FROM THE PULASKI COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT, SIXTH DIVISION [NO.
60CV-15-4085] HONORABLE TIMOTHY DAVIS FOX, JUDGE
Richard and Connie Watkins, pro se appellants.
Rutledge, Att'y Gen., by: William C. Bird III, Ass't
Att'y Gen., for state appellees.
U. Colbert, P.A., by: Roger U. Colbert, for appellee Bradley
RAYMONDR. ABRAMSON, JUDGE
Connie and Richard Watkins bring this appeal, which stems
from a long-standing dispute regarding Paragould Light &
Water Commission's (PLWC) tree trimming around their
property. During the dispute, PLWC engaged licensed land
surveyor Bradley P. Hancock and his business Bradley P.
Hancock Surveying and Mapping (collectively
"Hancock") to perform a land survey. Hancock's
survey located certain trees that appellants understood to be
on their property as being beyond its boundaries. Appellants
believe Hancock's survey was maliciously and fraudulently
performed and filed two complaints against Hancock-one in
2007 and one in 2014-with the Arkansas State Board of
Licensure for Professional Engineers and Professional
Surveyors (ASBL). The ASBL dismissed both complaints.
lawsuit, appellants, who are proceeding pro se, sued based on
the handling of their complaints against Hancock and allege
that each of the parties sued engaged in a conspiracy to
conceal fraud perpetrated by Hancock. Appellants have sued
Hancock, several state agencies, three employees of those
agencies, four members of a state board, and the state
attorney who advised the agencies. Those who were sued
responded to the complaint with motions to dismiss on several
grounds. The circuit court granted the motions to dismiss.
Appellants appeal and raise several arguments in support of
reversal. We hold that there is no merit to appellants'
arguments and affirm the circuit court's order dismissing
Background and Procedural History
twenty years ago, appellants and PLWC first clashed regarding
the method in which PLWC was trimming trees on
appellants' property during its power-line maintenance.
The dispute escalated in 2006. It was then that PLWC
commissioned Hancock to perform a land survey that included
appellants' property. The Hancock survey, unlike previous
surveys, determined that certain trees adjacent to the
southern fence of appellants' property were beyond the
southern bounds of their property. Appellants challenged the
validity of the Hancock survey from the outset, claiming
Hancock was prejudiced against them and that he made the
deliberate choice to satisfy a known government adversary of
theirs when he performed his survey.
November 2006, PLWC came to the area to trim trees that the
Hancock survey identified as being outside appellants'
boundary line. An altercation followed, and Mrs. Watkins was
ultimately arrested and charged with disorderly conduct. She
was later convicted of disorderly conduct in the Greene
County Circuit Court. Mrs. Watkins appealed her conviction to
our court, and we affirmed. See Watkins v. State,
2010 Ark.App. 85, 377 S.W.3d 286.
the confrontation, PLWC filed a petition in the Greene County
Circuit Court seeking to enjoin appellants from interfering
with or harassing its workers during their maintenance of
power lines. In its petition, PLWC stated that it owned or
had acquired a prescriptive easement over the appellants'
property for the purpose of maintaining power lines.
Appellants responded with a voluminous counterclaim against
PLWC, which included causes of action for breach of contract,
intentional torts, and civil-rights violations. Ultimately,
the circuit court granted PLWC's request for an
injunction, found that PLWC was entitled to a right-of-way
easement by prescription, and denied all relief requested by
appellants. On appeal, our court affirmed the circuit
court's decision. Watkins v. Paragould Light &
Water Comm'n, 2016 Ark.App. 432, 504 S.W.3d 606.
February 2007, appellants filed a complaint against Hancock
with the ASBL, seeking to have Hancock sanctioned for his
actions with regard to the survey. The ASBL dismissed this
complaint against Hancock. Appellants call the ASBL's
refusal to sanction Hancock "contrary to all
evidence" and claim that the ASBL's findings were
"lies" and that the dismissal of their complaint
was "baseless, of bad faith, and false."
Essentially, they claim that the dismissal of their complaint
was the result of a conspiracy against them.
February 2014, appellants filed a second complaint with the
ASBL against Hancock. In this complaint, they alleged that
they had learned of fraud committed in connection with
Hancock's survey. The ASBL ultimately dismissed the 2014
the ASBL refused to sanction Hancock in 2014, appellants
filed this lawsuit on August 28, 2015, in the Pulaski County
Circuit Court. They sued Hancock, three state agencies-the
ASBL, the Arkansas Department of Agriculture, and the
Arkansas Division of Land Surveys. They also sued three
state-agency employees-Everett Rowland, James Atchley, and
Steve Haralson; four members of the ASBL-Ronald Hawkins, Nora
Moses, James Engstrom, and Robert Holloway; and the state
attorney who advised the agencies- Brandon Robinson-in their
individual capacities. Rowland, Atchley, Haralson, Hawkins,
Moses, Engstrom, Holloway, and Robinson are often referred to
as the individual capacity defendants (ICDs).
complaint spans 191 pages, includes 195 pages of exhibits,
and raises twenty-eight causes of action including fraud,
defamation, violations of criminal statutes, violations of
administrative statutes, and § 1983 actions. The
complaint is lengthy, chaotic, inartfully written, and at
times, practically unintelligible. It is replete with
speculative and conclusory allegations. But the essence of
the complaint is that each of these parties colluded to
conceal fraudulent actions taken by Hancock. By way of
example, appellants frequently reference Hancock's
"fraudulent survey" and PLWC's "malicious
plan." They also allege the ASBL "created
malicious falsified record" to "minimize
and conceal the overwhelming clear evidence against Hancock
and Hancock's clear misconduct and fraud, advance the
interests of PLWC AND to incriminate, with defamation
Connie Watkins." (Emphasis in original.)
September 2015, the Arkansas Attorney General filed a motion
to dismiss on behalf of the state agencies, the employees of
those agencies, the state board members, and the attorney
advising those agencies. In the motion, several defenses were
raised including that appellants' claims were barred by
the applicable statutes of limitation, that appellants failed
to state a claim for relief, and that these parties were
immune from suit. Similarly, Hancock filed a motion to
dismiss for reasons including the failure to state a claim
circuit court held a hearing on March 22, 2016. To
appellants' extreme dissatisfaction, the circuit court
announced from the bench its rulings on all pending motions
without allowing argument. The circuit court granted
Hancock's motion to dismiss. The circuit court also
granted the motion to dismiss filed by the Attorney General,
finding that appellants' claims were barred by the
applicable statutes of limitation and that their complaint
failed to state a claim for which relief could be granted. An
order dismissing appellants' complaint with prejudice was
entered on April 29, 2016.
filed numerous posttrial motions with the circuit court.
Posttrial motions relevant to this appeal begin with the
appellants' April 1, 2016 filing of a motion to recuse,
which the circuit court denied. Appellants also filed two
Rule 60 motions to vacate on May 13, 2016. The Rule 60
motions requested that the circuit court vacate the April
2016 dismissal order and again asked the circuit court to
recuse. These motions were deemed denied on June 12, 2016,
and the circuit court entered an order denying the motions on
June 20, 2016. Appellants filed a timely notice of appeal on
July 12, 2016, appealing several orders, including the deemed
denial of the Rule 60 motions, the June 20 orders denying
those motions, the April 2016 order of dismissal, and the May
2016 order denying the motion to recuse.
continued to file pleadings with the circuit court.
Importantly, in October 2016, appellants filed a motion and
affidavit of newly discovered facts relating to what they
believed were unauthorized costs being assessed by the
Pulaski County Circuit Clerk. They also filed a Rule 60
motion alleging a prejudicial clerk note. The circuit court
never ruled on these motions.
appeal, appellants make numerous arguments seeking to reverse
the circuit court's dismissal order. From the outset, it
is clear that we are procedurally barred from addressing
several of these arguments. We also note that this appeal
poses some unique challenges. Appellants' arguments are
often practically incomprehensible because they are poorly
developed and citations to relevant authority are rare. The
burden is on appellants to demonstrate error and to bring up
a record that so demonstrates. RAD-Razorback Ltd.
P'ship v. B. G. Coney Co., 289 Ark. 550, 713 S.W.2d
462 (1986). Our court will not make appellants' argument
for them or consider an argument that is not properly
developed. Teris, LLC v. Chandler, 375 Ark. 70, 289
S.W.3d 63 (2008). Thus, in instances where appellants'
argument is unclear, we do not address it.
fact that appellants have chosen to represent themselves does
not allow us to give special consideration to their case.
Appellants' right to represent themselves carries with it
concomitant responsibilities, and pro se appellants receive
no special consideration of their argument and are held to
the same standard as licensed attorneys. Elder v. Mark
Ford & Assoc., 103 Ark.App. 302, 304, 288 S.W.3d
702, 704 (2008).
Dismissal of the Fraud and Defamation ...