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Grievance Retaliation States Claim

The court of appeals for the Eighth circuit held that a district court erred when it dismissed an Arkansas prisoner's claim that he was subjected to false disciplinary charges in retaliation for filing grievances against a prison employee. The court upheld the dismissal of a claim challenging the loss of good time credits where the infraction was supported by independent evidence of guilt.

Walter Farver, an Arkansas state prison, filed suit claiming a prison guard retaliated against him by filing two false disciplinary charges against him because he had filed grievances against him. Farver also claimed he was subjected to urine tests in retaliation for filing grievances, at least one of the tests showed drug use for which he was infracted, found guilty and punished. The district court dismissed the complaint for failing to state a claim under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure (FRCP) 12(b)(6).

The court of appeals affirmed in part, reversed in part and remanded. The court upheld dismissal of the urine test claim because Farver was found guilty of drug use and lost good time credits that had not been restored administratively or by any court. See: Edwards v. Balisok , 117 S.Ct. 1584 (1997). The court noted that infractions supported by "some evidence" that the prisoner committed the infraction also negates retaliation claims.

The court held that it was error for the district court to dismiss Farver's false disciplinary claim because the charges were later dismissed. It is well established that retaliation against prisoners who file grievances is unconstitutional. That the false infraction is later dismissed does not impact the prisoners' retaliation claim.

The lower court also erred in dismissing Farver's claim that he was transferred to a prison farther from his home after he questioned a prison employee's right to deny him legal assistance. The case was remanded for further proceedings. See: Farver v. Schwartz , 255 F.3d 473 (8th Cir. 2001).

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Related legal case

Farver v. Schwartz

Farver v. Schwartz, 255 F.3d 473 (8th Cir. 07/02/2001)

[1] U.S. Court of Appeals, Eighth Circuit

[2] No. 00-3729EA

[3] 255 F.3d 473, 2001

[4] July 02, 2001


[6] Before Morris Sheppard Arnold, Richard S. Arnold, and Fagg, Circuit Judges.

[7] The opinion of the court was delivered by: Per Curiam

[8] On Appeal from the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Arkansas.

[9] [To be Published]

[10] Submitted: May 31, 2001

[11] Arkansas inmate Walter Farver appeals the District Court's Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) dismissal of his 42 U.S.C. § 1983 action. Farver claimed that Correction Officer L. Pruitt wrote him two false disciplinaries, the first to harass him, and the second because of grievances Farver had filed against Pruitt; both were dismissed as false. Farver also claimed that "A.R.O." L. Schwartz harassed Farver, causing him to file a grievance against her, and after he did so Ms. Schwartz came to his cell and ordered him to submit to a urine test. On the basis of the results of the urine test, Farver was found guilty of a rule violation, and he lost good-time credits and class. He also was denied a requested transfer because of his loss in class. Further, he was transferred 250 miles from his home after he questioned Ms. Schwartz's authority to deny him legal assistance. The District Court dismissed Farver's claims under Rule 12(b)(6), and he appeals.

[12] Farver cannot seek restoration of his good-time credits or pursue other relief to remedy the effect of the urine-test disciplinary until it is set aside. See Preiser v. Rodriguez, 411 U.S. 475, 476-77, 500 (1973) (sole remedy in federal court for prisoner seeking restoration of good-time credits is writ of habeas corpus); cf. Edwards v. Balisok, 520 U.S. 641, 643, 646-48 (1997) (inmate cannot pursue § 1983 action based on allegations of bias and deceit by decisionmaker until disciplinary that resulted in loss of class and good time is invalidated by state tribunal or federal court).

[13] The District Court also properly dismissed Farver's claim of retaliation based on the disciplinary, because it was supported by a report from staff and test results. See Henderson v. Baird, 29 F.3d 464, 469 (8th Cir. 1994) (finding that disciplinary is based on some evidence of violation "essentially checkmates" retaliation claim), cert. denied, 515 U.S. 1145 (1995). The Court further properly dismissed Farver's transfer-denial claim, because he alleged that the transfer was denied based on the results of his urine test. Cf. Goff v. Burton, 91 F.3d 1188, 1191 (8th Cir. 1996) (to prevail on retaliatory-transfer claim, inmate must prove that desire to retaliate was motivating factor behind transfer).

[14] The District Court erred, however, in dismissing Farver's claim that Pruitt wrote him a false disciplinary for filing grievances against him, even though the disciplinary was later dismissed. See Sprouse v. Babcock, 870 F.2d 450, 452 (8th Cir. 1989) (filing of false disciplinary charge against inmate is actionable under § 1983 if done in retaliation for inmate's having filed grievance pursuant to established procedures because such retaliation interferes with inmate's access to grievance procedure); cf. Dixon v. Brown, 38 F.3d 379, 379-80 (8th Cir. 1994) (inmate need not show separate, independent injury as element of retaliation case; district court improperly granted summary judgment on ground that disciplinary committee dismissed false disciplinary charge and inmate was not punished).

[15] The District Court also erred in dismissing Farver's claim that he was transferred 250 miles from home after he questioned Ms. Schwartz's right to deny him legal assistance. See Madewell v. Roberts, 909 F.2d 1203, 1206 (8th Cir. 1990) (act taken in retaliation for exercise of constitutionally protected right is actionable under § 1983 even if act would have been proper if taken for another reason).

[16] Accordingly, we affirm in part, reverse in part, and remand for proceedings consistent with this opinion.