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McArty v. Littleton

United States District Court, W.D. Arkansas, Hot Springs Division

July 10, 2019

RANDALL THOMAS MCARTY PLAINTIFF
v.
CRYSTAL LITTLETON, Hobby Craft Supervisor, Ouachita River Correctional Unit ORCU; WARDEN FAUST, ORCU; ASSISTANT WARDEN JACKSON, ORCU; and ASSISTANT WARDEN STEVE OUTLAW, ORCU DEFENDANTS

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          Susan O. Hickey Chief United States District Judge

         Before the Court is Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment. (ECF No. 48). Plaintiff has filed a response to the motion. (ECF No. 52). Defendants have filed a reply to Plaintiff's response. (ECF No. 58). In addition, Plaintiff has filed a response to Defendants' reply (ECF No. 62) and a supplemental response in opposition to Defendants' motion. (ECF No. 65). The Court finds the matter ripe for consideration.

         I. BACKGROUND

         This is a civil rights action filed by Plaintiff pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiff proceeds pro se and in forma pauperis. Plaintiff is incarcerated in the Arkansas Department of Correction (“ADC”) and is currently housed at the Varner Unit. Plaintiff's claims concern his incarceration and subsequent transfer from the Ouachita River Correctional Unit (“ORCU”) to the Varner Unit.

         In his Second Amended Complaint, Plaintiff alleges that Defendants unconstitutionally retaliated against him by revoking his Hobby Craft card at the ORCU. Plaintiff also alleges that he was retaliated against when he was transferred from the ORCU to the Varner Unit on February 8, 2018. (ECF No. 42).

         Defendant Crystal Littleton has been the Hobby Craft Supervisor at the ORCU since November 20, 2016. (ECF No. 50-1). Defendant Faust is and was at all times relevant to this lawsuit the Warden at the ORCU. (ECF No. 43). Defendants Outlaw and Jackson are and were at all times relevant to this case Assistant Wardens at the ORCU. (ECF No. 43).

         The ORCU is primarily a treatment unit for inmates with medical conditions and/or special needs. (ECF No. 50-2). The ORCU is a minimum to medium security unit and is intended only to house prisoners with medical conditions and/or special needs. (ECF No. 50-2). The ORCU frequently receives transfer requests from other ADC units needing to send inmates that require services only provided at the ORCU. (ECF No. 50-2).

         Generally, inmates whose medical issues are resolved at the ORCU are returned to the same units or units similar to those from which they came. (ECF No. 50-2). The Classification Officer at the ORCU keeps a list of inmates currently housed at the ORCU that are eligible to be transferred. An inmate can only be placed on the transfer list by Warden Faust, an assistant warden, or a major. (ECF No. 50-2).

         The Hobby Craft program is authorized by Administrative Directive 16-49, Inmate Work Craft Program. (ECF No. 50-1; ECF No. 50-4, pp. 45-51). The Hobby Craft program at each ADC unit is governed by policies specific to that unit. At the ORCU, the Hobby Craft program is governed by Ouachita River Correctional Unit Policy and Procedures, O.R.U. 22.1.0, Hobby Craft Privileges. (ECF No. 50-1; ECF No. 50-4, pp. 38-44). Section V of O.R.U. 22.1.0 states that “Hobby Craft participation is a privilege and should be treated as such.” (ECF No. 50- 4, pp. 38). All tools for Hobby Craft activities “must be on the inmates' inventory.” (ECF No. 50-4, pp. 39-40). Further, “[a]n inmate's inability to account for Hobby Craft items will result in the revocation of Hobby Craft privileges and formal disciplinary action may also be taken.” (ECF No. 50-4, p. 40). O.R.U. 22.1.0(VI)(I)(2) advises inmates that “Hobby Craft privileges may be revoked or suspended with failure to observe verbal or written Hobby Craft rules.” (ECF No. 50-4, p. 43).

         Before an inmate can participate in the Hobby Craft program, the inmate must sign an institutional agreement stating the following:

I understand that I may not sell, give away, loan, or sublet any of my Hobby Craft tools/equipment to other inmates. I understand that I am Accountable for all my Hobby Craft tools, equipment, etc. at all times. If my tools are stolen, I must report the theft immediately to the Shift Supervisor. I understand that the violation of any of the above rules or any other Hobby Craft Regulation may result in disciplinary action and/or revocation of My Work Craft privileges.

(ECF No. 50-1; ECF No. 50-4, p. 43-44). According to Littleton, an inmate's Hobby Craft privileges (Hobby Craft card) can be revoked without formal disciplinary action being taken. (ECF No. 50-1, p. 2).

         Plaintiff's Hobby Craft card was originally issued on February 10, 2016, after he signed an Institution/Inmate Agreement for Hobby Craft. (ECF No. 55-1, pp. 1-2: 10-11). On November 14, 2017, Plaintiff, who was being housed at the ORCU, signed a new Institution/Inmate Agreement for Hobby Craft. (ECF Nos. 50-1; 50-4, pp.11-12). In addition to the above language, the agreement signed by Plaintiff stated, “I understand that the violation of any of the above rules or any other Hobby Craft Regulation as stated in ORU policy number 22.1.0 may result in disciplinary action and/or revocation of my Work Craft privileges at which time I must wait six (6) months before I can reapply.” (ECF No. 50-4, p. 11).

         Littleton revoked Plaintiff's Hobby Craft card on or about January 22 or 23, 2018.[1] (ECF No. 42, p. 8; ECF No. 50-1). Littleton's affidavit states that she revoked Plaintiff's Hobby Craft card because he failed to maintain an accurate and up-to-date inventory list of his tools and supplies. (ECF No. 50-1). Specifically, Littleton testifies that Plaintiff's “Daily Use Area Tool Inventory” dated January 22, 2018, failed to include a utility blade. (ECF Nos. 50-1; 50-4, p. 36).

         Plaintiff admits that his January 22, 2018 inventory failed to include a utility blade. Plaintiff also admits that, on that date, a utility blade was found in his Hobby Craft tools. (ECF No. 50-3, p. 3). However, Plaintiff asserts that a mix-up with his inventory list is to blame for the discrepancy. According to Plaintiff, the utility blade that was left off his inventory list was supposed to have been confiscated by Littleton, because it was not on the approved list of tools for Hobby Craft participants. (ECF No. 50-4, pp. 20-22; ECF No. 55, pp. 38-40). Plaintiff asserts that he received forms stating that the utility blade was officially confiscated and removed from his inventory on November 19, 2017. (ECF No. 52-2, p. 11; ECF No. 55, pp. 38-40). Plaintiff further asserts that after he received his inventory in January 2018, he discovered that the tools he thought had been confiscated were still located in their spot in the cabinet. (ECF No. 55, p. 53).

         According to Plaintiff, before his Hobby Craft card was revoked, he had spoken to Littleton's “porters” about the problems with the tool inventory. Plaintiff alleges that the revocation of his Hobby Craft card was in retaliation for his complaints about problems with the tool inventories. (ECF No. 52-2, p. 12). Plaintiff also asserts that he asked “them to correct [his inventory] earlier on . . . [and] assumed that they had, but obviously they still wasn't on there.” (ECF No. 52-6 at pp. 53-54). Plaintiff thinks that he filed a “request for an interview” with Littleton to attempt to correct the inventory before his Hobby Craft card was revoked. (ECF No. 55-1, p. 56). Plaintiff does not remember if he put the “request for an interview” in the mailbox or the Hobby Craft box. (ECF No. 55-1, pp. 54-56).

         On January 22, 2018, Plaintiff filed a Formal Grievance, which states:

On 1-22-18, Hobby Craft Supervisor retaliated against myself and others, by revoking my card for not communicating with her about the inventory and her closed door policies. Every since Mrs. Littleton has become Hobby Craft Supervisor the inventory has been incorrect, she lost a pair of scissors and a box cutter not long ago that still has not been accounted for, as Sgt. Ugartchea wrote a 005 on at the time. She has even suggested for myself and others in Hobby Craft to speak with her clerks however its ADC policy that inmates are not to supervise other inmates. The inventory is ultimately Mrs. Littleton's responsibility.

         The Warden/Center Supervisor's Decision regarding the grievance, signed by Warden Faust and ...


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