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Holt v. Howard

United States Court of Appeals, Eighth Circuit

November 27, 2015

Gregory Houston Holt, Plaintiff - Appellant
v.
Michelle Howard, Public Information Officer, Little Rock Police Department, in her Official Capacity Only; State of Arkansas, Defendants - Appellees

Submitted September 24, 2015

Page 1130

Appeal from United States District Court for the Eastern District of Arkansas - Little Rock.

For Gregory Houston Holt, Plaintiff - Appellant: Stephen Louis Braga I, University of Virginia School of Law, Charlottesville, VA; Andrew P. Selman, Kaitlyn A. Tongalson, University of Virginia, Appellate Litigation Clinic, Charlottesville, VA.

Gregory Houston Holt, Plaintiff - Appellant, Pro se, Varner Correctional Facility, Grady, AR.

For Michelle Howard, Public Information Officer, Little Rock Police Department, in her Official Capacity Only, Defendant - Appellee: Kandi N. Hughes, City Attorney's Office, Little Rock, AR; David Clifford Sward, City Attorney's Office, Little Rock, AR.

For State of Arkansas, Defendant - Appellee: David A. Curran I, Assistant Attorney General, Colin Jorgensen, Attorney General's Office, Little Rock, AR.

Before MURPHY, MELLOY, and SMITH, Circuit Judges.

OPINION

Page 1131

MURPHY, Circuit Judge.

Gregory Holt, an incarcerated felon, brought this case against the state of Arkansas and Michelle Howard, an employee of the Little Rock Police Department, alleging that the Arkansas Freedom of Information Act violates the equal protection and due process clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment. Howard had denied Holt's pro se request for documents about an individual he had assaulted because the Act only permits an incarcerated felon to request information of public record through an attorney. The district court[1] concluded that the Act was constitutional and granted summary judgment to the defendants. Holt appeals, and we affirm.

In 2009 Holt assaulted C.T., and the state charged him with aggravated residential burglary and first degree domestic battery. Holt was tried in Pulaski County Circuit Court, C.T. testified against him, and the jury convicted him of two felonies on June 3, 2010. He was sentenced to life imprisonment on the burglary conviction and received a concurrent forty years sentence on the domestic battery conviction. Holt has unsuccessfully challenged his convictions and sentences in both state and federal courts.

On June 28, 2012 Holt sent a letter to Howard, the public information officer in the Little Rock Police Department. In his letter Holt requested " [p]ursuant to the Arkansas Freedom of Information Act" records " pertaining to [C.T.] since June 3, 2010 as well as any records pertaining to [C.T.'s presumptive Little Rock address] since June 3, 2010." Howard denied Holt's request on July 12, 2012. In her denial letter Howard cited a restriction in the statute which prevents pro se incarcerated felons from accessing documents under the Act. The relevant statutory provision states that:

access to inspect and copy public records shall be denied to: (i) A person who at the time of the request has pleaded guilty to or been found guilty of a felony and is incarcerated in a correctional facility; and (ii) The representative of a person under subdivision (a)(1)(B)(i) of this section unless the representative is the person's ...

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