United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, New Albany Division
ORDER DENYING DEFENDANT HOUSTON'S MOTION FOR
Tanya Walton Pratt, Judge
Michael Scott Jackson was a Dearborn County Jail inmate when,
he alleges, he was assaulted by defendants. Defendant Roger
Houston moves for summary judgment contending that Mr.
Jackson failed to exhaust his administrative remedies prior
to filing this lawsuit as required by the Prison Litigation
Reform Act (PLRA) 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(a). Although Mr.
Jackson failed to respond to the motion, the Court finds that
Officer Houston's summary judgment evidence demonstrates
that Mr. Jackson complied with the PLRA's exhaustion
requirement and summary judgment must be denied.
Summary Judgment Standard
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 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).
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).
Mr. Jackson failed to respond to Officer Houston's motion
for summary judgment, the facts asserted by Officer Houston
in his motion are deemed admitted by Mr. Jackson to the
extent that they are supported by evidence in the record.
See Keeton v. Morningstar, Inc., 667 F.3d 877, 884
(7th Cir. 2012) (citations omitted). “However, a
nonmovant's failure to respond to a summary judgment
motion . . . does not, of course, automatically result in
judgment for the movant.” Id. (citations
omitted). Rather, a movant must still demonstrate that he is
entitled to judgment as a matter of law. See id.
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, 477 U.S. at 248). The substantive law
applicable to this motion for summary judgment is the 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.” Porter, 534 U.S.
at 532 (citation omitted).
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).
the defendants' burden to establish that the
administrative process was available to Mr. Jackson and that
he failed to comply with it. 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).
Summary Judgment Evidence
County Jail Commander Jon Winkler's affidavit established
that the Dearborn County Jail has an inmate grievance
procedure and that all inmates, including Mr. Jackson, are
informed of the procedure when they enter the jail. Dkt.
41-1, pp. 2-5. Mr. Jackson was aware of the grievance
procedure and submitted numerous grievances. Id. One
of the grievances Mr. Jackson submitted was about the
incident that gave rise to Mr. Jackson's current suit.
Id., p. 26. Although only one page of this
multi-page grievance is provided, it describes the same
incident and date that Mr. Jackson describes in civil rights
complaint. Another grievance submitted on the same date again
mentions the same incident and bruising and pain on Mr.
Jackson's neck. Id., p. 27. On the first
grievance a jail official has noted in the
“officer's reply section” of the grievance
form: “I'm aware of the situation. Thanks for your
version. Copy given to investigator.” Id., p.
26. On the second grievance the jail official noted, “I
will discuss this with my officers.” Id., p.
Houston seeks summary judgment because Mr. Jackson did not
name him in the grievance, did not describe the nature of
being assaulted, nor describe what Officer Houston is alleged
to have done to him. The Court does not have Mr.
Jackson's complete grievance, but it does not matter. As
Officer Houston concedes in his motion, the Dearborn County
Jail's grievance policy “does not include a
requirement regarding the specificity of” a grievance.
Dkt. 41, p. 9. The Court's review of the grievance
procedure fails to locate any provision governing the
contents of the grievance except for a prohibition on
“profane or socially unacceptable language.” Dkt.
41, pp. 6-9. On the grievance forms there are no instructions
about required content.
a prison or jail's grievance policy will dictate what
content and specificity is necessary in a grievance, where
that policy is silent a grievance is sufficient if the prison
or jail is alerted to the incident or wrong and has an
opportunity to investigate and remedy the issue.
Jonesv. Bock, 549 U.S. 199, 219 (2007);