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Smith v. Johnson

United States Court of Appeals, Eighth Circuit

March 10, 2015

James Edward Smith, Plaintiff - Appellant,
v.
Sammy D. Johnson, CO-I, Pine Bluff Unit, ADC; T. Dobbs, Varner Unit, ADC, Defendants - Appellees, Douglas E. Boultinghouse, Lt., Varner Unit, ADC; Justine M. Minor, Disciplinary Hearing Officer, Arkansas Department of Correction, Defendants

Submitted September 10, 2014

Appeal from United States District Court for the Eastern District of Arkansas - Pine Bluff.

James Edward Smith, Plaintiff - Appellant, Pro se, Tucker, AR.

For James Edward Smith, Plaintiff - Appellant: William Arnold Waddell Jr., Friday & Eldredge, Little Rock, AR.

For Sammy D. Johnson, CO-I, Pine Bluff Unit, ADC, T. Dobbs, Varner Unit, ADC, Defendants - Appellees: Ka Tina R. Hodge, Assistant Attorney General, Attorney General's Office, Little Rock, AR.

Before BYE, COLLOTON, and GRUENDER, Circuit Judges.

OPINION

Page 868

COLLOTON, Circuit Judge.

James Edward Smith, an inmate of the Arkansas Department of Correction, filed suit against Sammy D. Johnson, a correctional

Page 869

officer, under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging a violation of Smith's Eighth Amendment rights. Smith asserts that Johnson and another officer acted with deliberate indifference to Smith's safety by placing him where another inmate could attack him and then intentionally punishing him for the altercation. The district court dismissed Smith's suit on the grounds that it was barred by either the doctrine of claim preclusion or issue preclusion in light of a prior decision by the Arkansas State Claims Commission on a claim by Smith. Because we conclude that neither doctrine precludes Smith's current suit, we reverse and remand for further proceedings.

I.

On December 20, 2009, Smith was labeled a " snitch" and attacked by three other inmates in the Varner Unit of the Arkansas Department of Correction. He was consequently removed from the Varner Unit and placed in protective custody. Smith alleges that Johnson returned him to the general prison population in the Varner Unit on January 28, 2010, without Smith's consent and in violation of departmental policies. According to Smith, another inmate attacked him the following day and severely beat him with his fist and a lock, causing scarring, a lost tooth, migraines, blurred vision, sensory losses, dizzy spells, and various psychological symptoms. After the attack, Smith claims that Johnson and other correctional officers punished him for a thirty-day period using " major disciplinary policies." Smith unsuccessfully pursued grievances regarding the altercation with the Department of Correction.

Smith then sought to redress his injuries by filing a pro se claim against the Department of Correction with the Arkansas State Claims Commission. Smith alleged that various correctional officers, including Johnson, " deliberately allowed" the other inmate to attack Smith, did nothing to protect Smith during the attack, and then punished Smith for the altercation to conceal their acts exposing him to the attack. Smith claimed the officers' actions amounted to " deliberate indifference" and " cruel and unusual punishment." Smith also argued that an officer's confiscation of personal property from his cell amounted to cruel and unusual punishment. Smith sought damages for physical ...


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