Halfacre v. Arkansas Board of Correction et al
ORDER APPROVING AND ADOPTING 6 RECOMMENDED DISPOSITION as this Court's findings in all respects; dismissing Mr. Halfacre's claims without prejudice; and denying all pending motions as moot. Signed by Judge Kristine G. Baker on 04/28/2015. (rhm)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
EASTERN DISTRICT OF ARKANSAS
PINE BLUFF DIVISION
Case No. 5:14-cv-00429-KGB/BD
ARKANSAS BOARD OF CORRECTION, et al.
The Court has reviewed the Recommended Disposition submitted by United States
Magistrate Judge Beth Deere (Dkt. No. 6), as well as the objections filed by plaintiff Kenny
Halfacre (Dkt. Nos. 7, 8). After carefully considering the objections and making a de novo
review of the record in this case, the Court concludes that the Recommended Disposition should
be, and hereby is, approved and adopted in its entirety as this Court’s findings in all respects.
The Court writes separately to address Mr. Halfacre’s objections. Mr. Halfacre argues
that his due process rights were violated by the Arkansas Department of Correction’s
automatically including an additional rule violation, without explanation, with every disciplinary
charge written, thus resulting in additional reduction in classification level and punitive isolation.
Mr. Halfacre states that he served a total of 25 days in punitive isolation, though from the record
it is not clear how much of this time was due to the alleged automatic additional rule violation
(Dkt. No. 5, at 2). Mr. Halfacre cites Wolff v. McDonnell, 418 U.S. 539, 563-67 (1974), for the
proposition that minimum due process requirements are applicable to prison disciplinary
hearings. However, this is only true where life, liberty, or property interests are at stake. U.S.
Const. amend. XIV, § 1 (providing that no state shall “deprive any person of life, liberty, or
property, without due process of law.”); Wilkinson v. Austin, 545 U.S. 209, 221 (2005).
Protected liberty interests may arise from the Due Process Clause itself or from an
expectation or interest created by state laws or policies. Wilkinson, 545 U.S. at 221. Liberty
interests arising from state law are limited to freedom from restraint that “imposes atypical and
significant hardship on the inmate in relation to the ordinary incident of prison life” or to actions
which “inevitably affect the duration of [a prisoner’s] sentence.” Sandin v. Conner, 515 U.S.
472, 484, 486-87 (1995). As the Recommended Disposition explains, neither reduction in
classification level nor punitive isolation for a relatively short period of time can support a due
process claim, as prisoners have no liberty interest in a particular classification or avoiding
relatively short periods of punitive isolation. See Portley–El v. Brill, 288 F.3d 1063, 1065-66
(8th Cir. 2002) (holding that 30 days in punitive segregation was not an atypical and significant
hardship under Sandin); Rahman X v. Morgan, 300 F.3d 970, 973-74 (8th Cir. 2002) (holding
that an inmate’s placement in administrative segregation for 26 months without a disciplinary
charge or conviction did not “demonstrate that his liberty interest was curtailed”); Driscoll v.
Youngman, 124 F.3d 207 (8th Cir. 1997) (unpublished decision) (finding that 135 days in
disciplinary and administrative segregation without “meaningful exercise, natural light, and
adequate time in the library” did not alone constitute an “atypical and significant hardship”);
Furlough v. Brandon, No. 2:09CV00170 JMM/JTR, 2009 WL 4898418, at *2 (E.D. Ark. Dec.
15, 2009) (determining that inmate failed to state due process claim after being assigned to
punitive isolation for 30 days and then administrative segregation for nearly nine months).
Mr. Halfacre cites Wilkinson v. Austin for the proposition that he had a state-created
liberty interest here, but Wilkinson merely states that indefinite placement in solitary
confinement with only an initial 30-day review and subsequent annual reviews is an atypical and
significant hardship under Sandin. 545 U.S. at 223-24. Those facts are not present here. Lastly,
Mr. Halfacre cites Sira v. Morton, 380 F.3d 57, 74 (2d Cir. 2004), and Frances v. Coughlin, 47
(2d Cir. 1989), for the proposition that prisoners must receive fair notice and an opportunity to be
heard. However, Sira required fair notice and an opportunity to be heard only after assuming
without deciding that there was an atypical and significant hardship entitling the prisoner to due
process. See Sira, 380 F.3d at 69 (“Given the procedural posture of this case, we assume,
without deciding, that Sira’s six-month confinement in the special housing unit imposed an
atypical hardship entitling him to due process.”). Frances was decided before Sandin clarified
when state created liberty interests exist. Based on the allegations in Mr. Halfacre’s complaint,
he is not entitled to due process under Eighth Circuit case law applying Sandin.
Accordingly, Mr. Halfacre’s claims are dismissed without prejudice, and all pending
motions are denied as moot (Dkt. No. 8).
SO ORDERED this 28th day of April, 2015.
KRISTINE G. BAKER
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
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