''Rules'' of Dismissal of Inmates Lawsuits In Texas

A trial court abuses its discretion if it acts arbitrarily, capriciously, and without reference to any guiding rules or principles. Id. The trial courts are given broad discretion to determine whether a case should be dismissed because: (1) prisoners have a strong incentive to litigate; (2) the government bears the cost of an in forma pauperis suit; (3) sanctions are not effective; (4) the dismissal of unmeritorious claims accrue to the benefit of state officials, courts, and meritorious claimants. Green v. McKaskle, 788 F.2d 1116, 1119-20 (5th Cir. 1986). A court may dismiss a claim, either before or after service of process, if the court finds that the claim is frivolous or malicious. Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code 14.003(a)(2). In determining whether a claim is frivolous or malicious, the trial court may consider whether: (1) the claim's realistic chance of ultimate success is slight; (2) the claim has no arguable basis in law or in fact; (3) it is clear that the party cannot prove facts in support of the claim; or (4) the claim is substantially similar to a previous claim filed by the inmate because the claim arises from the same operative facts. Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code 14.003(b). We review the trial court's dismissal of an action as frivolous or malicious for an abuse of discretion. Lentworth v. Trahan, 981 S.W.2d 720, 722 (Tex. App.--Houston [1st Dist.] 1998, no pet.). Because the trial court did not hold a hearing on the motions to dismiss, the judge's basis for determining that the plaintiff's causes of action were frivolous could not have been because it found that they had no arguable basis in fact. Hector v. Thaler, 862 S.W.2d 176, 178 (Tex. App.--Houston [1st Dist.] 1993, no writ) (when the trial court dismisses a cause without a fact hearing, the trial court could not have determined there was no arguable basis in fact for the suit). Thus, the issue is whether the trial court properly determined there was no arguable basis in law for the suit. Id. To determine whether the trial court properly decided that there was no arguable basis in law for the plaintiff's suit, we examine the types of relief and causes of action pled in his petition to determine whether, as a matter of law, the petition stated a cause of action that would authorize relief. Id. We review and evaluate pro se pleadings by standards less stringent than those applied to formal pleadings drafted by lawyers. Lentworth, 981 S.W.2d at 722.