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Heard v. Kane

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

September 26, 2017

THOMAS R. KANE, Acting Director Federal Federal Bureau of Prisons, Defendant.


          Hon. William T. Lawrence, Judge United States District Court.

         Plaintiff John Fluellen Heard, Jr., alleges that the defendant, Acting Director of the Bureau of Prisons (“BOP”), denied him placement into a halfway house, home confinement, or residential reentry center to which he alleges he is entitled, 18 U.S.C. § 3621(b), and that he has been denied individual review in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 3624(c) (the “Second Chance Act”). He seeks injunctive relief in the form of the Court ordering the BOP to evaluate his circumstances in accordance with these statutes and applicable guidelines and that he be granted the maximum amount of time in this type of confinement. See Richmond v. Scibana, 387 F.3d 602 (7th Cir. 2004) (“challenges to rules that affect placement in community confinement” are properly brought under the APA after administrative remedies have been exhausted).

         The defendant seeks summary judgment arguing that Mr. Heard failed to exhaust his available administrative remedies as required by the Prison Litigation Reform Act (“PLRA”), 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(a), before filing this lawsuit. For the reasons explained below, the motion for summary judgment, Dkt. No. 17, is granted.

         I. 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). The party seeking summary judgment “bears the initial responsibility of informing the district court of the basis for its motion, and identifying” designated evidence which “demonstrate[s] the absence of a genuine issue of material fact.” Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986).

         Once the moving party has met its burden, the non-movant may not rest upon mere allegations. Instead, “[t]o successfully oppose a motion for summary judgment, the nonmoving party must come forward with specific facts demonstrating that there is a genuine issue for trial.” Trask-Morton v. Motel 6 Operating L.P., 534 F.3d 672, 677 (7th Cir. 2008). “The non-movant will successfully oppose summary judgment only when it presents definite, competent evidence to rebut the motion.” Vukadinovich v. Bd. of Sch. Trs., 278 F.3d 693, 699 (7th Cir. 2002) (internal quotation and citation omitted).

         “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. Heard failed to exhaust all available administrative remedies before he filed this suit. Id. at 681.

         II. Undisputed Facts

         Mr. Heard is an inmate at the Federal Prison Camp (“the Camp”) located in Terre Haute, Indiana. Mr. Heard has been housed at the Camp since January 30, 2017, and has been housed within the federal prison system since April 8, 2011.

         In his Complaint filed on April 3, 2017, Mr. Heard purports to bring a claim pursuant to the Administrative Procedure Act, 5 U.S.C. §§ 702, 706 based on a decision regarding his “placement into a halfway house, home confinement, and or RRC [Residential Reentry Center].” Dkt. 1 at 1. Mr. Heard does not allege that the Federal Bureau of Prisons has yet made any decision with respect to Mr. Heard's halfway house, home detention, or RRC placement. Mr. Heard was told, however, that he is eligible for a maximum of 6 months in a halfway house. Mr. Heard believes this statement, which he describes as a verbal commitment is contrary to law.

         The BOP has promulgated an administrative remedy system which appears at 28 C.F.R. § 542.10, et seq., and BOP Program Statement 1330.18, Administrative Remedy Program (“P.S. 1330.18”), which was in effect at FPC Terre Haute during the entire time that Mr. Heard was housed there. The BOP administrative remedy process is a method by which an inmate may seek formal review of a complaint related to any aspect of his imprisonment. 28 C.F.R. § 542.10.

         To exhaust his remedies, an inmate must typically first file an informal remedy request through an appropriate institution staff member via a BP-8 prior to filing a formal administrative remedy. If the inmate is not satisfied with the response to his informal remedy (BP-8), he is required to first address his complaint with the Warden via a BP-9. If the inmate is dissatisfied with the Warden's response, he may appeal to the Regional Director via a BP-10. If he is dissatisfied with the Regional Director's response, then the inmate may appeal to the General Counsel via a BP-11. An inmate who has filed administrative remedies at all required levels and who has received a response to his appeal from the General Counsel, is deemed to have exhausted ...

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