United States District Court, W.D. Arkansas, Fayetteville Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
TIMOTHY L. BROOKS JUDGE.
a civil rights action filed by Plaintiff Joshua John
Stephens, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Stephens
proceeds pro se and in forma pauperis. The
matter is presently before the Court for initial screening of
his Complaint under the Prison Litigation Reform Act
("PLRA"), 28 U.S.C. § 1915A. For the reasons
discussed below, the Court finds that this action should be
summarily dismissed pursuant to Section 1915A and Section
to the allegations of the Complaint, on December 19, 2016,
Stephens reported to Arkansas Community Correction
("ACC"),  and there encountered Parole Officers
Spencer, Eglin, West, as well as an unknown training officer.
Stephens states that he reported to these officers his
substance abuse problem and his need for professional help
for both substance abuse and mental health issues. He alleges
that West denied his request for help and then
"sanctioned [him] to jail." (Doc. 1, p. 20).
recounts that while he was being transported to the
Washington County Detention Center ("WCDC"),
Officer Eglin allegedly advised him that residential
treatment was not within the powers of the ACC. Stephens
claims he will present numerous witnesses to establish that
Officer Elgin was wrong about that, as Stephens believes that
parolees under the supervision of the ACC are often afforded
the opportunity to attend residential treatment. Stephens
asserts that the ACC Defendants ordered him to jail despite
knowledge of his two previous overdoses, which "showed
Deliberate Indifference toward the Plaintiff" in
violation of the "14th and 8th Amendments just to name a
few." Id. at 20-21. Stephens further alleges
that on several other occasions, ACC Supervisor Tracy Crews
demonstrated personal disdain and dislike for both Stephens
and his father. Stephens maintains that Crews' attitude
toward him demonstrates a lack of adherence to ACC policies
and procedures, as well as an inability to have an unbiased
Complaint goes on to state that on January 20, 2017, Parole
Officer West told Stephens that his recent urine sample had
tested positive for drugs, and this violation, coupled with
Stephens' failure to pay his supervision fees, would
result in him being incarcerated once again. Stephens and
West then visited Caroline F., the ACC substance abuse
counselor. According to Stephens, Caroline F. Told him that
he would be allowed into a substance abuse class because he
appeared to be on methamphetamine. He disagreed with her
about his methamphetamine use, and then claims he asked West
for a "grievance procedure"-presumably so that he
could complain about Caroline F.'s decision to put him in
a substance abuse class. Officer West did not respond to
Stephens' request for the grievance procedure. Instead,
West escorted Stephens to his car in the parking lot.
Stephens questions why, if he was supposedly under the
influence of drugs, Officer West and Caroline F. allowed him
to drive away from the ACC office. Stephens thinks that he
should have been treated as impaired, and the failure to
treat him as such showed a deliberate indifference to his
safety. He also contends that West's failure to provide
him with the grievance procedure violated his "1st
Amendment rights along with others." Id. at 19.
February 1, 2017, ACC Parole Officers Eglin, Spencer, and
Penguite, and Springdale Police Department ("SPD")
Officers Hignight and Mercado went to Stephens1 residence at
659 Daisy Lane in Springdale, Arkansas, to arrest him for a
parole violation. According to Stephens, the "white
warrant" that had been issued for his arrest was for
possession of firearms. Stephens believes the basis for the
warrant was invalid. He maintains that he did not possess any
firearms. Rather, he argues that the Daisy Lane residence
where he was staying belonged to Marty and Terri Stephens,
and the firearms that were discovered there were not his, but
either theirs or someone else's. Stephens contends that
when the officers searched the residence, they found firearms
in areas that were "unaccessable [sic] to myself."
Id. at 11. Further, Stephens claims that Officer
Hignight of the SPD informed him that he was not being
charged with possession of the firearms but was being
transported to the WCDC on the basis of warrants stemming
from prior traffic violations. Id.
maintains that on February 2, 2017, ACC Officer West sent a
violation report to the Parole Board that contained false
statements, namely, that Stephens had, been arrested and
booked on felony charges and was incarcerated pending trial.
Stephens alleges that ACC Officers West, Spencer, and Eglin,
under the supervision of Crews, knowingly violated his due
process rights, as well as his right to trial by an impartial
jury, by submitting that "false" violation report
to the Parole Board, which in turn subjected Stephens to
"cruel and unusual punishment." Id. at 14.
February 9, 2017, Stephens alleges that the parole violation
report was sent back "with the intention to violate the
Plaintiff and send him to prison under the assumption that
the information in said violation report was accurate and
without bias." Id. at 14. He asserts that the
ACC officers, under the supervision of Crews, then coerced
the SPD officers to arrest Stephens and deprive him of due
process, subject him to an unreasonable search and seizure,
and violate his right to equal protection under the law.
Id. at 13-14.
appears that, according to the facts in the Complaint,
Stephens was, indeed, arrested on a parole violation, entered
WCDC custody, and attempted at some point to secure his own
release, perhaps on bond. He recounts that before he obtained
his release from the WCDC, Officer West put "a
hold" on him, "[n]ot enabling [him] to leave."
Id. at 12. Stephens claims that members of his
family had been in touch with the SPD and the ACC prior to
this time and had understood that he was not being charged
with a weapons violation. However, on February 16, 2017,
"15 days after being arrested, " he was charged
with possession of firearms, and he was fingerprinted and
booked. Id. Stephens believes that charging him with
a firearms offense violated his rights under the Fourth and
Fourteenth Amendments. Id. He further believes that
the following Defendants are also to blame for violating his
constitutional rights with respect to this incident: SPD
Chief Peters, the John Doe Lieutenant on duty at the time
Stephens was formally charged and fingerprinted, the John Doe
Sergeant on duty, and SPD Officers Hignight and Mercado.
the Complaint alleges that between the dates of February 1,
2017, and February 16, 2017, ACC Officers Spencer, Penguite,
and Eglin, and SPD officer Hignight violated Stephens'
right to due process and to an impartial jury by knowingly
and intentionally "doctoring and falsifying official
reports with the intention to violate said rights of the
Plaintiff and send him to prison." Id. at 23.
Stephens maintains the probation violation reports of the SPD
and the ACC were "conflicting in nature demonstrating
deliberate indifference and violating the Equal Protection of
the Plaintiff as outlined in the constitution of the United
States of America." Id. He further alleges that
the ACC officials violated "confiscation protocol"
by bringing the firearms that were the subject of the
weapons-possession charge against him to the Washington
County Probation and Parole Office. Stephens asserts that the
ACC Defendants did not follow protocol in regards to the
chain of custody of evidence, which violated his Fourth
Amendment rights. Id. at 24.
February 23, 2017, after Stephens was incarcerated in the
WCDC, he claims he submitted a grievance through the pod
kiosk system. His grievance described how certain ACC
officials allegedly violated his constitutional rights. In
Stephens' view, Sergeant Gardner of the WCDC
"responded [to the grievance] with a retaliatory
statement saying any more gr[ie]vances would be flagged as
abuse." Id. at 24. Stephens understood
Gardner's response to mean that he "could face
disciplinary action for exercising his 1st Amendment right. .
. utilizing the only outlet available to him"-the
WCDC's grievance system. Id. Stephens therefore
maintains that Officer Gardner's response to his
grievance violated his constitutional rights, in that Officer
Gardner failed to substantively respond to the grievance and
then threatened to retaliate against Stephens for exercising
his right to "speak" through the grievance process.
the PLRA, the Court is obligated to screen a case prior to
the issuance of service of process. The Court must dismiss a
complaint, or any portion of it, if it contains claims that:
(a) are frivolous or malicious; (b) fail to state a claim
upon which relief may be granted; or (c) seek monetary relief
from a defendant who is immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C.
is frivolous if "it lacks an arguable basis either in
law or fact." Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S.
319, 325 (1989). A claim fails to state a claim upon which
relief may be granted if it does not allege "enough
facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its
face." Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S.
544, 570 (2007). "In evaluating whether a pro se
plaintiff has asserted sufficient facts to state a claim, we
hold 'a pro se complaint, however inartfully
pleaded, ... to less stringent standards than formal
pleadings drafted by lawyers.'" Jackson v.
Nixon, 747 F.3d 537, 541 (8th Cir. 2014) (quoting
Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007)).
1983 provides a federal cause of action for the deprivation,
under color of law, of a citizen's "rights,
privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution and
laws" of the United States. In order to state a claim
under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, a plaintiff must allege that the
defendant acted under color of state law and violated a right
secured by the Constitution. West v. Atkins, 487
U.S. 42 (1988); Dunham v. Wadley, 195F.3d 1007, 1009
(8th Cir. 1999). The deprivation must be intentional; mere
negligence will not suffice to state a claim for deprivation
of a constitutional right under Section 1983. Daniels v.
Williams, 474 U.S. 327 (1986); Davidson v.
Cannon, 474 U.S. 344 (1986).
Personal-Capacity Claims Against Certain Defendants
emphasizes in his Complaint that he means to sue all
Defendants in their personal capacities, but only some
Defendants in their official capacities. In particular, he
states several times in his Complaint that he means to sue
the ACC Defendants in their personal capacities only, but the
SPC and WCDC Defendants in both their official and personal
capacities. As the Supreme Court explained in Hafer v.
Melo,502 U.S. 21, 25 (1991), "[s]uits against
state officials in their official capacity... should be
treated as suits against the State .... [b]ecause the real
party in interest in an official-capacity suit is the
governmental entity and not the named official"
Accordingly, an official-capacity claim asserts that a
governmental entity's official policy or custom played a
part in the violation of federal ...