JIMMY BANKS, INDIVIDUALLY AND IN HIS OFFICIAL CAPACITY APPELLANT
SHARON JONES APPELLEE
FROM THE JEFFERSON COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT [NO. 35CV-2013-450],
HONORABLE ALEX GUYNN, JUDGE.
Rutledge, Att'y Gen., by: Patricia Ann Ausdall, Ass't
Att'y Gen., for appellant.
& Gillham, P.L.L.C., by: Luther Oneal Sutter and Lucien
Gillham, for appellee.
A. WOMACK, ASSOCIATE JUSTICE
Jones filed suit against Jimmy Banks, Warden of the Varner
Unit of the Arkansas Department of Correction (ADC). Jones
alleged she had been terminated from her employment at the
Varner Unit due to racial and gender discrimination. Banks
moved for dismissal, arguing that he was entitled to immunity
from suit. The circuit court denied that motion. We reverse
an African American woman, worked at the Varner Unit until
her termination in 2013. According to Jones, she was
discharged under circumstances that similarly situated white
or male employees were not and was thus subject to unlawful
racial and gender discrimination. Jones points to other
African American women who were terminated from
She discusses the circumstances leading up to their
discharges at length. Yet the circumstances giving rise to
her termination are conspicuously absent from the pleadings.
her termination, Jones filed the underlying action against
Banks in his official and individual capacity. She sought to
hold Banks liable for alleged racial and gender
discrimination under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and the Arkansas
Constitution. Jones alleged to seek only injunctive and
declaratory relief from Banks in his official capacity. In
her prayer for relief, she requested compensatory and
punitive damages, reinstatement, and front pay.
moved for judgment on the pleadings for failure to state a
claim and alleged he was entitled to sovereign, qualified,
and statutory immunity. The circuit court denied that motion.
Jones subsequently filed an amended complaint. Banks moved
for dismissal based on constitutional sovereign immunity,
qualified immunity, and statutory immunity. The circuit court
denied that motion, holding that Banks was not entitled to
any form of immunity. This interlocutory appeal followed.
interlocutory appeal from an "order denying a motion to
dismiss . . . based on the defense of sovereign immunity or
the immunity of a government official" is permissible
under Arkansas Rule of Appellate Procedure-Civil 2(a)(10).
See Ark. Cmty. Corr. v. Barnes, 2018 Ark. 122');">2018 Ark. 122, at 2,
542 S.W.3d 841, 842. When reviewing the denial of the motion
to dismiss under Rule 2(a)(10), we treat the facts alleged in
the complaint as true and view them in the light most
favorable to the plaintiff. Williams v. McCoy, 2018
Ark. 17, at 2, 535 S.W.3d 266, 268. All reasonable inferences
are resolved in favor of the complaint and the pleadings are
liberally construed. Id. Because our rules require
fact pleading, the complaint must state facts to entitle the
pleader to relief. Id. Mere conclusions will not
suffice. Id. We review a motion to dismiss for abuse
of discretion. Id. But whether a party is immune
from suit is purely a question of law and is reviewed de
novo. Barnes, 2018 Ark. 122');">2018 Ark. 122, at 2, 542 S.W.3d at
first to the claims brought against Banks in his official
Arkansas Constitution unequivocally provides that "[t]he
State of Arkansas shall never be made defendant in any of her
courts." Ark. Const. art. 5, § 20. We have extended
sovereign immunity to state agencies and state employees sued
in their official capacities. Williams, 2018 Ark.
17, at 3, 535 S.W.3d at 268. That is because a suit against a
state official in their official capacity is not a suit
against that person, but rather is a suit against that
official's office. See Ark. Tech. Univ. v. ...