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Smith v. Baker

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

March 27, 2018

LT. BAKER, LT. TUSCY, Defendants.


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

         I. Background

         Plaintiff Ronald Richard Smith is a federal prisoner currently confined at the Federal Correctional Institution in Fairton, New Jersey. Mr. Smith filed his complaint on March 3, 2017, in the Northern District of West Virginia and it was then transferred to this district.

         Mr. Smith was formerly incarcerated at the United States Penitentiary in Terre Haute, Indiana (“USP Terre Haute”). His claims are brought pursuant to the theory recognized in Bivens v. Six Unknown Federal Narcotics Agents, 403 U.S. 388 (1971). He alleges that in January 2016, when he was incarcerated at the USP Terre Haute, he was discriminated against for being a Black Muslim. More specifically, he alleges that Lt. Baker and Lt. Tuscy violated his religious freedom by taking away his Friday Jummah Prayer in violation of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. He also alleges that these defendants violated his rights under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, 42 U.S.C. § 2000bb, et seq. (“RFRA”).

         Defendants Lt. Baker and Lt. Tuscy filed a motion for summary judgment seeking resolution of the claims against them on the basis that Mr. Smith failed to exhaust his available administrative remedies. Mr. Smith opposed the motion for summary judgment and the defendants replied. For the reasons explained in this Entry, the defendants' motion for summary judgment, Dkt. No. 40, is granted.

         II. Discussion

         A. Legal Standards

         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). A dispute is genuine only if a reasonable jury could find for the non-moving party. Id. If no reasonable jury could find for the non-moving party, then there is no “genuine” dispute. Scott v. Harris, 550 U.S. 372, 380 (2007). 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 the motion for summary judgment is the Prison Litigation Reform Act (“PLRA'”), which 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).

         “Proper exhaustion demands compliance with an agency's deadlines and other critical procedural rules 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, 90-91 (2006) (footnote omitted); 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)). “In order to exhaust administrative remedies, a prisoner must take all steps prescribed by the prison's grievance system.” Ford v. Johnson, 362 F.3d 395, 397 (7th Cir. 2004).

         It is the defendants' burden to establish that the administrative process was available to Mr. Smith. 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.”). “[T]he ordinary meaning of the word ‘available' is ‘capable of use for the accomplishment of a purpose, ' and that which ‘is accessible or may be obtained.'” Ross v. Blake, 136 S.Ct. 1850, 1858 (2016) (internal quotation omitted). “[A]n inmate is required to exhaust those, but only those, grievance procedures that are capable of use to obtain some relief for the action complained of.” Id. at 1859 (internal quotation omitted).

         B. Undisputed Facts

         On the basis of the pleadings and the expanded record, and specifically on the portions of that record which comply with the requirements of Rule 56(c), the following facts, construed in the manner most favorable to Mr. Smith as the non-movant, are undisputed for purposes of the motion for summary judgment:

         Mr. Smith was incarcerated at USP Terre Haute from March 30, 2015, through April 11, 2016. He was subsequently incarcerated at the United States Penitentiary-Hazelton (“USP Hazelton”) in West Virginia from April 15, 2016, until April 3, 2017.

         Administrative Remedy System

         The Bureau of Prisons (“BOP”) has promulgated an administrative remedy system that appears at 28 C.F.R. §§ 542.10, et seq., and BOP Program Statement 1330.18, Administrative Remedy Procedures for Inmates (“P.S. 1330.18”). Dkt. No. 40-1 (Schalburg Decl.), ¶ 4. See BOP Program Statement 1330.18 at This administrative remedy system was in effect at USP Terre Haute during the entire time that Mr. Smith was housed there. All BOP Program Statements are available for inmate access via their respective institution law library.

         The BOP administrative remedy process is a method by which an inmate may seek 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 formal administrative remedy requests with the Warden, Regional Director, and General Counsel. 28 C.F.R. § 542.13; P.S. 1330.18 at 4.

         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. 28 C.F.R. § 542.14; P.S. 1330.18 at 4. Next, if the inmate is dissatisfied with the Warden's response, he may appeal to the Regional Director via a BP-10. 28 C.F.R. § 542.15; P.S. 1330.18 at 6-7. Finally, if he is dissatisfied with the Regional Director's response, then the inmate may appeal to the General Counsel via a BP-11. 28 C.F.R. § 542.15; P.S. 1330.18 at 7.[1] 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 his administrative remedies as to the specific issue, or issues, properly raised therein. See 28 C.F.R. § 542.15 (“Appeal to the General Counsel is the final administrative appeal.”). Following ...

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