United States District Court, Northern District of Illinois
April 22, 2003
The opinion of the court was delivered by: James Zagel, District Judge
Plaintiff brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and § 1988 and state law, alleging that defendant Sergeant Daly used excessive force and defendant Officer Edgett failed to intervene during an incident while he was incarcerated at the Cook County Jail, thereby causing him to sustain injuries. Defendants move for summary judgment, arguing that plaintiff failed to exhaust all administrative remedies available to him.
Under 42 U.S.C. § 1997(e), a prisoner must exhaust his administrative remedies before bringing a suit under § 1983 or any other federal law with respect to prison conditions. On April 20, 2001, plaintiff filed a grievance pertaining to the altercation between himself and Sergeant Daly that is at issue in this case. This was the only grievance that plaintiff filed before this suit. Plaintiff alleges that after he filed his grievance, he was told that it would be handled by Internal Affairs. It was not until shortly after plaintiff was released from the Cook County Jail and placed on house arrest (which was shortly after the incident in question) that he filed this suit and learned that disciplinary action had been recommended by Internal Affairs. Plaintiff argues that he did exhaust his administrative remedies because after he was released, no formal decision on his originally filed grievance had issued, so there was nothing to appeal, and once out of prison, no further administrative action could afford him a remedy.
Plaintiff cites to Whitmore v. Hurley, 2002 WL 2012469 (N.D. Ill 2002) in support for denying defendants' motion. However, in Whitmore, the plaintiff made a substantial effort to obtain a remedy under the grievance procedure but never received a response, whereas plaintiff here merely relied upon the representation that his case would be handled by Internal Affairs but did nothing to follow up on his grievance (in his response to defendants' motion, plaintiff admits that he "did not take further steps regarding his grievance"). In Poirier v. Casperson, the court held that even though the plaintiff may have understandably been confused about the grievance process, that confusion did not alleviate the need to follow grievance procedures, stating that "[t]he only way for a prisoner to know if the administrative system will afford relief is to try, and courts will therefore not engage in `guesswork' over the possible outcome of the administrative process." 2001 WL 950875 (7th Cir. 2001) (citation omitted). It is true that a ten-day suspension was recommended for Officer Edgett. However, there is no documentation that any disciplinary action was recommended for Sergeant Daly, and there is no explanation of the reason for Officer Edgett's recommended suspension, nor any official answer to plaintiff's grievance, and plaintiff admits that he did not ask for one. Resolution of an administrative grievance is necessary before a suit is filed, since "the outcome of the administrative process could affect the quantum of damages available in litigation." Perez v. Wisconsin Dept. of Corrections, 182 F.3d 532, 538 (7th Cir. 1999).
Plaintiff does not cite to any authority supporting his argument that once released from the Cook County Jail, his obligations to see the administrative grievance process to its end no longer existed, nor is there any authority supporting his argument that once out of prison, the administrative process could afford him no remedy. Also, plaintiff seeks punishment of defendants for a single incident, not alleviation of prison conditions or other ongoing treatment, and thus, his assertion that the grievance process could no longer be of service to him once out of prison is unconvincing.
Because plaintiff failed to exhaust his administrative remedies, defendants' motion for summary judgment is granted.
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