The opinion of the court was delivered by: ALESIA
This cause is before the Court on defendants' motion for summary judgment pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56.
The motion is granted in part and denied in part.
Plaintiff Martin Russo is an inmate incarcerated at the Joliet Correctional Center. On March 10, 1997, Russo filed a grievance with Correctional Counselor Linwood Johnson complaining of an attack. The attack allegedly left Russo unconscious, with stitches near his right eye and upper lip, possibly a broken nose and tailbone, and bruises and lacerations throughout his body. Russo complained that a national "hit" was ordered against him; thus, his life was in danger. He sought a transfer to a non-maximum prison following his release from segregation. Russo also complained that he did not receive proper medical treatment for his allegedly broken nose and tailbone; he requested proper medical attention.
On March 14, 1997, Counselor Johnson responded in writing by noting that he forwarded a copy of the grievance to Internal Affairs; he also suggested that after release from segregation Russo should sign into protective custody.
On March 20, 1997, Russo filed a complaint in this court premised on a violation of his constitutional rights under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. He claimed that his Eighth Amendment right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment was unconstitutionally infringed because he was denied proper medical care for his allegedly broken nose and tailbone. He sought equitable or injunctive relief -- a transfer to a different prison and the restoration of his "good-time" -- and monetary relief.
The defendants filed a motion seeking judgment in their favor. First, they argued that the court lacked the authority to hear this matter because Russo neglected to completely utilize the prison grievance system -- according to defendants, he never pursued the grievance beyond the first step of filing it with Counselor Johnson -- and pursuant to recently amended 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(a): "No action shall be brought with respect to prison conditions under § 1983 of this title, or any other Federal law, by a prisoner confined in any jail, prison, or other correctional facility until such administrative remedies as are available are exhausted."
Second, defendants argued that Russo received proper and adequate medical attention; thus, his claim was frivolous.
In response to defendants' argument that he failed to exhaust administrative remedies, Russo filed an affidavit stating that he tried to complete the second step -- filing the grievance with grievance Officer Debra Wilson -- but every time that he mailed it to Officer Wilson the grievance was returned to him unsigned and unfiled. Thus, Russo inquired: how could he be "punished" pursuant to § 1997e(a) when he made a "good faith" attempt to complete the grievance process but, whether intentionally or negligently, the prison system prevented him from getting through the second step?
To figure out what happened here, the court held a hearing. The court heard testimony from Russo, Counselor Johnson, Officer Wilson, and Christopher Young -- Russo's cell mate.
The court will analyze this matter in two parts. The first part will concern the court's factual findings at the hearing and its interpretation of § 1997e(a). The second part will address defendants' argument regarding the validity of Russo's Eighth Amendment claim premised on inadequate medical care claim.
A. Factual Findings and 42 U.S.C. § ...