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Mitchell v. Arkansas Board of Correction

April 12, 2007


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Susan Webber Wright United States District Judge


Plaintiff LaQuilla M. Mitchell ("Mitchell") brings this employment discrimination action against the Arkansas Board of Correction and the Arkansas Department of Correction. Before the Court is Defendants' motion for summary judgment (docket entries #7, #8, #9), Mitchell's response (docket entries #10, #11, #15), and Defendants' reply (docket entry #12). After careful consideration, and for the reasons that follow, summary judgment will be entered in Defendants' favor, and this action will be dismissed with prejudice.


Summary judgment is appropriate when "the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c). As a prerequisite to summary judgment, a moving party must demonstrate "an absence of evidence to support the non-moving party's case." Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 325 (1986). Once the moving party has properly supported its motion for summary judgment, the non-moving party must "do more than simply show there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts." Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986).

The non-moving party may not rest on mere allegations or denials but must "come forward with 'specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.'" Id. at 587 (quoting Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(e)). "[A] genuine issue of material fact exists if: (1) there is a dispute of fact; (2) the disputed fact is material to the outcome of the case; and (3) the dispute is genuine, that is, a reasonable jury could return a verdict for either party." RSBI Aerospace, Inc. v. Affiliated FM Ins. Co., 49 F.3d 399, 401 (8th Cir. 1995).


Unless otherwise noted, the following facts are undisputed and taken from the parties' statements filed pursuant to Local Rule 56.1.*fn1 Mitchell, who is black, began her employment with the Arkansas Department of Correction ("ADC") on August 5, 2002, working as a document examiner in the personnel office at the Tucker Unit. In late July 2004, Sue Guirl ("Guirl"), an assistant warden, met with Mitchell and Mitchell's supervisor, and informed them that confidential information had been disseminated throughout the Tucker Unit by someone working in the personnel office.*fn2 See docket entry #8, Ex. #1 (hereinafter "Guirl Aff."), ¶¶ 7,8 and Ex. A.

Sometime during the summer of 2004, a "count room" position became available at the Tucker Unit. In September 2004, Guirl assigned Mitchell to the count room position, even though Mitchell had not requested a job change.

On October 15, 2004, Mitchell filed an internal grievance, alleging that she had been involuntarily transferred to the count room based on her race. Mitchell's internal grievance was denied, and on November 19, 2004, she filed a discrimination charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC"), claiming that Guirl had transferred her to the count room position because of her race. See docket entry # 8, Ex. # 4. On November 29, 2004, the EEOC dismissed Mitchell's discrimination charge and issued her a notice of suit rights.

In early July 2005, Mitchell asked Guirl for permission to visit Adrian Patillo ("Patillo"), an inmate incarcerated at the Ouachita River Unit of the ADC. Mitchell told Guirl that Patillo was the son of a church member. Pursuant to ADC policy in place when Mitchell submitted her request to visit Patillo, ADC employees could not visit inmates other than their immediate family members unless they received approval from a warden or assistant warden. Guirl Aff., ¶ 27. Guirl denied Mitchell's request.

Later in July, Mitchell submitted a visitation request to the Ouachita River Unit, seeking permission to visit Patillo, stating that Patillo was "a friend of the family." See Guirl Aff., Ex. B. On August 11, 2005, Mitchell received a call from the Ouachita River Unit's visitation clerk, who told Mitchell she had not received permission from a warden or assistant warden granting her request to visit Patillo. Additionally, the clerk notified Guirl that Mitchell's daughter, Quianna Mitchell, had submitted requests to visit Patillo and that Quianna Mitchell stated in her visitation request that she was Patillo's girlfriend and the mother of his children. See Guirl Aff., ¶ 29, Ex. B.

On August 19, 2005, Guirl terminated Mitchell's employment for the stated reason that she provided false or incomplete information on her visitation request. Mitchell filed a second discrimination charge with the EEOC on September 19, 2005, claiming that she had been discharged in retaliation for filing her first discrimination charge on November 19, 2004.

On May 22, 2006, Mitchell commenced this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. ยง 1981, Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, as amended by the Civil Rights Act of 1991, and the Arkansas Civil Rights Act, claiming that Defendants discriminated against her based on race by transferring her to the count room in September 2004 and terminating her employment in August 2005. She ...

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