Williamson v. Payne et al
PROPOSED FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATION directing the Clerk of Court to remove the Doe defendant identified as the Lincoln County Prosecuting Attorney from the docket sheet because Williamson does not list the Doe defendant in his amended complaint; re commending Williamson's complaint be dismissed without prejudice for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted; dismissal of this action count as a "strike" within the meaning of 28 U.S.C. § 1915(g); and the Court certify, an in forma pauperis appeal from the order adopting this recommendation would not be taken in good faith. Objections due within 14 days of this Recommendation. Signed by Judge Kristine G. Baker on 05/22/2023. (llg)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
EASTERN DISTRICT OF ARKANSAS
ANTHONY B. WILLIAMSON
DEXTER PAYNE, et al.1
PROPOSED FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATION
The following Recommendation has been sent to United States District Judge
Kristine G. Baker. 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.
Plaintiff Anthony B. Williamson filed a pro se complaint pursuant to 42
U.S.C. § 1983 on April 4, 2023, while incarcerated at the Arkansas Division of
The Clerk of Court is directed to remove the Doe defendant identified as the
Lincoln County Prosecuting Attorney from the docket sheet because Williamson does not
list the Doe defendant in his amended complaint.
Correction’s Varner Supermax Unit (Doc. No. 2). Williamson was subsequently
granted leave to proceed in forma pauperis and ordered to file an amended complaint
to clarify his claims. Doc. No. 3. He was warned that an amended complaint would
render his original complaint without legal effect, and only claims properly set out
in the amended complaint would be allowed to proceed. Id. Williamson has filed
an amended complaint (Doc. No. 6). For the reasons stated herein, Williamson’s
claims should be dismissed for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be
I. Screening Standard
Before docketing the complaint, or as soon thereafter as practicable, the Court
must review the complaint to identify cognizable claims or dismiss the complaint if
it: (1) is frivolous or malicious; (2) fails to state a claim upon which relief may be
granted; or (3) seeks monetary relief against a defendant who is immune from such
relief. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915A. Rule 8 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure
requires only “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is
entitled to relief.” In Bell Atlantic Corporation v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555
(2007), the Court stated, “a plaintiff’s obligation to provide the ‘grounds’ of his
‘entitle[ment] to relief’ requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic
recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do. . . . Factual allegations
must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level,” citing 5 C.
Wright & A. Miller, Federal Practice and Procedure § 1216, pp. 235-236 (3d ed.
2004). A complaint must contain enough facts to state a claim to relief that is
plausible on its face, not merely conceivable. Twombly at 570. However, a pro se
plaintiff’s allegations must be construed liberally. Burke v. North Dakota Dept. of
Corr. & Rehab., 294 F.3d 1043, 1043-1044 (8th Cir.2002) (citations omitted).
To state a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, a plaintiff must allege that the
conduct of a defendant acting under color of state law deprived him of a right,
privilege, or immunity secured by the United States Constitution or by federal law.
42 U.S.C. § 1983. Williamson’s complaint is difficult to interpret. He appears to
allege that he received a disciplinary conviction in 2019 that led to federal criminal
charges. Doc. No. 6 at 2-3, 15. He states that those charges were then dismissed
because the ADC would not produce the video evidence supporting his 2019
disciplinary conviction. Id. at 3, 13. Williamson concludes that his disciplinary
conviction was based on fabricated video evidence by Deputy Warden Brandon
Carroll and his due process rights were violated during the disciplinary process.2 Id.
at 3-4. He also sues hearing officer Daniel Golden for his role in the disciplinary
Williamson asserts his claims based on the 2019 disciplinary are not time-barred
because the defendants fraudulently concealed the evidence he needed to bring this case.
Doc. No. 6 at 7. It is not necessary to determine if Williamson’s claims are subject to
tolling because he fails to state a claim in any case.
proceedings, and sues Warden James Gibson and ADC Director Dexter Payne for
their actions in upholding his disciplinary conviction. Id. at 4-5. Williamson
generally alleges that Carroll and Golden acted with a retaliatory motive. Id. at 5.
He alleges these events caused him to be defamed and suffer emotional and mental
distress. Id. at 4. Williamson’s allegations do not support any constitutional claim
and are insufficient to state a claim for relief.
First, to the extent he attempts to bring some sort of malicious prosecution
claim based on fabricated evidence, there is no recognized claim for constitutional
injury under § 1983 based upon malicious prosecution. See Pace v. Des Moines,
201 F.3d 1050, 1055 (8th Cir.2000) (citing Sanders v. Sears, Roebuck & Co., 984
F.2d 972, 977 (8th Cir.1993)). Likewise, defamation does not support a § 1983
claim. See Paul v. Davis, 424 U.S. 693 (1976) (holding that defamation by a state
or local official does not by itself violate rights protected by the federal constitution);
Johnson v. Barker, 799 F.2d 1396, 1399 (9th Cir. 1986) (standing for the proposition
that defamation is not actionable under section 1983 and that damage to reputation,
standing alone, does not state a claim for relief, because reputation is, “neither
‘liberty’ nor ‘property’ guaranteed against state deprivation without due process of
law.”); see also Jones v. McNeese, 746 F.3d 887, 898 (8th Cir. 2014).
Second, Williamson does not describe any facts to support a due process
claim. An allegation that a disciplinary is false is not sufficient to state a § 1983
claim as a matter of law. See Dixon v. Brown, 38 F.3d 370 (8th Cir. 1994)
(recognizing that “the filing of a false disciplinary charge is not itself actionable
under § 1983”); Sprouse v. Babcock, 870 F.2d 450, 452 (8th Cir. 1989) (same).
Additionally, a plaintiff cannot maintain a due process claim based on the
disciplinary process unless he can “demonstrate that he was deprived of life, liberty
or property by government action.” Phillips v. Norris, 320 F.3d 844, 846 (8th Cir.
2003). A prisoner has no liberty interest in having certain procedures followed in
the disciplinary process; rather, the liberty interest arises from the “nature of the
prisoner’s confinement.” Phillips, 320 F.3d at 847. “In order to determine whether
an inmate possesses a liberty interest, we compare the conditions to which the inmate
was exposed in segregation with those he or she could ‘expect to experience as an
ordinary incident of prison life.’” Phillips, 320 F.3d at 847 (quoting Beverati v.
Smith, 120 F.3d 500, 503 (4th Cir. 1997)).
Williamson indicates he received 30 days punitive isolation as a result of the
disciplinary, and claims he has also been in administrative segregation for four years.
Doc. No. 6 at 6. Generally, an inmate has no liberty interest in avoiding segregated
confinement, as long as the conditions do not amount to an “atypical and significant”
hardship that would give rise to due process protection as set forth in Sandin v.
Conner, 515 U.S. 472, 483-484 (1995). The Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals has
“consistently held that administrative and disciplinary segregation are not atypical
and significant hardships under Sandin.” Portly-El v. Brill, 288 F.3d 1063, 1065
(8th Cir. 2002). That Court has generally held that even relatively long stays in
administrative segregation are insufficient to create a liberty interest, if the
conditions are not overly harsh. See e.g., Ballinger v. Cedar Cty., Mo., 810 F.3d
557, 562-63 (8th Cir. 2016) (term of approximately one year in administrative
segregation did not constitute atypical and significant hardship).3 Williamson has
not described any specific conditions he was subjected to as a result of the 2019
disciplinary, and accordingly, he fails to state a viable due process claim.
Third, Williamson alleges that Carroll and Golden’s actions were retaliatory,
but he does not describe any protected activity that led to such retaliation or describe
why these individuals would be motivated to retaliate against him. To succeed on a
§ 1983 retaliation claim, a plaintiff must prove: (1) that he engaged in a protected
activity; (2) that the government official took adverse action against him that would
chill a person of ordinary firmness from continuing the activity; and (3) that the
adverse action was motivated at least in part by the exercise of the protected activity.
See also Orr v. Larkins, 610 F.3d 1032, 1034 (8th Cir. 2010) (inmate was not
deprived of liberty interest during nine months in administrative segregation); Rhaman X
v. Morgan, 300 F.3d 970, 974 (8th Cir. 2002) (inmate’s placement in administrative
segregation for 26 months under relatively normal conditions did not constitute an
atypical and significant hardship). Longer stays in administrative segregation have been
held to establish a liberty interest. See e.g., Williams v. Norris, 277 Fed. Appx. 647, 648
(8th Cir. 2008) (unpublished per curiam) (approximately 12 years in administrative
segregation was atypical and significant hardship).
Gonzalez v. Bendt, 971 F.3d 742, 745 (8th Cir. 2020); Spencer v. Jackson Cnty., 738
F.3d 907, 911 (8th Cir. 2013). Speculative and conclusory, or de minimis allegations
cannot support a retaliation claim. See Atkinson v. Bohn, 91 F.3d 1127, 1129 (8th
Cir. 1996) (per curiam). Williamson alleges Carroll retaliated against him because
he “refused to admit he violated prison rules he did not commit” and the defendants
conspired with each other to cause him to be criminally charged “in retaliation for
exercising his 5th amendment right against self-incrimination and the right to remain
silent during questioning.” Doc. No. 6 at 2 & 7. Williamson’s speculation that the
defendants were motivated to retaliate him because he did not admit to wrongdoing
is insufficient to support a retaliation claim.
Finally, Williamson claims that defendant Gibson treats White inmates better
than Black inmates. He describes two White inmates who he claims have similar
convictions for escape but enjoy privileges he does not (such as participation in the
step-down program and access to a tablet). Doc. No. 6 at 6-7. This claim is subject
to dismissal for two reasons. First, it is completely unrelated to Williamson’s chief
complaint regarding his 2019 disciplinary conviction and subsequent prosecution.
Under Fed. R. Civ. P. 18, a plaintiff may bring multiple claims, related or not, against
a single defendant. To proceed against multiple defendants, plaintiff must satisfy
Fed. R. Civ. P. 20, which allows claims against multiple defendants when the claims
against them arise out of the same series of occurrences, and present questions of
fact common to all defendants. See Mosley v. Gen. Motors Corp., 497 F.2d 1330,
1333 (8th Cir. 1974) (Rule 20 permits “all reasonably related claims for relief by or
against different parties to be tried in a single proceeding.”); see also Fulghum v.
Allen, 2015 WL 5667479 at *1 (8th Cir. 2015); Harris v. Union Pacific R. Co., 2013
WL 1187719 (E.D. Ark. 2013); Langrell v. Union Pacific R. Co., 2012 WL 3041312
(E.D. Ark. 2012). Second, to state a claim of racial discrimination, a prisoner must
allege (1) he was treated differently from similarly situated inmates; and (2) the
different treatment was the result of intentional and purposeful racial
discrimination. See In re: Kemp, 894 F.3d at 909-10; Patel v. U.S. Bureau of
Prisons, 515 F.3d 807, 815 (8th Cir. 2008). An isolated incident of unequal
treatment is insufficient to show that an individual was “systematically and
intentionally treated differently.” See e.g., Weiler v. Purkett, 137 F.3d at 1051 (“A
few individual examples of unequal treatment are insufficient to provide more than
minimal support to an inference of classwide purposeful discrimination.”).4
See also Thrash v. White, No. 5:09-CV-00095, 2010 WL 6749181, at *3 (E.D.
Ark. Dec. 23, 2010), report and recommendation adopted, No. 5:09-CV-00095, 2011 WL
2110372 (E.D. Ark. May 27, 2011) (“An isolated example of unequal treatment is
insufficient to establish that the difference in treatment was motivated by Plaintiffs’
membership in a protected class, or that it burdened a fundamental right.”); Hughes v.
Banks, No. 1:07-CV-00027, 2011 WL 3861368, at *2 (E.D. Ark. Aug. 19, 2011) (equal
protection claim failed where plaintiff only identified one inmate who was allegedly treated
differently than him).
Williamson’s allegation that he has been discriminated against based on two isolated
examples does not meet this standard.
For the reasons stated herein, it is recommended that:
Williamson’s complaint be dismissed without prejudice for failure to
state a claim upon which relief may be granted.
Dismissal of this action count as a “strike” within the meaning of 28
U.S.C. § 1915(g).
The Court certify, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a)(3), that an in forma
pauperis appeal from the order adopting this recommendation would not be taken in
IT IS SO RECOMMENDED this 22nd day of May, 2023.
UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
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