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Decker v. Lukens

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

March 26, 2019

ROBERT K. DECKER, Plaintiff,
v.
DAVID LUKENS, WILLIAM E. WILSON, Defendants.

          ENTRY DISCUSSING DEFENDANTS' MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

          HON. WILLIAM T. LAWRENCE, SENIOR JUDGE

         Plaintiff Robert K. Decker (“Mr. Decker”), a federal prisoner incarcerated at the Chicago Metropolitan Correctional Center, alleges that, while he was incarcerated at the United States Penitentiary in Terre Haute, Indiana, the defendants failed to treat his hepatitis C in violation of his Eighth Amendment rights.

         Presently pending before the Court is the Motion for Summary Judgment filed by the defendants on November 16, 2018. Dkt. 28. The defendants' motion argues that the claims alleged against them 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. Decker filed a response to the defendants' motion for summary judgment arguing that the administrative remedy process was unavailable to him because he was refused stamps and the forms necessary to complete his appeal.

         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). The substantive law applicable to this motion for summary judgment is the PLRA, which 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).

         The “exhaustion requirement is strict. A prisoner must comply with the specific procedures and deadlines established by the prison's policy.” King v. McCarty, 781 F.3d 889, 893 (7th Cir. 2015). Exhaustion “is an affirmative defense that a defendant has the burden of proving.” Id.

         II. Material Facts

         At all times relevant to his claims, Mr. Decker was incarcerated at Terre Haute Federal Correctional Facility (“Terre Haute”). The Federal Bureau of Prisons maintains an administrative remedy policy that is explained to inmates each time they arrive at a new federal prison. Inmates also have access to the administrative remedy policy in the institutions' law libraries. All administrative remedy requests submitted by inmates are logged and tracked in the SENTRY computer database, a Bureau of Prisons electronic record keeping system.

         To exhaust the administrative remedy process, inmates must complete four steps. First, he must complete an informal resolution form, referred to as a BP-8. Administrative remedy requests submitted at the institution level, referred to as BP-9s and identified in the SENTRY database by the notation “F1” following the remedy identification number, are the second step in the process. Regional Office submissions, referred to as BP-10s and identified by the notation “R1” following the remedy identification number, are the third step. Finally, Central Office submissions, referred to as BP-11s and identified by the notation “A1” following the remedy identification number, are the final step in the process.

         Pursuant to Program Statement 1130.18 and 28 C.F.R. § 542.15, an inmate has 20 days from the date of a denial of a BP-9 to appeal that decision through a BP-10 and 30 days from the denial of a BP-10 to appeal that decision through a BP-11. Dkt. 28-1. These time periods run from the date the Warden signs the response rather than the date the response is received by the inmate. If the relevant appeal is not submitted within those respective deadlines, the file is closed and no further proceedings will be permitted regarding it absent a showing of valid reason for the delay.

         On March 1, 2018, Mr. Decker submitted a BP-9 form regarding the lack of treatment for his hepatitis C. The grievance was assigned Remedy Number 932439-F1. An explanation was provided to Mr. Decker in response and the grievance was closed on March 8, 2018. The defendants have no record of receiving either a BP-10 or BP-11 form associated with this remedy number. Dkt. 28-1.

         Because BOP policy provides that an inmate has 20 days from the date of denial of a BP-9 to appeal, Mr. Decker had through ...


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