United States District Court, E.D. Arkansas, Northern Division
following Recommended Disposition
(“Recommendation”) has been sent to United States
District Judge James M. Moody Jr. 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 the date of this Recommendation. If you do not file
objections, Judge Moody can adopt this Recommendation without
independently reviewing all of the evidence in the record. By
not objecting, you may waive the right to appeal questions of
David Lamont Conley III (“Conley”) is a prisoner
in the Ouachita River Unit of the Arkansas Department of
Correction (“ADC”). He has filed a pro
se § 1983 Complaint alleging that, while he was at
the ADC's North Central Unit (“NCU”),
Defendants violated his constitutional rights. Doc.
1. Before Conley may proceed with this case, the Court
must screen his allegations.
alleges that, on April 3, 2018, Defendant Major Keith Jerome
Day (“Day”) wrote a major disciplinary
“falsely” accusing him of “assault, any
threat(s) to inflict injury upon another, directly or
indirectly, verbally or in writing.” According to
Day's disciplinary charge, Conley had submitted an
administrative grievance that contained the following
language, which Day deemed to be “insolent and
threatening”: “My safety and freedom is not a
joke to me and I'm go[ing to] show that it's not.
I'm trying to get transferred away from here.” Doc.
1 at 4; Doc. 1-1.
April 9, 2018, a disciplinary hearing was conducted, at which
Conley made the following statement: “When [Day] said
that about me fearing for my safety and freedom and that I
would show that it's not, I was talking about filing
lawsuits not any harm.” Doc. 1-1 at 2. The disciplinary
hearing officer convicted Conley of the disciplinary charge
and imposed punishment of sixty days of restricted
commissary, phone and visitation privileges, thirty days in
punitive isolation, a reduction in his classification level,
and forfeiture of 212 days of good time. Id.
appealed his disciplinary conviction to Defendant Warden
Stephen Williams (“Williams”), who affirmed.
Williams stated, “While you claim you were only
referring to the filing of paper work, your grievance did not
clearly explain that, and I agree that your vague statements
can reasonably be taken as a threat to this
institution.” Id. at 4. Conley then appealed
to the ADC Director, stating that officers were harassing him
and taking his safety and freedom as a joke, his grievance
was talking about filing complaints and a lawsuit about the
situation, he said nothing about doing bodily harm to anyone
or threatening anyone, and his class and good time should
never have been taken. On July 18, 2018, the ADC Director
reversed the disciplinary conviction “after a thorough
review of the documents pertaining to this matter.”
Id. at 5-6.
§ 1983 action, Conley alleges that: (1) the
“unprofessional conduct” of Defendants Day and
Williams shows that there is corruption and a “good old
boy” system in the ADC; (2) Defendants violated ADC
policy by writing a “bogus” disciplinary and
“falsifying” documents; and (3) Defendants should
be held accountable for violating the ADC code of conduct.
Conley seeks compensatory and punitive damages. Doc. 1 at
major disciplinary charge Day brought against Conley is not
itself actionable under § 1983. It is well settled that
an officer's mere filing of a disciplinary charge -- even
an inaccurate or incomplete charge -- does not give rise to a
§ 1983 cause of action. Sprouse v. Babcock, 870
F.2d 450, 452 (8th Cir. 1989); Glick v. Sargent, 696
F.2d 413, 414 (8th Cir. 1983).
extent that Conley raises a due process challenge to the
subsequent disciplinary conviction and the punishment
imposed, this claim also fails. The record makes it clear
that, at the most, Conley served thirty days in
punitive isolation, with the associated restrictions in
privileges, before the ADC Director reversed his conviction.
A prisoner may only maintain a due process challenge to a
disciplinary conviction or proceeding if he is deemed to have
a liberty interest at stake. Sandin v. Conner, 515
U.S. 472, 484 (1995); Phillips v. Norris, 320 F.3d
844, 846-47 (8th Cir. 2003). A prisoner does not
have a liberty interest in avoiding temporary disciplinary
segregation and the suspension of privileges, because such
punishment does not create an “atypical and significant
hardship on an inmate in relation to the ordinary incidents
of prison life.” Sandin, 515 U.S. at 482-86
(thirty days in disciplinary segregation); Phillips,
320 F.3d at 847 (thirty-seven days in isolation and loss of
privileges of contact visitation, exercise and chapel);
Portley-El v. Brill, 288 F.3d 1063, 1065-66 (8th
Cir. 2002) (thirty days in punitive); Kennedy v.
Blankenship, 100 F.3 640, 642-43 & n.2 (8th Cir.
1996) (thirty days in punitive segregation, which included
the suspension of mail, telephone, visitation and commissary
privileges); Wycoff v. Nichols, 94 F.3d 1187,
1189-90 (8th Cir. 1996) (no liberty interest arising where
prisoner served forty-five days in administrative segregation
before disciplinary decision was reversed).
a prisoner does not have a liberty interest in maintaining
his classification level. Moody v. Daggett, 429 U.S.
78, 88 n.9 (1976); Sanders v. Norris, 153 Fed.Appx.
403, 404 (8th Cir. 2005); Hartsfield v. Dept. of
Correction, 107 Fed.Appx. 695, 696 (8th Cir. 2003);
Carney v. Houston, 33 F.3d 893, 894 (8th Cir. 1994);
Madewell v. Roberts, 909 F.2d 1203, 1207 (8th Cir.
while Conley's good-time credits were initially
forfeited, they were restored by the reversal of his
disciplinary conviction. Even if Conley had a liberty
interest in those good-time credits,  the Eighth Circuit has
clarified that a violation of a prisoner's due process
rights in connection with a wrongful disciplinary conviction
is vindicated by the administrative reversal of that
conviction. Sanders, 153 Fed.Appx. at 404;
Wycoff, 94 F.3d at 1189; accord Davis v.
Norris, 230 Fed.Appx. 636, 636 (8th Cir. 2007)
(prisoner's “alleged due process violations
resulting from a disciplinary hearing and conviction were
cured by its reversal”); Whited v. Waddle, 223
Fed.Appx. 535, 535-36 (8th Cir. 2007) (“any due process
violations committed during the disciplinary hearing were
cured by the subsequent reversal of the disciplinary
Conley's allegation that Defendants' conduct violated
ADC policy also fails. As a matter of law, the violation of
prison policy, standing alone, does not rise to the level of
a constitutional violation actionable under § 1983.
Moore v. Rowley,126 Fed.Appx. 759, 760 (8th Cir.
2005); Gardner v. Howard,109 F.3d 427, 430 (8th
Cir. 1997). In addition, it is well settled that prisoners do
not have a due process right ...