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Paschall v. Coats

United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Indianapolis Division

September 28, 2016

TERRENCE PASCHALL, Plaintiff,
v.
LESTER COATS LT., Defendant.

          ENTRY DISCUSSING AFFIRMATIVE DEFENSE OF FAILURE TO EXHAUST AVAILABLE ADMINISTRATIVE REMEDIES

          SARAH EVANS BARKER, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         I. Background

         This is a civil rights action brought by Terrence Paschall, an inmate of the Correctional Industrial Facility (“CIF”) against correctional officer Lester Coats. Coats has presented as an affirmative defense his contention that Paschall failed to comply with the exhaustion requirement of the Prison Litigation Reform Act (“PLRA”) prior to filing this action.

         The Court denied Coats's motion for summary judgment based on Paschall's failure to exhaust his available administrative remedies.

         The Court held a hearing on July 28, 2016, pertaining to the exhaustion defense. The parameters of the hearing were established by Pavey v. Conley, 544 F.3d 739 (7th Cir. 2008). The plaintiff was present in person and represented by counsel. The defendant was present by counsel. Evidence, including testimony, was submitted. In addition to evidence presented during the hearing, the Court has considered the evidence presented in support of and opposition to the motion for summary judgment.

         The burden of proof as to this defense rests on the defendant. Dole v. Chandler, 438 F.3d 804, 809 (7th Cir. 2006) (citing Dale v. Lappin, 376 F.3d 652, 655 (7th Cir. 2004)). For the reasons explained in this Entry, the Court finds that Coats has not met his burden of proof. His affirmative defense that Paschall failed to comply with the exhaustion requirement of the PLRA is therefore overruled.

         II. Discussion

         A. The Exhaustion Requirement

         The PLRA requires that a prisoner exhaust his available administrative remedies before bringing a suit concerning prison conditions. 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(a); Porter v. Nussle, 534 U.S. 516, 524-25 (2002). “Proper exhaustion demands compliance with an agency's deadlines and other critical procedural rules because no adjudicative system can function effectively without imposing some orderly structure on the course of its proceedings.” Woodford v. Ngo, 548 U.S. 81, 90-91 (2006) (footnote omitted); see also Dale, 376 F.3d at 655 (“In order to properly exhaust, a prisoner must submit inmate complaints and appeals ‘in the place, and at the time, the prison's administrative rules require.'”)(quoting Pozo v. McCaughtry, 286 F.3d 1022, 1025 (7th Cir. 2002)).

         Strict compliance is required with respect to exhaustion, and a prisoner must properly follow the prescribed administrative procedures in order to exhaust his remedies. See Dole, 438 F.3d at 809. “Prison officials may not take unfair advantage of the exhaustion requirement, however, and a remedy becomes ‘unavailable' if prison employees do not respond to a properly filed grievance or otherwise use affirmative misconduct to prevent a prisoner from exhausting.” Id.

         B. Paschall's use of the Exhaustion Process

         Based on the evidence and testimony, the Court finds the following with respect to Paschall's attempt to use the administrative remedy process.

         Paschall was incarcerated at CIF on the date of the incident alleged in the complaint. CIF maintains a grievance process, which was in place at the time of the incident and permits inmates to grieve matters involving prison life, including the acts alleged in the complaint. The grievance process requires an inmate to attempt to resolve his complaint informally and then pursue two formal steps. If an inmate cannot resolve his grievance informally, he can file a Level I grievance. The Level I grievance must be filed within twenty business days from the day of the event that is the subject of the grievance. If the Level I grievance is not resolved in a manner that satisfies the inmate, or if he does not receive a response within 25 working days of submitting the grievance, he may file a Level II appeal to the Indiana Department of Correction's (“DOC”) Grievance Manager. At CIF, Level I and Level II grievances are filed by placing them in a secured box in the dining hall. The grievances are collected daily.

         Paschall filed a timely Level I grievance with respect to the acts at issue, but there is no DOC record that he filed a Level II appeal to the DOC's Grievance Manager. On February 26, 2015, and again on March 6, 2015, the Indiana DOC Ombudsman Bureau informed Paschall to file an appeal to Central Office to exhaust the grievance process. Paschall provides a copy of ...


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