There are two possible avenues by which to obtain relief in prison disciplinary cases: administrative relief and relief through the courts. Mr. O’Neil pursues only the administrative remedy, for the reasons discussed below. While the internal TDCJ administrative appeals process offers two levels of appeal, there is an additional non-required step in the administrative process which can be pursued. That is to take the case directly to the Executive Director of the prison through the Office of General Counsel. That is where Mr. O’Neil becomes involved.
When Administrative Efforts Fail
If administrative effort fails, the second avenue is to file a writ of habeas corpus. When one files a writ challenging a prison discipline action in Texas, the usual necessity of first proceeding through state court does not apply (except for a very specific and narrow exception) due to a decision by the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals (Ex parte Brager, 704 SW2d 46). This means the writ in almost all cases must be filed directly in federal court in the jurisdiction most directly located where the inmate is housed at the time the action is filed. Prison disciplinary cases will be heard in federal court only under very specific circumstances. During Mr. O’Neil’s administrative review, he will determine if he believes the case meets those circumstances and advise the client in a written administrative evaluation. Although Mr. O’Neil has appealed disciplinary cases in federal court, he is no longer engaged in that practice due to the cost to the client, the limited types of prison disciplinary cases federal court will hear, and the courts’ reluctance to grant relief in prison disciplinary cases.