United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Indianapolis Division
ENTRY GRANTING DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY
WILLIAM T. LAWRENCE, SENIOR JUDGE
Ralph Jones, an Indiana prisoner incarcerated at the
Westville Correctional Facility, brings this civil rights
action alleging that the defendant allowed other inmates to
torture him while he was incarcerated at Pendleton
Correctional Facility. Presently pending before the Court is
the defendant's motion for summary judgment which argues
that the plaintiff's claims 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. Jones has not
responded to the motion and the time to do so has passed,
leaving the defendant's motion unopposed. For the reasons
that follow, the defendant's motion for summary judgment,
Dkt. No. 33, is granted.
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).
noted above, Mr. Jones failed to respond to the
defendant's motion for summary judgment, and the deadline
for doing so has passed. The consequence is that Mr. Jones
has conceded the defendant's version of the events.
See 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.”);
see S.D. Ind. Local Rule 56-1 (“A party
opposing a summary judgment motion must . . . file and serve
a response brief and any evidence . . . that the party relies
on to oppose the motion. The response must . . . identif[y]
the potentially determinative facts and factual disputes that
the party contends demonstrate a dispute of fact precluding
summary judgment.”). 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).
the following facts, unopposed by Mr. Jones and supported by
admissible evidence, are accepted as true.
times relevant to his claims, Mr. Jones was incarcerated at
Pendleton Correctional Facility (“Pendleton”).
Pendleton maintains a grievance policy regarding complaints
about prison conditions, including complaints about
individual staff members. The grievance process requires an
inmate to attempt to resolve the grievance informally by
contacting staff to discuss the matter or incident subject to
the grievance. If the inmate is unable to obtain a resolution
of the grievance informally, he may submit a formal written
complaint. If the formal written complaint is not resolved in
a manner that satisfies the inmate, he may submit an appeal
to the Indiana Department of Correction (IDOC) Central
records maintained by IDOC reveal that Mr. Jones filed three
grievances that could potentially relate to the claims raised
against the defendant in this action. All three grievances
were rejected for various reasons including failing to
attempt to first resolve the issue informally, using
profanity, and requesting a classification
change. Mr. Jones never filed an acceptable formal
grievance regarding his claims against the defendant. There
is no evidence that he attempted to file an appeal regarding
his claims either.
PLRA requires that “[n]o action shall be brought with
respect to prison conditions under section 1983 . . . until
such administrative remedies as are available are
exhausted.” 42 U.S.C. § 1997e; 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 requirement to exhaust provides
“that no one is entitled to judicial relief for a
supposed or threatened injury until the prescribed
administrative remedy has been exhausted.” Woodford
v. Ngo, 548 U.S. 81, 88-89 (2006) (citation omitted).
Exhaustion of available administrative remedies
“‘means using all steps that the agency holds
out, and doing so properly (so that the agency addresses the
issues on the merits).'” Id. at 90
(quoting Pozo v. McCaughtry, 286 F.3d 1022, 1024
(7th Cir. 2002)). Proper use of the facility's grievance
system requires a prisoner “to file complaints and
appeals in the place, and at the time [as] the prison's
administrative rules require.” Pozo, 286 F.3d
at 1025; see also Dole v. Chandler, 438 F.3d 804,
809 (7th Cir. 2006).
exhaustion is an affirmative defense, “the burden of
proof is on the prison officials.” Kaba v.
Stepp, 458 F.3d 678, 680 (7th Cir. 2006). The burden is
also on the defendant to establish that the administrative
process was available to Mr. Jones. 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).
undisputed facts demonstrate that Mr. Jones did not complete
the steps of the grievance process. Although he attempted to
file grievances, he failed to comply with the requirements of
the grievance process. The consequence of Mr. Jones's
failure to exhaust his administrative remedies, in light of
42 U.S.C. § 1997e(a), is that this action must be
dismissed without prejudice. See Ford v. Johnson,
362 F.3d 395, 401 (7th Cir. 2004) (holding that “all
dismissals under § 1997e(a) should be without