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Robinson v. McCoy

United States District Court, E.D. Arkansas, Pine Bluff Division

March 20, 2018

DEMARCUS RANTREZ ROBINSON, ADC #150429 PLAINTIFF
v.
SERENA LYNN MCCOY, Disciplinary Serving Officer, Delta Regional Unit, Arkansas Department of Correction DEFENDANT

          RECOMMENDED DISPOSITION

         The following Recommended Disposition ("Recommendation") has been sent to United States District Judge J. Leon Holmes. Any party may file written objections to this Recommendation. Objections must be specific and include the factual or legal basis for disagreeing with the Recommendation. An objection to a factual finding must specifically identify the finding of fact believed to be wrong and describe the evidence that supports that belief.

         An original and one copy of the objections must be received by the Clerk of this Court within fourteen (14) days of this Recommendation. If no objections are filed, Judge Holmes can adopt this Recommendation without independently reviewing all of the evidence in the record. By not objecting, you may also waive any right to appeal questions of fact.

         I. Introduction

         Demarcus Rantrez Robinson ("Robinson") is a prisoner in the Varner Super Max Unit of the Arkansas Department of Correction ("ADC"). He has filed a pro se ' 1983 Complaint and an Amended Complaint alleging that Defendant Disciplinary Serving Officer Serena Lynn McCoy ("McCoy") violated his constitutional rights. Docs. 2 & 5. Before Robinson may proceed with this case, the Court must screen his allegations.[1]

         II. Discussion

         A. Due Process Rights

         Robinson alleges that, on or about September 26, 2017, McCoy violated his due process rights by failing to call his name to attend a disciplinary hearing and wrongfully recording that he waived his appearance at that hearing. As a result, Robinson did not attend the hearing, during which a non-party hearing officer found Robinson guilty of failing to report to work. Doc. 5 at 6-11. As punishment for that disciplinary conviction, Robinson lost his commissary, phone, and visitation privileges for fifteen days. Id. Additionally, Robinson was not allowed to participate in a vocation training program, which was a prerequisite for him being considered for parole. Id.

         Robinson was entitled to procedural due process during his prison disciplinary proceedings, only if he had a liberty interest at stake during that proceeding. See Sandin v. Conner, 515 U.S. 472, 484 (1995); Phillips v. Norris, 320 F.3d 844, 847 (8th Cir. 2003). Robinson did not have a liberty interest in: (1) avoiding the temporary loss of his commissary, phone, and visitation privileges;[2] (2) participating in the vocation training program;[3] or (3) becoming eligible for parole.[4]Because Robinson did not have a liberty interest at stake during his September 26, 2017 disciplinary proceedings, he did not have a due process right to attend the hearing.

         Robinson also alleges that McCoy violated ADC policy by failing to properly obtain his waiver of appearance at the disciplinary hearing. However, prisoners do not have a constitutional right to enforce compliance with internal prison rules or regulations. See Phillips, 320 F.3d at 847; Gardner v. Howard, 109 F.3d 427, 430 (8th Cir. 1997).

         Thus, the Court concludes that Robinson has failed to plead a viable § 1983 due process claim.

         B. Retaliation Claim

         Robinson alleges that McCoy took these actions against him in retaliation for him naming her as Defendant in a previously filed lawsuit, Robinson v. Payne, 5:17CV00114.

         A retaliatory discipline claim fails, as matter of law, if there is “some evidence the inmate actually committed a rule violation.” Sanders v. Hobbs, 773 F.3d 186, 190 (8th Cir. 2014); Hartsfield v. Nichols, 511 F.3d 826, 829 (8th Cir. 2008). Importantly, a “report from a correctional officer, even if disputed by the inmate and supported by no other evidence, legally suffices as some evidence upon which to base a prison disciplinary violation, if the violation is found by an impartial decision maker.” Id. (emphasis added).

         On September 26, 2017, Disciplinary Hearing Officer Keith Waddle found Robinson guilty of failing to report for work based on a written report filed by Sergeant Bryan Hale. Doc. 5 at 6-8. Robinson and Hale were not Defendants in Robinson v. Payne, 5:17CV00114. Thus, Hale's report, which was found to be credible by Waddle, "legally suffices as some evidence" to support Robinson's disciplinary conviction and preclude his retaliatory disciplinary claim. See Henderson v. Baird, 29 F.3d 464, 469 (8th Cir. 1994) (explaining that a ...


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