United States District Court, E.D. Arkansas, Eastern Division
Kristine G. Baker, United States District Judge.
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.
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).
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
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
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
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).
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).
The First Set Of Proposed Findings and
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,
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).
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).
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 ...