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Pearson v. Inch

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

July 9, 2018

MARK S INCH Director, Federal Bureau of Prisons, Defendant.


          Hon. Jane Magnus-Stinson, Chief Judge

         Plaintiff Robert Pearson is a prisoner confined at the Federal Correctional Institution at Terre Haute, Indiana (FCI-Terre Haute). Mr. Pearson filed this lawsuit on June 15, 2017, asking the Court to order the defendant to transfer him to a community correctional facility and then to home confinement. See dkt. 1. The defendant has moved for summary judgment, arguing that Mr. Pearson 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. Mr. Pearson has not responded to the motion.

         I. Summary Judgment Standard

         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).

         In accordance with Local Rule 56-1(f), the Court assumes that facts properly supported by the movant are admitted without controversy unless the nonmovant specifically disputes them. Therefore, a nonmovant who fails to respond to a motion for summary judgment effectively concedes that the movant's version of the facts is accurate. Smith v. Lamz, 321 F.3d 680, 683 (7th Cir. 2003) (“[F]ailure to respond by the nonmovant as mandated by the local rules results in an admission.”). This does not alter the standard for assessing a Rule 56 motion, but it does “reduc[e] the pool” from which the facts and inferences relative to such a motion may be drawn. Smith v. Severn, 129 F.3d 419, 426 (7th Cir. 1997).

         On a motion for summary judgment, “[t]he 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 v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 247 (1986)). For purposes of this motion for summary judgment, the applicable substantive law is the PLRA's exhaustion requirement.

         II. Exhaustion of Administrative Remedies

         The PLRA requires that a prisoner who files suit in federal court must first exhaust his available administrative remedies. 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(a). The PLRA was enacted “to reduce the quantity and improve the quality of prisoner suits” by “afford[ing] corrections officials time and opportunity to address complaints internally before allowing the initiation of a federal case.” 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.

         The PLRA's exhaustion requirement is not subject to either waiver by a court or futility or inadequacy exceptions. Booth v. Churner, 532 U.S. 731, 741 n.6 (2001); McCarthy v. Madigan, 503 U.S. 140, 112 S.Ct. 1081 (1992) (“Where Congress specifically mandates, exhaustion is required.”). Moreover, the PLRA requires “proper exhaustion.” “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 at 655 (“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)).

         III. Facts

         The U.S. Bureau of Prisons (BOP) has promulgated an administrative remedy system that is codified in 28 C.F.R. §§ 542.10, et seq., and BOP Program Statement 1330.18, Administrative Remedy Program (Jan. 6, 2014) (available at 018.pdf.). The BOP's Administrative Remedy Program “allow[s] an inmate to seek formal review of an issue relating to any aspect of his/her own confinement.” 28 C.F.R. § 542.10(a) (emphasis added). It “applies to all inmates in institutions operated by the” BOP. 28 C.F.R. § 542.10(b) (emphasis added).

         To exhaust the remedies available through the Administrative Remedy Program, an inmate typically must file a written grievance at each of four levels. First, the inmate must file an informal remedy request through an appropriate institution staff member. See 28 C.F.R. § 542.13. If the inmate is not satisfied with the staff's response to that request, he must file a formal administrative remedy request with the Warden of his institution. 28 C.F.R. § 542.14. If the inmate is dissatisfied with the Warden's response, he must appeal to the Regional Director. 28 C.F.R. § 542.15. Finally, if the inmate is dissatisfied with the Regional Director's response, he must appeal to the BOP General Counsel. Id.

         Inmates confined at FCI-Terre Haute are provided with procedures for utilizing the Administrative Remedy Program upon their arrival at the institution and can access the relevant procedures in the law library. See dkt. 18-1 at ¶ 5. All administrative remedy requests filed by inmates are logged and tracked in the SENTRY computer database, an electronic record keeping system utilized by the BOP. Program Statement 1330.18 at ¶ 13. Records from that ...

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