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Williams v. Strout

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

September 11, 2018


          David C. Dickmeyer INDIANA ATTORNEY GENERAL

          Andrew Scheil INDIANA ATTORNEY GENERAL


          Hon. William T. Lawrence, Judge

         In this civil action, plaintiff Warren L. Williams, an Indiana prisoner incarcerated at the New Castle Correctional Facility, alleges that, while he was incarcerated at the Reception Diagnostic Center (“RDC”), the defendant violated his Eighth Amendment rights when the defendant closed his hand in his cell door.

         Presently pending before the Court is the motion for summary judgment filed by the defendant on May 2, 2018. Dkt. No. 27. The defendant argues that the claims alleged against him are barred under the exhaustion provision of the Prison Litigation Reform Act (“PLRA”), 42 U.S.C. § 1997e, that requires a prisoner to first exhaust his available administrative remedies before filing a lawsuit in court.

         Mr. Williams filed a response and the defendant filed a reply. The motion is now ripe for review.

         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).

         II. Material Facts

         At all times relevant to his claims, Mr. Williams was incarcerated at the RDC. Because he was transferred to the New Castle Correctional Facility (“New Castle”) shortly after the alleged event took place, his efforts to grieve the incident were initiated at New Castle. The grievance process requires an inmate first to attempt to resolve his grievance informally by contacting staff to discuss the matter or incident subject to the grievance. Second, if the inmate is unable to obtain a resolution of the grievance informally, he may submit a formal grievance. Formal grievances are screened to determine whether they meet the requirements set out in the grievance policy. If deemed inadequate, the grievance is returned the inmate with the reason for its rejection. Adequate grievances are reviewed and a response is provided to the inmate. Third, if the grievance is not resolved in a manner that satisfies the offender, he may submit an appeal. Exhaustion of the grievance process requires completion of all three of these steps.

         Mr. Williams did not file any grievances regarding his claim while he was incarcerated at RDC because he felt threatened. Approximately two months after his transfer to New Castle, he submitted two informal grievances regarding the incident at RDC. Those grievances were rejected as untimely. Mr. Williams then submitted a formal grievance regarding the incident. It was returned to him as inadequate because the event occurred at RDC, rather than at New Castle, and because monetary relief cannot be provided through the grievance process. Mr. Williams then resubmitted the same grievance to RDC. It was again rejected and returned to Mr. Williams, this time because inmates cannot request staff discipline as a remedy and because tort claims are not grievable issues.[1] The returned grievance gave Mr. Williams five days to correct these two problems. He did not resubmit the grievance or file any other grievances or grievance appeals regarding the incident at RDC.

         III. Discussion

         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).

         “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 ...

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