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Henry v. Hobbs

United States Court of Appeals, Eighth Circuit

May 31, 2016

Jerry Henry Plaintiff- Appellant
v.
Ray Hobbs, Director, Arkansas Department of Corrections Defendant Danny Burl; Dexter Payne; Jeremy Andrews, Individually, and as Agency Representatives Defendants-Appellees

Submitted: January 14, 2016

Appeal from United States District Court for the Eastern District of Arkansas - Helena

Before LOKEN, GRUENDER, and KELLY, Circuit Judges.

GRUENDER, Circuit Judge.

Jerry Henry, a former employee of the Arkansas Department of Corrections ("ADC"), brought this action against Warden Danny Burl, Deputy Warden Dexter Payne, and Major Jeremy Andrews in their individual capacities under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Henry, an African-American, alleges that his employment was terminated wrongfully on the basis of his race in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment and 42 U.S.C. § 1981. The defendants moved for summary judgment. The district court[1]granted the motion, concluding (1) that Henry failed to raise a disputed issue of material fact to demonstrate that the defendants' legitimate, nondiscriminatory reason for firing Henry was a pretext for discrimination, and (2) that the defendants were entitled to qualified immunity. Henry appeals, and we affirm.

I.

Henry was employed by the ADC as a correctional officer. In March 2011, Major Andrews began an investigation involving the introduction of contraband into the ADC. During this investigation, a confidential informant told Andrews that ADC inmate David Morgan was receiving tobacco from a staff member and selling the tobacco throughout the unit. An ADC search team later found and confiscated tobacco from a different inmate. Andrews interviewed the inmate, who reported that the tobacco belonged to Morgan and that Morgan had approached him about selling tobacco. The inmate also claimed that Morgan was receiving the tobacco from Henry and that he had witnessed Morgan give Henry $500 on one occasion. According to the inmate, Henry passed tobacco to Morgan in the "count room, " a computer area in which the prison monitors prisoner movement. Finally, the inmate stated that there was more tobacco hidden elsewhere in the barracks, providing specific locations for ADC staff to search.

Andrews's investigation corroborated these statements. First, ADC staff found contraband in the specific locations the inmate had identified. Second, Andrews reviewed camera footage from the count room and confirmed that Henry and Morgan had entered the count room together.

Andrews questioned Henry, who denied bringing any contraband into the prison or receiving money from an inmate. He admitted that he had allowed Morgan into the count room but claimed that he had asked Morgan to help him fill out forms on a computer in the room. The prison previously had directed staff not to have Morgan assist them in the count room, and Henry admitted that he knew that Morgan was not allowed into the room. Andrews also questioned Morgan, whose story was consistent with Henry's.

Andrews submitted a report to Warden Burl, who forwarded the report to ADC Internal Affairs. Internal Affairs interviewed Henry and Morgan and conducted a computerized voice-stress analysis ("CVSA") test on each. Henry and Morgan both denied that Henry had sold tobacco to Morgan. The CVSA test indicated that both had lied.

After the Internal Affairs investigation, Warden Burl terminated Henry's employment. Burl stated in the termination letter that Henry had lied during the CVSA test and had admitted to escorting Morgan to the count room. Burl terminated Henry for committing three offenses prohibited by ADC policy:

Section 17(a) Failure to perform or carry out work related instructions, when such instructions are reasonable and within the employee's ability to perform and would not pose a safety or welfare hazard to the employee;
17(b) Deliberate refusal to carry out reasonable work requests and or instructions will be ...

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