McAlphin v. Arkansas Department of Correction
RECOMMENDED DISPOSITION recommending that McAlphin's case be dismissed with prejudice; dismissal be counted as a "strike"; and the Court certify that an in forma pauperis appeal from any Order adopting this Recommendation would not be taken in good faith. Objections due with 14 days of this Recommendation. Signed by Magistrate Judge J. Thomas Ray on 11/28/2017. (kdr)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
EASTERN DISTRICT OF ARKANSAS
PINE BLUFF DIVISION
ARKANSAS DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTION
The following Recommended Disposition ("Recommendation") has been sent
to United States District Kristine G. Baker. Any party may file written objections
to this Recommendation. Objections must be specific and include the factual or
legal basis for disagreeing with the Recommendation. An objection to a factual
finding must specifically identify the finding of fact believed to be wrong and
describe the evidence that supports that belief.
An original and one copy of the objections must be received by the Clerk of
this Court within fourteen (14) days of this Recommendation. If no objections are
filed, Judge Baker can adopt this Recommendation without independently reviewing
all of the evidence in the record. By not objecting, you may also waive any right to
appeal questions of fact.
James McAlphin ("McAlphin") is a prisoner in the Varner Super Max Unit
("VSM") of the Arkansas Department of Correction ("ADC"). He has filed this pro
se action alleging that the ADC violated his constitutional rights. Docs. 1, 6, & 8.
Before McAlphin may proceed with this action, the Court must screen his
On June 26, 2017, McAlphin filed a pro se "Motion for Contempt of Court,"
alleging that the ADC wrongfully held him in punitive isolation at the VSM for more
than thirty days.
That pleading was docketed as a Complaint filed
pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Id.
On September 28, 2017, the Court ordered McAlphin to file an Amended
Complaint containing specific information needed to determine whether he had pled
a viable § 1983 claim. Doc. 4. The Court also informed McAlphin that the ADC
could not be sued in a § 1983 action and instructed him to name at least one
The Prison Litigation Reform Act requires federal courts to screen prisoner complaints
seeking relief against a governmental entity, officer, or employee. 28 U.S.C. ' 1915A(a). The
Court must dismiss a complaint or a portion thereof if the prisoner has raised claims that: (a) are
legally frivolous or malicious; (b) fail to state a claim upon which relief may be granted; or (c)
seek monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C. ' 1915A(b).
When making this determination, a court must accept the truth of the factual allegations contained
in the complaint, and it may consider the documents attached to the complaint. Ashcroft v. Iqbal,
556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009); Reynolds v. Dormire, 636 F.3d 976, 979 (8th Cir. 2011).
individual as a proper Defendant. Id.
In response to the September 28, 2017 Order, McAlphin filed a Motion for
Clarification and Judicial Notice explaining that he does not want to bring a § 1983
action. Doc. 5. Instead, McAlphin explains that he is asking this Court to hold the
ADC in contempt for violating an Order that was entered more than forty years ago
in Finney v. Hutto, 410 F. Supp. 251 (E.D. Ark 1976), aff'd 437 U.S. 678 (1978).
As a matter of law, McAlphin cannot achieve the relief he seeks under § 1983.
See DeGidio v. Pung, 920 F.2d 525, 534-35 (8th Cir. 1990) (explaining that a
prisoner cannot bring a new action to enforce a consent decree or order that was
entered in a different lawsuit).
More importantly, McAlphin has misinterpreted the Court's holding in
Finney. While the trial court in Finney ruled that prisoners in the Cummins and
Tucker Units should serve no more than thirty consecutive days in punitive isolation,
that ruling was explicitly limited to the facts in that case, which involved prisoners
in those two Units having to deal with truly primitive and barbaric conditions. 2
Finney, 410 F. Supp. at 275-278; 437 U.S. at 685-86. Thus, the ruling in Finney
provides no legal basis for McAlphin to challenge the duration of his current
In the late 1970's, prisoners in punitive isolation at the Tucker and Cummins Units were:
(1) held in punitive isolation for an indefinite duration: (2) confined in eight by ten cells with up
to four other prisoners: (3) provided with only 1000 calories a day; (4) often beaten by their
cellmates; and (5) forced to sleep on the floor. Finney, 437 U.S. at 682-83.
confinement in punitive isolation at the VSM.
Finally, in 1982, the Court in Finney concluded that the ADC was in
compliance with constitutional standards and the case was dismissed, with prejudice.
See Finney v. Mabry, 546 F. Supp. 628, 630 (E.D. Ark. 1982). Since that time,
federal judges in the Eastern District of Ark. have consistently refused to reopen the
Finney case and rejected prisoners' attempts to hold ADC officials in contempt for
violating the orders and consent decrees that were entered in that action. See, e.g.,
Finney v. Lockhart, 5:69CV00024 DPM/JTR (Docs. 11 & 26).
For these reasons, the Court recommends that McAlphin's request to hold the
ADC in contempt of court be denied, and that this case be dismissed, with prejudice.
IT IS THEREFORE RECOMMENDED THAT:
McAlphin's this case be DISMISSED, WITH PREJUDICE.
Dismissal be counted as a "STRIKE," pursuant to 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 any Order adopting this Recommendation would not be
taken in good faith.
Dated this 28th day of November, 2017.
UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
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