Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Buchanan v. Kelley

United States District Court, E.D. Arkansas, Eastern Division

March 5, 2019

JESSIE BUCHANAN ADC #099656 PLAINTIFF
v.
WENDY KELLEY, Director Arkansas Department of Correction, et al. DEFENDANTS

          ORDER

          KRISTINE G. BAKER, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         The Court has reviewed the three sets of Proposed Findings and Recommendations submitted by United States Magistrate Judge Joe J. Volpe (Dkt. Nos. 5, 23, 34). Plaintiff Jessie Buchanan timely filed objections to each of the three sets of Proposed Findings and Recommendations (Dkt. Nos. 6, 24, 37). Defendants also filed an objection to Judge Volpe's latest Proposed Findings and Recommendations (Dkt. No. 38). After careful review of the Proposed Findings and Recommendations, a de novo review of the record, and a review of all objections, the Court adopts the first and second sets of Proposed Findings and Recommendations as its findings in all respects (Dkt. Nos. 5, 23). The Court adopts, in part, and declines to adopt, in part, the third set of Proposed Findings and Recommendations (Dkt. No. 34). The Court refers this matter back to Judge Volpe to determine if separate defendants Mark Warner and James Dycus are entitled to summary judgment on the equal protection claims asserted against them in their individual capacities.

         I. Background

         In his complaint, Mr. Buchanan alleges that, on June 22, 2016, he and his fellow inmate, Ricky Rothenberger, were “locked up on ‘investigative status'” but he was never told “in writing why he was being investigated and segregated in the Max's [i]solation cell.” (Dkt. No. 2, at 7). Mr. Buchanan also alleges that separate defendants Mr. Warner and Mr. Dycus reassigned him from his job as a school porter to the “field squad” after he was investigated for an altercation that he alleges did not occur (Dkt. No. 2, at 7). Mr. Buchanan alleges that Mr. Warner and Mr. Dycus displayed discriminatory intent by effecting this reassignment, as they reassigned him, an African American inmate, but did not reassign a similarly-situated Caucasian inmate (Id., at 8). Mr. Buchanan further alleges that separate defendant Valerie Westbrook retaliated against him for asserting his racial discrimination claim by moving him to a different barracks (Id.). Finally, Mr. Buchanan alleges that he informed separate defendants Wendy Kelley and Gaylon Lay about the alleged racial discrimination, but they did nothing to remedy the situation (Id., at 9).

         The following facts are taken from defendants' statement of undisputed material facts, which was unopposed by Mr. Buchanan, as well as from the record evidence. Mr. Buchanan is an inmate incarcerated in the Arkansas Department of Corrections (Dkt. No. 30, ¶ 1). In June 2016, Mr. Buchanan was a Class 1 inmate at the East Arkansas Regional Unit (“EARU”), which is the highest classification for prisoners (Dkt. No. 28-1, at 18). On June 22, 2016, Mr. Buchanan, who is African American, got into an argument with Mr. Rothenberger, who is a Caucasian inmate (Dkt. Nos. 28-1, 28-2.). Mr. Rothenberger, who was also a Class 1 inmate without any disciplinary convictions, worked inside the prison in the maintenance department (Id.). Both men were removed from their jobs and placed on investigative status for 72 hours on June 22, 2016 (Dkt. No. 30, ¶ 8). On June 26, 2016, Mr. Buchanan and Mr. Rothenberger were released from investigative status without disciplinary charges being filed against either of them (Id.).

         Prior to being put on investigative status, Mr. Buchanan was a school porter, and Mr. Rothenberg was assigned to maintenance (Id., ¶¶ 9, 10). When an inmate is placed on investigative status, they are labeled “unclassified, ” which removes the inmate's current bed and work assignments (Id., ¶ 12). An inmate on investigative status has his bed and work assignments reassigned when that inmate re-enters the inmate population (Id.).

         Upon release from investigative status, both Mr. Buchanan and Mr. Rothenberger attended a mandatory classification hearing to be assigned to a barracks and a job (Id., ¶ 13). On June 28, 2016, Mr. Buchanan appeared before the classification committee, which included Mr. Warner, Mr. Dycus, and Ms. Westbrook (Id.). At the beginning of the meeting, Mr. Warner suggested Mr. Buchanan return to his job as a school porter (Dkt. Nos. 2; 28-1). Ms. Westbrook questioned whether he should return to that position because the school year was over (Id.). Mr. Buchanan responded that he still had “stuff to do to close out the school year” (Dkt. No. 28-1 at 5). Nevertheless, defendants Mr. Warner and Mr. Dycus reassigned Mr. Buchanan to field utility which, according to him, is the most physically strenuous prison job and is only assigned to newly arriving prisoners or as punishment when a prisoner's class is demoted (Dkt. Nos. 2; 28-1; 33 at 5-6). In contrast, Mr. Rothenberger was allowed to return to his maintenance job (Dkt. Nos. 2; 28-2). Mr. Buchanan was not reinstated to his school porter position when the school year resumed in August 2016 (Dkt. Nos. 2, 28-1, 28-2). Instead, Mr. Buchanan alleges that the job was given to a Caucasian prisoner (Dkt. No. 28-1 at 6-7.)

         On October 4, 2016, Mr. Buchanan appeared before the classification committee for his annual review (Dkt. Nos. 2, 28-1). Defendants Ms. Westbrook and Mr. Dycus were present (Id.). During the meeting, Ms. Westbrook asked Mr. Buchanan if he had any questions for the warden (Id.). Mr. Buchanan then asked Mr. Dycus why he racially discriminated against him and gave “preferential treatment” to the “white inmate” (Dkt. No. 2 at 15). Mr. Dycus told Mr. Buchanan that he was “offended” by the question and “would not address it” (Id.; Dkt. No. 28-1, at 15). At that point, Ms. Westbrook allegedly said, in a “hostile, ” “belligerent, ” and “discourteous” manner, “Pack your stuff, ” and she moved Mr. Buchanan from barrack 19 to barrack 16 (Dkt. No. 28-1, at 15, 18, 19). Mr. Buchanan remained on field duty for 158 days, which was until early December 2017 (Dkt. No. 33).

         II. Discussion

         Mr. Buchanan brings this action pro se pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging that: (1) Mr. Warner and Mr. Dycus violated his due process rights by failing to give him notice prior to placing him in isolation; (2) Mr. Warner and Mr. Dycus violated his equal protection rights by reassigning him to the field squad based on his race; (3) Ms. Westbrook retaliated against him for accusing Mr. Warner and Mr. Dycus of racial discrimination; and (4) Ms. Kelley and Mr. Lay failed to investigate and correct the racial discrimination and retaliation committed by the other defendants (Dkt. No. 2). Mr. Buchanan also named Dexter Payne and Jada Lawerance as defendants in his complaint (Id., at 1). Mr. Buchanan sued each defendant in his or her official and individual capacities (Id., at 2).

         A. The First Set Of Proposed Findings and Recommendations

         The first set of Proposed Findings and Recommendations recommends the dismissal without prejudice of Mr. Buchanan's claims against Mr. Payne and Ms. Lawerance for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted (Dkt. No. 5). Mr. Buchanan timely filed an objection, arguing that he inadvertently omitted details linking both defendants to the allegedly unconstitutional conduct and maintaining that they were still liable for violating his civil rights (Dkt. No. 6, ¶ 2). He claims that both defendants were directors, that they had personal knowledge of his complaint of racial discrimination because of letters he sent to them, and that they could have intervened but failed to do so (Dkt. No. 6, ¶¶ 2-3).

         Mr. Buchanan has sued Mr. Payne and Ms. Lawerance in their official and individual capacities pursuant to § 1983 seeking monetary damages (Dkt. No. 2, at 2). His claim against Mr. Payne and Ms. Lawerance in their official capacities for monetary damages is barred by sovereign immunity under the Eleventh Amendment. Monroe v. Arkansas State Univ., 495 F.3d 591, 594 (8th Cir. 2007) (noting that state officials are entitled to sovereign immunity in their official capacities, unless they are sued for prospective injunctive relief).

         As to Mr. Buchanan's claims for monetary relief against Mr. Payne and Ms. Lawerance in their individual capacities, in Clemmons v. Armontrout, the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals found that liability under § 1983 requires a causal link to the deprivation of rights. 477 F.3d 962, 967 (8th Cir. 2007). To establish personal liability of supervisory defendants, such as Mr. Payne and Ms. Lawerance, the plaintiff must allege specific facts of personal involvement in, or direct responsibility for, a deprivation of constitutional rights. Clemmons, 477 F.3d at 967; see also Askew v. Millerd, 191 F.3d 953, 958-59 (8th Cir. 1999) (holding that a supervisor can be held individually liable under § 1983 if he directly participates in a constitutional violation or if his failure to supervise and train properly the offending employee caused a deprivation of constitutional rights).

         The Court finds that Mr. Buchanan did not allege that Mr. Payne or Ms. Lawerance were directly involved in racial discrimination or retaliation, nor did Mr. Buchanan allege that they failed to supervise or train properly the offending employees. Mr. Buchanan simply asserts that Mr. Payne and Ms. Lawerance purportedly failed to investigate the alleged conduct and that they were “responsible and vested with the authority to ensure that ADC [policies] are followed and their subordinates are adequately trained . . . .” (Dkt. No. 5, at 3 (citing Dkt. No. 2, at 9)). Mr. Buchanan may not hold Mr. Payne and Ms. Lawerance responsible based solely on their positions as supervisory officials. Boyd v. Knox, 47 F.3d 966, 968 (8th Cir. 1995) (citing White v. Holmes, 21 F.3d 277, 280 (8th Cir. 1994)). In other words, for these claims to survive, Mr. Buchanan must allege that Mr. Payne and Ms. Lawerance did something other than review and deny Mr. Buchanan's administrative grievances. Accordingly, this Court dismisses without prejudice for failure to state a claim ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.