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Archambault v. Shannon

United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Terre Haute Division

October 17, 2016

R SHANNON, et al., Defendants.



         Plaintiff James Archambault is a federal prisoner who was previously confined at the United States Penitentiary in Terre Haute, Indiana. The Court screened his second amended complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A and determined that Mr. Archambault adequately stated an excessive force claim against each defendant pursuant to Bivens v. Six Unknown Federal Narcotics Agents, 403 U.S. 388 (1971), stemming from two alleged assaults. The defendants move for summary judgment on their affirmative defense that Mr. Archambault failed to exhaust his administrative remedies prior to filing this action.

         For the reasons explained, the defendants' motion for summary judgment [dkt. 61] is granted, and Mr. Archambault's claims are dismissed without prejudice.

         I. Background

         Mr. Archambault was a federal prisoner when the events alleged in his second amended complaint occurred. During all relevant times he was incarcerated at U.S.P. Terre Haute, and his claims are against six staff members at that facility: R. Shannon, Z. Cochran, B. Basinger, J.S. Gibbens, M. Anderson, and A. Schoeffel. He alleges that the defendants violated his Eighth Amendment rights when they used excessive force against him on October 17, 2013, and February 24, 2014. Specifically, Mr. Archambault alleges that he was, among other things, kneed in the head, choked, and had a defendant put all his weight on Mr. Archambault's head when he was laying on the ground.

         The defendants move for summary judgment as to both of Mr. Archambault's claims. They argue that these claims are barred under the exhaustion provision of the Prison Litigation Reform Act (“PLRA”), 42 U.S.C. § 1997e, that requires a prisoner to first exhaust his available administrative remedies before filing a lawsuit in court. The defendants present the following undisputed evidence regarding the administrative remedies procedure available to Mr. Archambault.

         The Bureau of Prisons (“BOP”) had promulgated an administrative remedy system, codified in 28 C.F.R. § 542.10, that was in effect at all times relevant to this case. The administrative remedy process allows an inmate to seek formal review of a complaint related to any aspect of his imprisonment. To exhaust his administrative remedies under this process, an inmate must first file an informal remedy request through the appropriate institution staff member (BP-8). If the inmate is not satisfied with the response to his informal request, he is required to file his complaint with the Warden (BP-9). See 28 C.F.R. § 542.14. The deadline for completion of these two steps is twenty days following the date on which the basis for the request occurred. See 28 C.F.R. § 542.14(a).

         If the inmate is dissatisfied with the Warden's response, he may appeal the decision to the Regional Director (BP-10). See 28 C.F.R. § 542.15. Finally, if an inmate is dissatisfied with the Regional Director's response, he may appeal to the General Counsel (BP-11). See Id. Once the General Counsel has responded, an inmate has exhausted all of his administrative remedies.

         If the inmate reasonably believes the issue over which he complains is sensitive and his safety or well-being would be placed in danger if his complaint became known at the institution, he may submit his initial complaint directly to the Regional Director (BP-10).

         All administrative remedy requests filed by inmates are logged in the SENTRY computer database utilized by the BOP to track such requests. This database was used to review Mr. Archambault's administrative filings. Twenty-one administrative remedy requests filed by Mr. Archambault have been accepted during his incarceration with the BOP. As discussed further below, only one of these administrative remedy requests was accepted at the BP-11 Central Office level.

         II. Standard of Review

         Summary judgment should be granted “if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). A “material fact” is one that “might affect the outcome of the suit.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). The court views the facts in the light most favorable to the non-moving party and all reasonable inferences are drawn in the non-movant's favor. Ault v. Speicher, 634 F.3d 942, 945 (7th Cir. 2011).

         “The applicable substantive law will dictate which facts are material.” National Soffit & Escutcheons, Inc., v. Superior Systems, Inc., 98 F.3d 262, 265 (7th Cir. 1996) (citing Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248). The substantive law applicable to this motion for summary judgment is the PLRA, which requires that “[n]o action shall be brought with respect to prison conditions under section 1983 . . . until such administrative remedies as are available are exhausted.” 42 U.S.C. § 1997e; see Porter v. Nussle, 534 U.S. 516, 524-25 (2002). “[T]he PLRA's exhaustion requirement applies to all inmate suits about prison life, whether they involve general circumstances or particular episodes, and whether they allege excessive force or some other wrong.” Id. at 532 (citation omitted). The requirement to exhaust provides “that no one is entitled to judicial relief for a supposed or threatened injury until the prescribed administrative remedy has been exhausted.” Woodford v. Ngo, 548 U.S. 81, 88-89 (2006) (citation omitted). Exhaustion of available administrative remedies “‘means using all steps that the agency holds out, and doing so properly (so that the agency addresses the issues on the merits).'” Id. at 90 (quoting Pozo v. McCaughtry, 286 F.3d 1022, 1024 (7th Cir. 2002)). Proper use of the facility's grievance system requires a prisoner “to file complaints and appeals in the place, and at the time [as] the prison's administrative rules require.” Pozo, 286 F.3d at 1025; see also Dole v. Chandler, 438 F.3d 804, 809 (7th Cir. 2006).

         Because exhaustion is an affirmative defense, “the burden of proof is on the prison officials.” Kaba v. Stepp, 458 F.3d 678, 680 (7th Cir. 2006). So here, the defendants bear the burden of demonstrating that Mr. Archambault failed to exhaust ...

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