United States District Court, N.D. Illinois
March 11, 2004.
DANIEL POOLE, Plaintiff,
OFFICER LEON; OFFICER FOSTER; et al., Defendants
The opinion of the court was delivered by: CHARLES KOCORAS, District Judge
This matter comes before the court on the motion of Defendant Ernesto
Leon and Defendant Valerie Foster to dismiss Plaintiff Daniel Poole's
complaint. For the reasons set forth below, the motion is granted.
On April 26, 2002, Poole was a pretrial detainee in Division 9, Tier
1-C, a maximum security section of the Cook County Jail. Between 8:30 and
9:00 p.m., Poole and nine to 11 other inmates were released from their
cells into a common area called the day room. The areas occupied by Poole
and his fellow inmates including cells, the day room, the bathroom, and
the shower area were under the charge and responsibility of Officers
Leon and Foster. These areas were separated by walls and
doors, so one officer could not always observe occurrences in every
area. After releasing the inmates into the day room, Leon took a lunch
break, leaving Foster as the lone guard. Foster then left the day room
and proceeded to the hallway to supervise inmates' use of a commissary
cart. She watched inmates acquire personal goods from the commissary cart
for a period of about 20 minutes. While in the hallway, Foster was unable
to see large portions of the day room and bathroom.
During this time, four inmates grabbed Poole from the day room and
dragged him into the bathroom shower area. Once there, they struck Poole
repeatedly in the face and stomach. As two inmates held Poole down, one
of the others pulled down his pants and underwear and sexually assaulted
him. Shortly thereafter, another inmate replaced the first and assaulted
Poole. Neither Leon nor Foster prevented or stopped the attack. After the
attack, Poole was examined with the aid of a rape kit.
On April 28, 2002, Poole filed a formal grievance in accordance with
the Cook County Department of Corrections Detainee Grievance Procedure.
On May 2, 2002, the jail determined that Poole had not been raped but
noted that the results of the rape kit had not been received. Poole was
notified of the determination on May 5, 2002. He then had five working
days (until May 11) to appeal the decision. May 11 came
and went with no appeal filed. According to Poole, he missed the
deadline because unidentified investigators told him to await the results
of his rape kit before appealing,*fn1
After two weeks, Poole had not yet been given the results of his rape
kit, so he took legal action. The complaint does not specify what type of
legal action he took; his original complaint was not filed until September
3, 2002. The complaint has been twice amended, the second time with the
aid of appointed counsel. The current complaint alleges violations of
42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Leon and Foster in their individual capacities
for the failure to anticipate, prevent, or stop the attack, as well as
claims against each that appear to be grounded in state law,
Defendants have filed a motion to dismiss the entirety of the complaint
on several grounds, including the exhaustion requirement of the Prisoner
Litigation Reform Act ("PLRA"). Because exhaustion of administrative
remedies is a necessary prerequisite to any prisoner suit and therefore
potentially dispositive of the motion before us, we consider this issue
I. Exhaustion of Administrative Remedies
The PLRA dictates that "[n]o action shall be brought with respect to
prison conditions under section 1983 of this title . . . by a prisoner
. . . until such administrative remedies as are available are exhausted."
42 U.S.C. § 1997e(a), The PLRA helps to "reduce the quantity and improve
the quality of prisoner suits," by "afford[ing] corrections officials
time to address complaints internally." Porter v. Nussle, 534 U.S. 516,
524-25, 122 S.Ct. 983, 988 (2002). The PLRA also works to "limit judicial
intervention in the management of state and federal prisons." McCoy y.
Gilbert. 270 F.3d 503, 509-510 (7th Cir. 2001). The Supreme Court has
recently held that this requirement applies to every suit filed by a
prisoner regarding events occurring during his or her incarceration,
whether ongoing or isolated. Porter. 534 U.S. at 524, 122 S.Ct. at 988.
For these reasons Congress requires prisoners to exhaust their
administrative remedies. If a prison has an internal administrative
grievance system through which a prisoner can seek to correct a problem,
"then the prisoner must utilize that administrative system before filing
a claim." Massey v. Helman, 196 F.3d 727, 733 (7th Cir. 1999). If a
prisoner plaintiff fails to exhaust his administrative remedies before
filing suit, the district court must dismiss the complaint without
reaching the merits. Perez v. Wis. Dept. of Corr., 182 F.3d 532, 535-36
(7th Cir. 1999).
Defendants contend that Poole failed to exhaust the administrative
remedies set forth in the Cook County Department of Corrections Detainee
Grievance Procedure ("grievance procedure").*fn2 As such, Defendants
claim that Poole's complaint should be dismissed,
Poole argues that the advice of the investigators to delay filing his
appeal until he received the results of the rape kit absolved him of the
obligation to continue to pursue the administrative course he had begun.
In support of his argument, Poole points to a case from the Eleventh
Circuit, Miller v. Tanner. 196 F.3d 1190 (11th Cir. 1999). In Miller, an
inmate filed a grievance against multiple guards, which was denied
because he failed to sign and date the grievance form. Id. at 1192. The
written denial, issued by the prison grievance clerk, included the
statement: "[w]hen any grievance is terminated at the institutional level
you do not have the right to appeal." Id. at 1194. The court concluded
that this unequivocal statement to Miller that appeal was
prohibited in his circumstance meant that his prior actions in pursuing
his grievance exhausted the administrative remedies available to him.
In the instant case, the investigators did not inform Poole that he
could not file an appeal from the denial of his grievance, making this
case immediately distinguishable from Miller. Poole possessed the right
to appeal and elected to delay his filing until he received the rape kit
results. As such, he was not prevented from filing an appeal after the
deadline passed; he affirmatively chose to follow advice that, as far as
we can tell from the complaint, he was free to disregard. Moreover, the
complaint is devoid of any allegation that Poole attempted to appeal at
all, let alone that he was informed he could not. Instead, it appears
that Poole assumed that the Department of Corrections would deny the
appeal because of the missed deadline. As the Seventh Circuit noted in
Perez, "[n]o one can know whether administrative requests will be fufile;
the only way to find out is to try." 182 F.3d at 536. Building on this
idea, the court rejected any notion of a futility exception to the PLRA
exhaustion requirement. Id. at 537. There is no room for a court or a
plaintiff to speculate whether exhaustion would be unavailing under the
specific circumstances of each case. Id. If a remedy exists, a plaintiff
must allege that he or she pursued it as far as possible before bringing
suit in federal court. Otherwise, administrative personnel are deprived
ability to respond to problems uniquely within their purview, and the
opportunity for them to carry out their duties is short circuited.
In short, Poole has impermissibly jumped the gun in filing the instant
suit. As such, we cannot consider the merits of his claims.
II. Supplemental Jurisdiction
In light of the foregoing, we can discern no basis to exercise
supplemental jurisdiction over Poole's remaining state law claims. See.
28 U.S.C. § 1367. Generally, when all federal claims are dismissed before
trial, supplemental jurisdiction over any state law claim is relinquished
as well. Bowman v. City of Franklin, 980 F.2d 1104, 1109 (7th Cir.
1992). Accordingly, we will not retain jurisdiction over his state law
claims. They are also dismissed.
For the foregoing reasons, Leon and Foster's motion is granted and
Poole's complaint is dismissed in its entirety without prejudice.