United States District Court, E.D. Arkansas, Western Division
PARNELL R. MAY PLAINTIFF
JEFF ALLISON, Detective, Pulaski County, Sheriff's Office, et al. DEFENDANTS
following Recommended Disposition
(“Recommendation”) has been sent to United States
District Judge Susan Webber Wright. You may file written
objections to all or part of this Recommendation. If you do
so, those objections must: (1) specifically explain the
factual and/or legal basis for your objection; and (2) be
received by the Clerk of this Court within fourteen (14) days
of the entry of this Recommendation. The failure to timely
file objections may result in waiver of the right to appeal
questions of fact.
Parnell R. May ("May") is a prisoner in the Pulaski
County Detention Facility (“PCDF”). He has filed
this pro se § 1983 action alleging that
Defendants Pulaski County Sheriff Doc Holladay
("Holladay") and Detective Jeff Allison
("Allison") violated his constitutional rights.
to the screening function mandated by 28 U.S.C. § 1915A,
the Court recommends that: (1) all claims against Holladay,
in his official and individual capacities, be dismissed,
without prejudice; (2) all claims against Allison, in his
official capacity, be dismissed, without prejudice; (3)
May's interference with legal mail claim against Allison,
in his individual capacity, be dismissed, without prejudice;
and (4) May's false arrest, defamation, and slander
claims against Allison, in his individual capacity, be stayed
pending the outcome of May's state court
sued Sheriff Doc Holladay and Detective Jeff Allison in their
official and personal capacities in connection with his
December 4, 2016, arrest and charge of first degree murder.
Doc. 2. May does not make specific allegations
against Defendant Holladay, but seeks to hold him liable for
alleged violations of May's constitutional rights caused
by employees of the Pulaski County Sheriff's Department.
Id. at 4-6. May asserts that Defendant Allison
arrested him without probable cause and placed false reports
and false evidence in May's file. May's state-court
criminal case is apparently ongoing. Id. at 3-6. May
also complains that his outgoing mail to the American Civil
Liberties Union (“ACLU”) has been opened out of
his presence. May seeks damages in the amount of $5 million.
Id. at 6.
official capacity claims against Holladay and Allison should
be dismissed, without prejudice. An official capacity claim
against county employees is treated as a suit against the
county. Liebe v. Norton, 157 F.3d 574, 578 (8th Cir.
1998). A claim against a county must allege a violation
resulting from an official custom, policy, or practice.
See Johnson v. Blaukat, 453 F.3d 1108, 1114 (8th
Cir. 2006). May has not alleged that his constitutional
rights were violated as a result of a custom, policy, or
practice, and has, accordingly, failed to state a claim
against Pulaski County.
extent May attempts to hold Defendant Holladay liable in his
personal capacity for any alleged deprivation of rights
caused by others, those claims should be dismissed.
“Liability under § 1983 requires a causal link to,
and direct responsibility for, the deprivation of
rights.” Madewell v. Roberts, 909 F.2d 1203,
1208 (8th Cir. 1990) (citing Rizzo v. Goode, 423
U.S. 362, 370-71 (1976)). Respondeat superior is inapplicable
to claims under § 1983. Royster v. Nichols, 698
F.3d 681, 692 (8th Cir. 2012); Briscoe v. Cnty. of St.
Louis, Missouri, 690 F.3d 1004, 1011 (8th Cir. 2012).
Because May alleged no unlawful action by Holladay, May
failed to state a claim against him on which relief can be
granted. See Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 676
(2009) (“labels and conclusions” and “naked
assertions devoid of further factual enhancement” are
insufficient to plead a claim for relief.)
interference with legal mail claim against Allison, in his
personal capacity, should also be dismissed, without
prejudice. May wrote “certain legal organization[s] for
help” and complains that legal mail was opened out of
his presence in violation of PCDF Policy. Doc. 2, at
4-5. Specifically, May alleges that he wrote a letter to the
ACLU “about [his] situation” and the PCDF opened
that mail. Prison officials may open legal mail only in an
inmate's presence, but all other mail may be opened and
inspected outside of an inmate's presence. See Wolff
v. McDonnell, 418 U.S. 539, 576-77 (1974). Privileged
legal mail is narrowly defined as “mail to or from an
inmate's attorney and identified as such.”
Gardner v. Howard, 109 F.3d 427, 430 (8th Cir.
1997). One instance of confidential mail being opened,
without evidence of an improper motive or interference with
the inmate's right to counsel or access to the courts,
does not rise to the level of a constitutional violation.
See Norman v. McConnich, 2010 WL 545936 (E.D. Ark.
Feb. 10, 2010) (citing Gardner v. Howard, 109 F.3d
427, 430-31 (8th Cir. 1997)). May does not allege that his
letter to the ACLU was not sent, or that any other letter was
read in his absence. May's allegation that his letter to
the ACLU was read outside of his presence fails to state a
claim for interference with legal mail.
false arrest claim against Allison, in his personal capacity,
should be stayed. The Younger abstention doctrine is
appropriate where: (1) there is an ongoing state proceeding;
(2) an important state interest is implicated; and (3) the
May has an avenue for reviewing his constitutional claims in
state court. See Younger v. Harris, 401 U.S. 37
(1971). Here, the state has an important interest in
adjudicating the charges against May, and he may raise the
issue of his alleged wrongful arrest and detention before the
state court. May has not pled any extraordinary circumstances
that would warrant intervention in the state proceedings.
See Night Clubs, Inc. v. City of Fort Smith, Ark.,
163 F.3d 475, 479 (8th Cir. 1998). When, as here, a May seeks
damages, his case should be stayed under Younger,
rather than dismissed. See Yamaha Motor Corp. v.
Stroud, 179 F.3d 598, 604 (8th Cir. 1999). A
Younger stay of May's claims against Defendant
Allison is appropriate here. May can proceed by filing a
Motion to Reopen this case after the state proceedings have
also alleged state-law claims of slander and defamation of
character. Doc. 2 at 4. Because May's remaining
constitutional claims should be stayed under
Younger, it is within the Court's discretion not
to exercise jurisdiction over his state-law claims, see
Rossi v. Gemma, 489 F.3d 26, 39-40 (1st Cir. 2007)
(citing United Mine Workers v. Gibbs, 383 U.S. 715,
726-27 (1966)), and the Court should decline to do so, at
THEREFORE RECOMMENDED THAT:
claims against Holladay, in his official and individual