
stay until [the § 1983 claimant] is afforded a clemency
proceeding commensurate with the Constitution").
review a district court's denial of a preliminary
injunction for an abuse of discretion. Jones v. Tex.
Dep't of Criminal Justice, 880 F.3d 756, 759 (5th
Cir. 2018). "Factual findings are reviewed for clear
error, while legal conclusions are reviewed de novo."
Id. (quoting Moore v. Brown, 868 F.3d 398,
402 (5th Cir. 2017)). We review a dismissal under 28 U.S.C.
§ 1915A(b)(1) for failure to state a claim de novo,
applying the same plausibility standard applicable to Federal
Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) dismissals. Legate v.
Livingston, 822 F.3d 207, 209-10 (5th Cir. 2016).
obtain a preliminary injunction, a movant must establish:
'(1) a substantial likelihood of success on the merits,
(2) a substantial threat of irreparable injury if the
injunction is not issued, (3) that the threatened injury if
the injunction is denied outweighs any harm that will result
if the injunction is granted, and (4) that the grant of an
injunction will not disserve the public interest.'"
Jones, 880 F.3d at 759 (quoting Byrum v.
Landreth, 566 F.3d 442, 445 (5th Cir. 2009)). We agree
with the district court that Garcia has failed to satisfy the
first prong of this analysis.
does not assert a constitutional entitlement to clemency, and
it is well-established that no such right exists. See
Conn. Bd. of Pardons v. Dumschat, 452 U.S. 458, 464
(1981) ("[A]n inmate has 'no constitutional or
inherent right' to commutation of his sentence."
(quoting Greenholtz v. Inmates of Neb. Penal & Corr.
Complex, 442 U.S. 1, 7 (1979))); Ohio Adult Parole
Auth. v. Woodard, 523 U.S. 272, 280-82 (1998) (applying
Dumschat's reasoning to a death row inmate's
petition for clemency). Instead, Garcia asserts an
entitlement under due process to minimal procedural
safeguards in clemency proceedings.
Faulder v. Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles, 178
F.3d 343 (5th Cir. 1999), we held that allegations that
"the Board . . . violated state law and its own
regulations" was not an example of the type of
"extreme situation" that Justice O'Connor
declared a potential constitutional violation in her
concurring opinion in Woodard. 178 F.3d at 344-45
(citing Woodard, 523 U.S. at 289 (O'Connor, J.,
concurring)); see also Tamayo v. Perry, 553
Fed.Appx. 395, 402 (5th Cir. 2014) (holding no procedural due
process violation where Board members allegedly communicated
with interested parties in violation of the Board's own
rules). Similarly, Garcia's argument that the Board's
composition violates Texas law does not assert an arbitrary
clemency proceeding akin to the flip of a coin or a complete
denial of access to the clemency process. See
Faulder, 178 F.3d at 344 (citing Woodard, 523
U.S. at 289 (O'Connor, J., concurring)). Garcia's
allegations do not ...