Submitted: September 21, 2016
from United States District Court for the Eastern District of
Arkansas - Pine Bluff
COLLOTON, MELLOY, and SHEPHERD, Circuit Judges.
SHEPHERD, Circuit Judge.
Buckley brought this suit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983
alleging violations of his constitutional and statutory
rights by the South Central Drug Task Force, several of its
members and directors, certain Assistant Attorneys General of
Arkansas, and the Attorney General of Arkansas. He also
sought certification of a class action suit against the
United States Attorney General on behalf of African-Americans
in Arkansas subjected to equal protection and due process
violations. The district courtgranted summary judgment to all
defendants. We affirm.
of 1999, Gyronne Buckley was convicted of two counts of
delivery of a controlled substance and sentenced to life
imprisonment, subsequently reduced to 56 years. His arrest
and conviction were the result of a "controlled drug
buy" operation orchestrated by the South Central Drug
Task Force. Agents Keith Ray and Linda Card, investigators in
the Drug Task Force, used a police informant to approach
Buckley and buy rocks of crack cocaine from him. The
informant later testified against Buckley at trial.
his state post-conviction appeal, Buckley learned of a
video-recorded, pre-trial interview between the informant and
Agents Ray and Card. The video showed Agent Ray coaching the
informant on how to present his testimony in the trial
against Buckley. The agents had never told state prosecutors
about the existence of the video. Buckley's attorney
repeatedly sought to obtain the video during his
post-conviction appeal. He was unsuccessful in doing so, and
Buckley's post-conviction appeal was likewise
only received a copy of this video as the result of a United
States District Court order in his federal habeas proceeding.
The district court then held his habeas petition in abeyance
to permit Buckley's return to state court. The Arkansas
Supreme Court granted Buckley's motion for leave to
reopen his case based on the previously undisclosed video.
Buckley alleged that suppression of the video violated his
due process rights under Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S.
83 (1963). The trial court agreed and vacated his conviction
on November 1, 2010. The charges against him were dismissed
by court order on December 6, 2010.
thereafter moved to have the record in his case sealed
pursuant to Arkansas Code Annotated § 16-90-905. The
Clark County Circuit Court ordered the record sealed on April
12, 2012. The expungement statute, as it existed in 2012,
Any individual who has been charged and arrested for any
criminal offense where the charges are subsequently nolle
prossed or dismissed or the individual is acquitted at trial
is eligible to have all arrest records, petitions, orders,
docket sheets, and any other documents relating to the case
expunged in accordance with the procedures defined by this
subchapter and upon entry of an order of expungement may
state that no such charges, arrest, and the resulting trial
Ark. Code Ann. § 16-90-906.
March 9, 2013, Buckley filed a claim with the Arkansas State
Claims Commission seeking compensation for his wrongful
conviction and years of incarceration. The Arkansas General
Assembly created the Claims Commission, which consists of
five commissioners, two of whom must be attorneys. See
id. § 19-10-201(a)(1). Each commissioner is
appointed by the governor and confirmed by the senate.
Id. § 19-10-201(a)(2). With limited exceptions,
the Claims Commission has "exclusive jurisdiction over
all claims against the State of Arkansas and its several
agencies, departments, and institutions . . . ."
Id. § 19-10-204(a). Any party pursuing such a
claim must file a complaint with the Commission; the State of
Arkansas is designated as the respondent. See id.
§ 19-10-208(a). The commissioners then hold a public
hearing, "giving the parties full opportunity for
presentation of evidence, cross-examination of witnesses, and
argument." Id. § 19-10-210(b)(1). When the
Commission issues a final decision on a claim, it supports
that decision with specific findings of fact and conclusions
of law. Id. § 19-10-216(a)(1). "A decision
of the Arkansas State Claims Commission may be appealed only
to the General Assembly." Id. §
19-10-211(a); see also Fireman's Ins. Co. v. Ark.
State Claims Comm'n, 784 S.W.2d 771, 775 (Ark. 1990)
("The act creating the Claims Commission clearly creates
it as an arm of the legislature, reporting solely to that
body."). The appeal is filed with the Commission, which
then notifies the Arkansas Legislative Council of the appeal.
Ark. Code Ann. § 19-10-211(c).
to the Commission's evidentiary hearing, Arkansas
Assistant Attorneys General Brad Phelps, Edward Armstrong,
and Will Jones accessed the records from Buckley's trial.
Armstrong and Jones then appeared before the Commission to
represent the State's interests. Armed with information
gleaned from the sealed records, they argued that Buckley
could not prove his actual innocence of the charges. After
the hearing, the Commission recommended Buckley receive $460,
000 in compensation.
State Attorney General's office appealed the
Commission's decision, and the appeal was heard at a
hearing of the Claims Review Subcommittee of the Arkansas
Legislative Council. See id. § 10-3-313. Dustin
McDaniel, then Arkansas's Attorney General, appeared
before the subcommittee in opposition to Buckley's
awarded compensation. He contended that Buckley had not
established his innocence. McDaniel also referenced an audio
tape of the controlled drug buy and claimed that Buckley used
the phrase "killing Whitey" on the tape. McDaniel
later admitted he erred in attributing those words to
subcommittee voted unanimously to deny Buckley compensation.
filed his original complaint on December 5, 2014. He
subsequently filed an amended complaint on February 10, 2015.
His amended complaint stated claims against three principal
groups of defendants. First, he asserted § 1983 claims
arising out of his wrongful conviction, naming the following
defendants: the South Central Drug Task Force; Agents
and Card; their supervising agent, Agent Richard
"Rip" Wiggins; directors of the Task Force Henry
Morgan, Taylor King, and Brent Haltom; and the Director of
the Arkansas State Police, Colonel J.R. Howard(collectively the
"Law Enforcement Defendants"). The claims against
the Law Enforcement Defendants pertain to the Brady
violation committed by Agents Ray and ...