MOTION FOR COPIES AT PUBLIC EXPENSE [JEFFERSON COUNTY CIRCUIT
COURT, NO. 35CV-17-70] HONORABLE JODI RAINES DENNIS, JUDGE.
Harmon, pro se appellant.
Rutledge, Att'y Gen., by: Robert T. James, Ass't
Att'y Gen., for appellee.
R. BAKER, Associate Justice.
Dexter Harmon, an inmate incarcerated in the Arkansas
Department of Correction ("ADC"), appeals from the
Jefferson County Circuit Court's order granting summary
judgment with respect to Harmon's civil rights and tort
complaint filed against ADC officials, Moses Jackson, Randy
Watson, and Flora Washington, in their individual capacities
under the Arkansas Civil Rights Act of 1993 (ACRA), codified
as Arkansas Code Annotated sections 16-123-101 to -108 (Repl.
2016). Harmon alleged that appellees violated his due-process
rights when they failed to release him from punitive
isolation for approximately one month after he was due to be
released. Harmon further alleged that appellees
committed the torts of false imprisonment, negligence, and
"excessive confinement." The circuit court granted
the appellees' motion for summary judgment from which
this appeal has been brought, and both Harmon and appellees
have filed their briefs in this appeal. Harmon subsequently
filed a "motion for request" wherein he alleges
that the appellees failed to forward a copy of their brief to
him and asks that this court provide him with the copy.
the circuit court erred when it granted summary judgment and
dismissed the action on the sole ground of failure to
exhaust, this matter is reversed and remanded. Harmon's
motion is therefore moot.
argued below that they were entitled to summary judgment
because Harmon had failed to exhaust his administrative
remedies before filing suit. In support of their argument,
appellees relied on federal case law applying the Prison
Litigation Reform Act (PLRA), 42 U.S.C. § 1997e, which
requires that inmates exhaust prison grievance procedures
before bringing 42 U.S.C. § 1983 actions related to
prison conditions. Burns v. Eaton, 752 F.3d 1136
(8th Cir. 2014). Appellees alleged in the motion for summary
judgment filed below that the grievances filed by Harmon had
failed to specify a claim that the named ADC officials had
violated his right to due process or had committed tortious
acts but had instead alleged that the named officials had
violated his Eighth Amendment right against cruel and unusual
punishment. On this basis, and relying on federal case
law, appellees contend that Harmon failed to exhaust his
administrative remedies when he failed to specify his claims
is well settled that summary judgment is to be granted by a
circuit court only when it is clear that there are no genuine
issues of material fact to be litigated, and the party is
entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Hardin v.
Bishop, 2013 Ark. 395, 430 S.W.3d 49. Where there is no
material question of fact, we determine whether the moving
party was entitled to judgment as a matter of law. City
of Rockport v. City of Malvern, 2012 Ark. 445, at 3, 424
S.W.3d 870, 873. We review issues of statutory construction
de novo, as it is for this court to interpret a statute.
Id., 424 S.W.3d at 873.
circuit court erred when it granted summary judgment on
evidence presented by appellee that Harmon had failed to
exhaust his due-process and tort claims as required by the
PLRA. The PLRA is a federal law that is not applicable to
actions brought against public officials in their individual
capacities under ACRA and Arkansas tort law. While
is guided by federal law as to actions filed pursuant to
§ 1983, there is nothing in ACRA that references the
applicability of the PLRA. See Ark. Code Ann. §
16-123-105(c) (stating in pertinent part that when construing
this section, a court may look for guidance to state and
federal decisions interpreting 42 U.S.C. § 1983).
did not file a civil rights action under § 1983 but
limited his claim to one brought pursuant to ACRA and alleged
a due-process violation pursuant to article 2 of the Arkansas
Constitution. Arkansas has not enacted a law similar to the
federal statute that requires exhaustion of administrative
remedies before lodging an action for compensatory damages
based on allegations of the violation of constitutional
rights. In Arkansas, exhaustion is generally required when a
party is seeking a declaratory judgment or injunctive relief.
See Ahmad v. Beck, 2016 Ark. 30, 480 S.W.3d 166
(declaratory-judgment actions are intended to supplement,
rather than replace, ordinary actions and litigants must
therefore exhaust their administrative remedies before
seeking a declaratory judgment); see also Hotels.com,
L.P. v. Pine Bluff Advert. & Promotion Comm'n,
2013 Ark. 392, 430 S.W.3d 56; Prof'l Bail Bondsman
Licensing Bd. v. Frawley, 350 Ark. 444, 88 S.W.3d 418
(2002). Furthermore, the exhaustion of administrative
remedies is not required when no genuine opportunity for
adequate relief exists or when an administrative appeal would
be futile. Ahmad, 2016 Ark. 30, 480 S.W.3d 166;
see also Cummings v. Big Mac Mobile Homes, Inc., 335
Ark. 216, 222, 980 S.W.2d 550, 553 (1998) (When a plaintiff
prays for relief that is clearly not available at the
administrative level, exhaustion of available administrative
remedies is not required.).
the circuit court erred in granting the appellees' motion
for summary judgment and dismissing Harmon's case based
on his failure to exhaust his administrative remedies.
Accordingly, we reverse and remand.
and remanded; motion moot.
A. Womack, ...