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Click here for the full text of this decision FACTS:David Morris, an inmate at the Telford Unit, worked at the commissary. On Nov. 25, 1997, Morris submitted a grievance to prison authorities about how a prison official, Christy Powell, ran the commissary. Six days later, Morris was transferred from his job in the commissary to a job in the kitchen pot room, then moved from the pot room to the butcher shop. In May 1998 he was transferred from Telford Unit to the Terrell Unit. Morris filed a 42 U.S.C. �1983 suit, claiming he was retaliated against for exercising his First Amendment right to use the prison grievance system. He said his work transfers and his transfer to a new prison unit constituted retaliation. The district court initially denied the defendants’ motion for summary judgment, but this court remanded for consideration of whether an inmate’s retaliation claim must allege more than a de minimis adverse act. The district court then held that an inmate must allege more than a de minimis retaliatory act to proceed with a claim for retaliation. The district court also ruled that Morris’ claim only alleged de minimis retaliation. HOLDING:Vacated and remanded. The court confirms that the issue of whether an allegation of de minimis retaliatory acts can support a retaliation claim is an issue of first impression. The court notes that it has never upheld a retaliation claim that alleges only inconsequential retaliatory acts; on the other hand, the court has “not hesitated” to recognize the legitimacy of an inmate’s claim when “more serious allegations” of retaliation are alleged. The court finds that the de minimis standard is not only consistent with court precedent, but also strike the proper balance between the need to recognize valid retaliation claims and the need to avoid becoming embroiled in every state prison system disciplinary act. “We must explain, however, that this threshold is intended to weed out only inconsequential actions and is not a means to excuse more serious retaliatory acts by prison officials. Retaliation against a prisoner is actionable only if it is capable of deterring a person of ordinary firmness from further exercising his constitutional rights.” Turning to Morris’ claims, the court finds that Morris complains only about the transfer from the commissary to the kitchen pot room, saying the assignment was particularly unpleasant; he does not complain about his subsequent transfer to the butcher shop. Given the small amount of time Morris spent in the pot room, the sequence of events does not support an inference that Morris’ job transfers would have deterred him from exercising his right to file grievances. There may have been an underlying retaliatory motive, but there is no evidence that the job transfers were more than de minimis. The court reaches a different conclusion, however, with respect to Morris’ transfer to a different prison unit, noting that the Terrell unit is considered a more dangerous unit. Transfer to a more dangerous prison is a much more serious retaliatory act than what has been considered de minimis in other circuits, the court explains. “There is no doubt that transfer to a more dangerous prison as a penalty for the exercise of constitutional rights has the potential to deter the inmate from the future exercise of those rights. Accordingly, Morris’s prison transfer claim meets the de minimis threshold, and summary judgment should not have been granted on that claim.” Lastly, the court rules that the defendants are entitled to qualified immunity on the job-transfer claims, but not for the prison-transfer claims. OPINION:Smith, J.; Smith, Garza and Prado, J.J.

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