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Griffith v. Brannick

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

December 4, 2017

JAMES F. GRIFFITH, Plaintiff,
v.
F. BRANNICK C/O, D. HASKINS, YARBAR Lt., DEVINE SGT., E. DRADA Sgt., N. LYDAY Sgt., PHILLIPS Sgt., Defendants.

          ENTRY DENYING DEFENDANTS' MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT AND DENYING PLAINTIFF'S MOTION TO STAY AND MOTION TO COMPEL

          TANYA WALTON PRATT, JUDGE

         I. INTRODUCTION

         This matter is before the Court on the Defendants Motion for Summary Judgment. Dkt. [21]. Plaintiff James Griffith (“Mr. Griffith”) an Indiana inmate, brought this action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for an incident of excessive force occurring on June 2, 2016, at the Wabash Valley Correctional Facility. Defendants are Indiana Department of Correction officers alleged to have used excessive force on Mr. Griffith. They seek summary judgment because, they contend, Mr. Griffith failed to exhaust his administrative remedies before commencing his lawsuit as the Prison Litigation Reform Act, 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(a), requires. Also pending is Plaintiff's Motion to Stay the Decision on the Pending Motion for Summary Judgment, dkt. [36] and Plaintiff's motion to Compel, dkt. [37]. For reasons stated below, all of the pending motions are denied.

         II. SUMMARY JUDGMENT STANDARD

         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.” Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(a). The movant bears the initial responsibility of informing the district court of the basis of its motion, and identifying those portions of designated evidence that demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. See Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). After “a properly supported motion for summary judgment is made, the adverse party must set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 250 (1986) (quotation marks and citation omitted).

         A factual issue is material only if resolving the factual issue might change the outcome of the case under the governing law. See Clifton v. Schafer, 969 F.2d 278, 281 (7th Cir. 1992). A factual issue is genuine only if there is sufficient evidence for a reasonable jury to return a verdict in favor of the non-moving party on the evidence presented. See Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248. In deciding a motion for summary judgment, the court “may not ‘assess the credibility of witnesses, choose between competing reasonable inferences, or balance the relative weight of conflicting evidence.'” Bassett v. I.C. Sys., Inc., 715 F.Supp.2d 803, 808 (N.D. Ill. 2010) (quoting Stokes v. Bd. of Educ. of the City of Chi., 599 F.3d 617, 619 (7th Cir. 2010)). Instead, it must view all the evidence in the record in the light most favorable to the non-moving party and resolve all factual disputes in favor of the non-moving party. See Anderson, 477 U.S. at 255.

         III. PRISON LITIGATION REFORM ACT STANDARDS

         The Prison Litigation Reform Act (“PLRA”) requires that a prisoner exhaust his available administrative remedies before bringing a suit concerning prison conditions. 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(a). 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 exhaustion requirement of the PLRA is one of “proper exhaustion” 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, 84 (2006). This means that the prisoner plaintiff must have completed “the administrative review process in accordance with the applicable procedural rules, including deadlines, as a precondition to bringing suit in federal court.” Id. at 84; see also Dale v. Lappin, 376 F.3d 652, 655 (7th Cir. 2004) (“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)).

         It is the defendant's burden to establish that the administrative process was available to the plaintiff. See Thomas v. Reese, 787 F.3d 845, 847 (7th Cir. 2015) (“Because exhaustion is an affirmative defense, the defendants must establish that an administrative remedy was available and that [the plaintiff] failed to pursue it.”).

         “An inmate . . . must exhaust available remedies, but need not exhaust unavailable ones.” Ross v. Blake, 136 S.Ct. 1850, 1858 (2016).

         IV. MR. GRIFFITH'S GRIEVANCE

         Within three days of the alleged excessive force, Mr. Griffith started the informal grievance process. Several informal grievances were submitted and rejected for reasons irrelevant to this discussion. The relevant grievance for summary judgment purposes is dated June 24, 2016. Dkt. 26-1, p. 11. In this informal grievance, Mr. Griffith complains about being dragged out of his cell and down stairs, and writes that his minor offense of refusing a housing assignment “did not warrant the use of physical force.” Id.

         A notation in the form section titled “Explanation and how resolved. If not resolved explain why not, ” reads, “I have reviewed your complaint. This incident was turned over to the Office of Investigations and Intelligence for investigation.” It is signed “Lt. C. Nicholson” and dated July 1, 2016. Dkt. 26-1, p. 11.

         V. ...


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