Case: Cruz v. Beto

4:70-01098 | U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas

Filed Date: May 21, 1970

Clearinghouse coding complete

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 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…

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.

Summary Authors

Kristen Sagar (2/27/2009)

People


Judge(s)

Blackmun, Harry Andrew (District of Columbia)

Burger, Warren Earl (District of Columbia)

Coleman, James Plemon (Louisiana)

Connally, Ben Clarkson (Texas)

Rehnquist, William Hubbs (District of Columbia)

Simpson, John Milton Bryan (Florida)

Wisdom, John Minor (Louisiana)

Attorneys(s) for Plaintiff

Duke, Lonnie W. (District of Columbia)

Schwartz, Herman (New York)

Attorneys(s) for Defendant

Craddock, Michael J (Texas)

Judge(s)

Blackmun, Harry Andrew (District of Columbia)

Burger, Warren Earl (District of Columbia)

Coleman, James Plemon (Louisiana)

Connally, Ben Clarkson (Texas)

Rehnquist, William Hubbs (District of Columbia)

Simpson, John Milton Bryan (Florida)

Wisdom, John Minor (Louisiana)

Attorneys(s) for Plaintiff

Duke, Lonnie W. (District of Columbia)

Schwartz, Herman (New York)

Attorneys(s) for Defendant

Craddock, Michael J (Texas)

Flowers, Robert (Texas)

Flusche, Max P. Jr. (Texas)

Hill, John L. (Texas)

Martin, Crawford (Texas)

Pena, Gilbert J. (Texas)

Walker, Alfred (Texas)

White, Nola (Texas)

Documents in the Clearinghouse

Document

Memorandum and Order on Motion to Dismiss

329 F.Supp. 443

Dec. 23, 1970 Order/Opinion

Appellate Opinion

U. S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit

445 F.2d 801

July 15, 1971 Order/Opinion

Opinion

Supreme Court of the United States

405 U.S. 319, 92 S.Ct. 1079, 31 L.Ed.2d 263

March 20, 1972 Order/Opinion

Opinion

Cruz v. Estelle

U. S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit

497 F.2d 496

July 19, 1974 Order/Opinion

Resources

Title Description External URL

Cruz v. Beto

Oyez

Petitioner prisoner, an alleged Buddhist, complained that he was not allowed to use the prison chapel, that he was prohibited from writing to his religious advisor, and that he was placed in solitary… May 20, 1972 https://www.oyez.org/cases/1971/71-5552

A Guide to the Frances Jalet-Cruz Papers, 1966-1986

The University of Texas at Austin

Correspondence, legal documents, diaries, newspapers, clippings, and printed material documenting Frances Freeman Jalet-Cruz's activities as an attorney and activist for criminal justice and prison r… Jan. 1, 1986 http://www.lib.utexas.edu/taro/utcah/00348/cah-00348.html

Writ-Writer

Susanne Mason

From the film website: <br />Writ Writer documents the remarkable transformation of Fred Arispe Cruz, from a barrio delinquent on drugs to the hero of the prison reform movement in Texas. <br /> … Jan. 1, 2008 http://www.newday.com/films/writwriter.html

Docket

Last updated May 11, 2022, 8 p.m.

Docket sheet not available via the Clearinghouse.

State / Territory: Texas

Case Type(s):

Prison Conditions

Key Dates

Filing Date: May 21, 1970

Case Ongoing: No

Plaintiffs

Plaintiff Description:

A Buddhist prisoner of the State of Texas. (Cruz was the most famous writ-writer in the Texas prison system.)

Plaintiff Type(s):

Private Plaintiff

Public Interest Lawyer: Yes

Filed Pro Se: Yes

Class Action Sought: Yes

Class Action Outcome: Unknown

Defendants

Texas Department of Corrections, State

Case Details

Causes of Action:

42 U.S.C. § 1983

Constitutional Clause(s):

Freedom of speech/association

Availably Documents:

Injunctive (or Injunctive-like) Relief

Any published opinion

U.S. Supreme Court merits opinion

Outcome

Prevailing Party: Plaintiff

Nature of Relief:

Injunction / Injunctive-like Settlement

Source of Relief:

Litigation

Order Duration: 1972 - 0

Issues

General:

Access to lawyers or judicial system

Religious programs / policies

Type of Facility:

Government-run