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Hampton v. Cox T.C.

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

March 14, 2017

AARON COX T.C. Director, Defendant.



         This matter is before the Court on a Motion for Summary Judgment filed by Defendant Aaron Cox. (“Cox”). Plaintiff Edward Hampton (“Hampton”), a former inmate of the Indiana Department of Correction (“IDOC”), brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. 1983 alleging that Cox violated his First Amendment rights by requiring him to choose between remaining in the Therapeutic Community Program (“TC Program”) in violation of his sincerely held religious beliefs or leaving the TC Program and facing punishment. Cox moves for summary judgment arguing that Hampton failed to exhaust his available administrative remedies before filing this lawsuit. Hampton responded to the summary judgment motion and Cox replied. Cox was then directed to supplement his Motion. He has done so and the time for Hampton to respond to the supplement has passed. For the following reasons, Cox's motion for summary judgment [Dkt. 40] is granted.

         I. Standard of Review

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(a) provides that summary judgment is appropriate “if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” In ruling on a motion for summary judgment, the admissible evidence presented by the non-moving party must be believed and all reasonable inferences must be drawn in the non-movant's favor. Hemsworth v., Inc., 476 F.3d 487, 490 (7th Cir. 2007); Zerante v. DeLuca, 555 F.3d 582, 584 (7th Cir. 2009) (“We view the record in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party and draw all reasonable inferences in that party's favor.”). However, “[a] party who bears the burden of proof on a particular issue may not rest on its pleadings, but must affirmatively demonstrate, by specific factual allegations, that there is a genuine issue of material fact that requires trial.” Hemsworth, 476 F.3d at 490. Finally, the non-moving party bears the burden of specifically identifying the relevant evidence of record, and “the court is not required to scour the record in search of evidence to defeat a motion for summary judgment.” Ritchie v. Glidden Co., 242 F.3d 713, 723 (7th Cir. 2001).

         II. Undisputed Facts

         At all times relevant to the claims in his complaint, Hampton was incarcerated within the IDOC at the Correctional Industrial Facility (“CIF”).

         A. The Grievance Policy

         As an inmate incarcerated within the IDOC, the Offender Grievance Process has been available to Hampton at CIF. The purpose of the Offender Grievance Process is to provide administrative means by which inmates may resolve concerns and complaints related to their conditions of confinement. The following remedies are not available through the Offender Grievance Process: (1) a remedy available through the Classification Division of the IDOC; (2) a remedy for an error allegedly occurring during a disciplinary proceeding; (3) a remedy to a situation or event that is outside the authority of the IDOC; and (4) staff discipline, job reassignment, and/or training. In addition, classification or disciplinary actions or decisions are not grievable. All inmates are made aware of the Offender Grievance Process during orientation and are provided a copy of the Department's Offender Orientation Handbook which includes a section on the grievance process.

         The Grievance Process consists of three stages: (i) an informal attempt to solve a problem or address a concern; (ii) submission of a written form outlining the problem or concern and other supporting information, and the response to that submission; and (iii) a written appeal of the response to a higher authority and the response to that appeal.

         Once an inmate files a grievance, the Offender Grievance Specialist reviews it and either accepts it and log it, or rejects it. Grievances concerning classification matters and disciplinary proceedings may be rejected and returned to the inmate. If a grievance is rejected and returned to an inmate, the inmate must make the necessary revisions to the grievance form and return the revised form to the Grievance Specialist within five working days from the date that it is returned to the inmate.

         B. Classification Appeal Process

         Requests for reclassification may be initiated by the inmate and include education, work, and program assignments. The inmate must utilize “State Form 3412, CLASSIFICATION HEARING REPORT” in requesting reclassification. The Classification Committee/Unit Team Committee makes a recommendation regarding the request, and the Supervisor of Classification renders a decision concerning the request. The offender may appeal the decision to the Superintendent, and the Superintendent's decision is final.

         The appeal process for classification decisions is set forth in Section IV of the Adult Offender Classification Manual. After the inmate receives a classification decision from the Supervisor of Classification, he may file an appeal. If the inmate decides to appeal, he must: (1) submit a written appeal within ten working days from the date the he received the classification decision; (2) submit the appeal on the State Form 9260, CLASSIFICATION APPEAL; (3) attach relevant documents to the appeal form as deemed necessary; and (4) submit the appeal form and all other documents to the Superintendent. The Superintendent will review the appeal and render a decision on State Form 9260. The Superintendent is the final administrative review for intra-facility classification decisions.

         C. Background and ...

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