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Boivin v. Hutchinson

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

March 7, 2019



         The following proposed Findings and Recommendation have been sent to United States District Judge Billy Roy Wilson. You may file written objections to all or part of this Recommendation. If you do so, those objections must: (1) specifically explain the factual and/or legal basis for your objection, and (2) be received by the Clerk of this Court within fourteen (14) days of this Recommendation. By not objecting, you may waive the right to appeal questions of fact.


         I. Introduction

         Plaintiff Matthew Boivin, an inmate at the Arkansas Department of Correction's North Central Unit, filed this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging defendants violated his civil rights (Doc. No. 1). Specifically, Boivin alleges Governor Asa Hutchinson, Board of Correction Chairman Benny Magness, and Arkansas Department of Correction Director Wendy Kelley require him to perform prison labor without compensation or the award of meritorious good time. Boivin claims that requiring him to work violates the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the United Nations Charter, the Eighth, Thirteenth, and Fourteenth Amendments of the United States Constitution, the Fair Labor Standards Act, and the Arkansas Constitution.

         Defendants move to dismiss Boivin's claims for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted (Doc. No. 5). Boivin did not respond to defendants' motion. Boivin moved to amend his complaint and filed a proposed amended complaint (Doc. Nos. 10-11). However, those amendments do not cure the deficiencies asserted by defendants. As explained herein, the undersigned recommends that defendants' motion be granted.

         II. Legal Standard

         Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure authorizes a court to dismiss a claim on the basis of a dispositive issue of law. Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 326 (1989). If, as a matter of law, “it is clear that no relief could be granted under any set of facts that could be proved consistent with the allegations, ” a claim must be dismissed, without regard to whether it is based on an outlandish legal theory or on a close but ultimately unavailing one. Id. at 327 (quoting Hishon v. King & Spalding, 467 U.S. 69, 73 (1984)); see also O'Neal v. State Farm Fire & Cas. Co., 630 F.3d 1075, 1077 (8th Cir. 2011).

         When considering a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), the court must accept as true all of the factual allegations contained in the complaint, and all reasonable inferences from the complaint must be drawn in favor of the nonmoving party. Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007); Young v. City of St. Charles, Mo., 244 F.3d 623, 627 (8th Cir. 2001). The court reads the complaint as a whole, not parsed piece by piece to determine whether each allegation, in isolation, is plausible. Braden v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., 588 F.3d 585, 594 (8th Cir. 2009). In addition to the complain t, the c o u rt may c o n sider matters of public record, orders, items appearing in the record of the case, and exhibits attached to the complaint. See Porous Media Corp. v. Pall Corp., 186 F.3d 1077, 1079 (8th Cir. 1999).

         To survive a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), a complaint must allege facts sufficient to state a claim as a matter of law and not merely legal conclusions. Young, 244 F.3d at 627. The factual allegations in the complaint must “state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged. Id. The plausibility standard is not akin to a “probability requirement, ” but it asks for more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully. Id. (quoting Bell Atlantic, 550 U.S. at 556). Where a complaint pleads facts that are “merely consistent with” a defendant's liability, it “stops short of the line between possibility and plausibility of ‘entitlement to relief.'” Id. (quoting Bell Atlantic, 550 U.S. at 557). In Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007), the Supreme Court emphasized that when ruling upon a motion to dismiss in a § 1983 action, a pro se complaint must be liberally construed and held to less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers. However, such liberal pleading standards apply only to a plaintiff's factual allegations. Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 330 n. 9 (1989).

         III. Analysis

         The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the United Nations Charter, and the Thirteenth Amendment

         Boivin claims that the use of his labor without compensation under threat of punishment violates Articles 4 and 5 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (prohibiting slavery, servitude, torture, and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment) and Articles 55 and 56 of the United Nations Charter (promoting “universal respect for, and observance of, human rights and fundamental freedoms for all”).[1] Doc. No. 1 at ¶¶ 16, 19 & 20. However, neither the declaration nor the U.N. Charter provide a basis for a private cause of action. See United States v. Chatman, 351 Fed.Appx. 740, 741 (3d Cir. 2009) (“ . . . the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is a non-binding declaration that provides no private rights of action.”) (citing Sosa v. Alvarez-Machain, 542 U.S. 692, 734 (2004)[2]); United States v. Khatallah, 160 F.Supp.3d 144, 148 (D.D.C. 2016) (“the U.N. Charter . . . form parts of international agreements that impose general obligations on countries; they confer no rights on individuals or private rights of action enforceable in U.S. courts.”).

         Furthermore, Boivin's claim that he is subjected to slavery or involuntary servitude must be analyzed under the U.S. Constitution as opposed to international treaties or agreements. See Reid v. Covert, 354 U.S. 1, 17 (1957) (“This Court has regularly and uniformly recognized the supremacy of the Constitution over a treaty.”). The Thirteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution provides, in relevant part, “[n]either slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.” U.S. Const. amend. XIII, § 1 (emphasis added). It is well-settled that requiring convicted inmates to work with no pay does not violate the Thirteenth Amendment. See Ray v. Mabry, 556 F.2d 881, 882 (8th Cir. 1977) (citing Draper v. Rhay, 315 F.2d 193, 197 (9th Cir. 1963); Howerton v. Mississippi County, Ark., 361 F.Supp. 356, 364 (E.D. Ark. 1973); Holt v. Sarver, 309 F.Supp. 362, 369-72 (E.D. Ark. 1970), aff'd, 442 F.2d 304 (8th Cir. 1971)).

         Boivin maintains in his brief[3] that the Thirteenth Amendment's prohibition on slavery and servitude applies to him because he was only sentenced to a term of imprisonment, and was not sentenced to “hard labor.” That argument fails. Arkansas law requires all inmates sentenced to the Department of Correction to participate in the work programs to which they are assigned. See Ark. Code Ann. § 12-30-401(a) (West); Wendt v. Lynaugh,841 F.2d 619, 620 (5th Cir. 1988) (“Appellant also makes a convoluted argument that under Texas law a prison sentence consists only of confinement and does not compel labor. This latter argument is quickly disposed of because Tex. Rev. Civ. Stat. Ann. art. 6166x [requires prisoners to be kept at work] . . . '”); Ali v. Johnson, 259 F.3d 317, 318 (5th Cir. 2001) (distinguishing Watson v. Graves, 909 F.2d 1549 (5th Cir. 1990), and holding that the precise terms of state law are irrelevant because the ...

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