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Hindman v. Inch

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

March 22, 2018

NICHOLAS C. HINDMAN, Plaintiff,
v.
MARK S INCH, Director of the Federal Bureau of Prisons, Defendant.

          ENTRY GRANTING DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT AND DIRECTING ENTRY OF FINAL JUDGMENT

          Hon. Jane Magnus-Stinson, Chief Judge

         Plaintiff Nicolas C. Hindman is an inmate confined at the Federal Prison Camp (FPC) in Terre Haute, Indiana. Mr. Hindman has been housed at FPC Terre Haute since May 5, 2017. He is serving a 15-month term of imprisonment for Wire Fraud and Unlawful Financial Transactions. The BOP's website reflects that his release date is June 5, 2018.

         He brings this action pursuant to the Administrative Procedures Act (APA), 5 U.S.C. §§ 702, 706. Mr. Hindman alleges that defendant Mark S. Inch, Director of the Federal Bureau of Prisons, in his official capacity, hereinafter “BOP”, has denied Mr. Hindman placement in a halfway house, home confinement, or Residential Reentry Center (RRC), 18 U.S.C. § 3621(b), and that the BOP abused its discretion in applying 18 U.S.C. § 3624(c) (the “Second Chance Act”). The Second Chance Act enlarges the maximum time a prisoner may spend in a halfway house from six months to twelve months. It also gives the BOP authority to place a prisoner in home confinement for the shorter of 10 percent of the term of imprisonment of that prisoner or 6 months.

         Mr. Hindman seeks injunctive relief, specifically placement in a halfway house for 12 months and home confinement for 6 months.

         The BOP argues that it is entitled to summary judgment because Mr. Hindman failed to exhaust his administrative remedies with respect to the claim contained in the Complaint, and because 18 U.S.C. § 3625 precludes review of Bureau of Prisons' decisions regarding placement under the APA.

         For the reasons explained below, the BOP's motion for summary judgment, dkt [15], is granted. Disputes of material fact remain on exhaustion. Even so, there is no basis for relief under the APA, so the BOP is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.

         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). 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).

         II. Exhaustion of Administrative Remedies

         The BOP argues that it is entitled to judgment as a matter of law because Mr. Hindman did not exhaust his available administrative remedies prior to filing this action. The Prison Litigation Reform Act 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). 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.”).

         The BOP submitted a declaration which reflects that Mr. Hindman had not filed an administrative remedy request related to any issue raised in the Complaint and had not filed any formal administrative remedy request since he began his term of incarceration. In response, Mr. Hindman argued that Case Manager Shoemaker told him that he should not and could not file an appeal through the grievance process. Under these circumstances, there is a material fact in dispute regarding whether the grievance process was available to Mr. Hindman prior to filing this action. In Ross v. Blake, 136 S.Ct. 1850 (2016), the Supreme Court explained that an administrative procedure is unavailable when “it operates as a simple dead end, ” when it “might be so opaque that it becomes, practically speaking, incapable of use” or when “prison administrators thwart inmates from taking advantage of a grievance process through machination, misrepresentation, or intimidation.” Id. at 1859-60. Whether Case Manager Shoemaker thwarted Mr. Hindman's efforts to utilize the grievance process or whether that process was available to Mr. Hindman is in dispute. Resolution of this issue would necessitate a hearing and for this reason the United States' motion for summary judgment on the affirmative defense of exhaustion is denied. For the reasons that follow, even if Mr. Hindman had exhausted his administrative remedies prior to filing this civil action he would not be entitled to relief.

         III. Mr. Hindman's Supplemental Information

         Mr. Hindman's supplement filed on March 6, 2018, states that he has now exhausted his administrative remedies. He explains that he “now finds himself with a projected date of April 18, 2018, for release to halfway house and home confinement.” Dkt. 20 at p. 2. ...


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