United States District Court, E.D. Arkansas, Helena Division
OPINION AND ORDER
KRISTINE G. BAKER, District Judge.
Plaintiff Jerry Henry, a former employee of the Arkansas Department of Correction ("ADC"), brings this action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 alleging that he was wrongfully terminated on the basis of his race in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment and 42 U.S.C. § 1981. By prior Opinion and Order, the Court granted in part and denied in part defendants' motion to dismiss and dismissed Mr. Henry's official-capacity claims, due process claims, and remaining claims against defendant Ray Hobbs in his individual capacity (Dkt. No. 13). This case then proceeded on Mr. Henry's equal protection and § 1981 claims against defendants Danny Burl, Dexter Payne, and Jeremy Andrews in their individual capacities.
Before the Court is defendants' motion for summary judgment (Dkt. No. 18). Mr. Henry has responded (Dkt. No. 23), and defendants have replied (Dkt. No. 24). For the reasons set forth below, the Court grants defendants' motion for summary judgment.
I. Factual Background
The following facts are taken largely from defendants' statement of undisputed facts, attached exhibits, and record evidence (Dkt. No. 20). Mr. Henry did not file a response admitting or denying specifically the facts in defendants' statement of undisputed facts, but he includes in his memorandum response a "statement of the facts" section with some citations to record evidence (Dkt. No. 23, at 1-3). Mr. Henry has not complied with Local Rule 56.1(b), which requires that the non-moving party opposing summary judgment file "in addition to any response and brief, a separate, short and concise statement of the material facts as to which it contends a genuine dispute exists to be tried." Local Rule 56.1(b) (emphasis added). For these reasons, the Court accepts defendants' statement of undisputed facts, where supported by the record or not specifically contested by Mr. Henry, as true to resolve this motion. See Robinson v. American Red Cross, 753 F.3d 749, 754-55 (8th Cir. 2014) (considering facts in movant's statement of uncontested facts to be undisputed where non-movant failed to submit responses to movant's statement, through a "separate, short and concise statement of the material facts as to which it contends a genuine dispute exists to be tried, " as required by this Court's Local Rule 56.1).
A. Mr. Henry's Employment Background
Until June 2011, Mr. Henry was employed by the ADC as a correctional officer at the ADC's East Arkansas Regional Unit ("EARU"). Mr. Henry held the position of sergeant at the time of his allegedly unlawful termination in June 2011. Mr. Burl has been the warden at the EARU since May 2010. In April, May, and June of 2011, Mr. Payne was the deputy warden at the EARU, and Mr. Andrews was a field major at the EARU. Mr. Henry, Mr. Burl, and Mr. Payne are African American. Mr. Andrews is Caucasian. Mr. Burl terminated Mr. Henry's employment following an investigation into allegations that Mr. Henry was providing tobacco to an inmate.
B. Mr. Andrews's Investigation
In March 2011, during an investigation into the introduction of contraband into the EARU through staff, a confidential informant told Mr. Andrews that inmate David Morgan was receiving tobacco from a staff member and selling and distributing tobacco throughout the unit. On March 30, 2011, a search team discovered tobacco and a lighter in the possession of inmate Isaac Evans. Mr. Andrews subsequently interviewed Mr. Evans. Mr. Evans stated that the tobacco belonged to Mr. Morgan and that Mr. Morgan had approached Mr. Evans about moving tobacco throughout the EARU. Mr. Evans also claimed that Mr. Morgan was receiving the tobacco from Mr. Henry; Mr. Henry had passed tobacco to Mr. Evans in the "count room" on March 25, 2011, and other occasions; Mr. Evans witnessed Mr. Morgan give Mr. Henry $500.00 on March 27, 2011; and Mr. Henry was scheduled to bring in another bundle of tobacco on March 30 or 31, 2011 (Dkt. No. 20-1, at 4-5). In addition, Mr. Evans advised that there was more tobacco hidden elsewhere in the barracks, and a second search produced tobacco, money, and a tattoo gun in the specific locations identified by Mr. Evans.
According to the record, Mr. Andrews reviewed camera footage to confirm the allegation that Mr. Morgan and Mr. Henry entered the "count room" on March 25, 2011. The count room is a computer area in which the prison monitors prisoner movement. Mr. Andrews's investigation report states that Mr. Morgan would have been considered out of place, and out of assignment, if found to be in the count room and that Mr. Morgan should not have been called by the staff for anything concerning the count room or its operations. According to Mr. Andrews's report and deposition testimony, the prison had put out directives not to use Mr. Morgan in the count room area or as a "clerk" (Dkt. No. 20-1, at 3; Dkt. No. 20-3, at 14).
Mr. Andrews and others conducted a search of Mr. Henry when he reported to work on the evening of March 30, 2011. The search did not yield any contraband. Mr. Andrews questioned Mr. Henry, and Mr. Henry denied bringing any type of contraband into the unit for any inmate or receiving any money from any inmate. Mr. Henry did not deny having Mr. Morgan in the count room and stated that he had requested Mr. Morgan's assistance with a shift dismissal form on the computer, although Mr. Henry said he knew that he was not to have Mr. Morgan assisting as a clerk in the count room (Dkt. No. 20-1, at 6).
Mr. Andrews also questioned Mr. Morgan about being in the count room, and Mr. Morgan said he went in the count room twice with Mr. Henry to assist with a form. According to Mr. Andrews's report, he purposely did not question Mr. Morgan about the contraband in order to determine if Mr. Morgan would later speak to another individual regarding the shakedown or his involvement in the contraband.
On April 1, 2011, Mr. Andrews submitted to Mr. Burl his report and a request for an Internal Affairs investigation. Mr. Andrews listed in his report several questions raised by his investigation that he felt corroborated Mr. Evans's statements implicating Mr. Henry and Mr. Morgan (Dkt. No. 20-1, at 7). Mr. Andrews specifically requested that Mr. Evans be given a computerized voice stress analysis ("CVSA") test and that, if necessary, all parties be tested to determine if any disciplinary action should be administered (Dkt. No. 20-1, at 8). Mr. Burl subsequently forwarded that request to the ADC Internal Affairs (Dkt. No. 20-1, at 9).
C. Internal Affairs Investigation And Voice Stress Test
ADC Internal Affairs assigned the matter to an investigator, Margaret Rogers, who interviewed Mr. Evans on April 29, 2011, and Mr. Morgan and Mr. Henry on May 2, 2011. Another individual, Ruth Clark, conducted CVSA tests in connection with those interviews. During the CVSA tests, Mr. Evans responded "yes" when asked if Mr. Morgan told him that Mr. Henry was bringing the tobacco into the unit and if Mr. Evans saw Mr. Morgan give the $500.00 to Mr. Henry. No deception was indicated for either answer. Mr. Morgan denied that Mr. Henry ever brought him any type of tobacco product or that he had given Mr. Henry money to pay for tobacco; deception was indicated for both responses. Mr. Henry denied bringing in any type of tobacco product to Mr. Morgan or accepting money from Mr. Morgan; deception was indicated for both responses (Dkt. 20-1, at 13-15).
D. Mr. Henry's Termination
Mr. Burl terminated Mr. Henry on June 30, 2011. In his termination memorandum to Mr. Henry, Mr. Burl recites that ADC Internal Affairs found that Mr. Henry had been deceptive in his CVSA test and that Mr. Henry admitted that he had called Mr. Morgan into the count room and asked him to help work on the computer. Mr. Burl terminated ...