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Williams v. Walker

February 21, 2006


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Herndon, District Judge


I. Introduction

On August 11, 2003 Plaintiff Johnny Howard Williams ("Plaintiff"), then an inmate, filed a 42 U.S.C. § 1983 action alleging that various prison officials violated his civil rights. (Doc. 1.) On June 6, 2005, this Court dismissed several of Plaintiff's claims. (Doc. 7.) Now, just three remain: a claim against Defendant Lawrence for excessive force; a claim against Defendant Robinson for retaliation; and a claim against Defendants Pierson, Flagg, Fritts, and Kellerman for failure to move him to a new cell.*fn1 (Id.)

II. Analysis

This matter comes before the Court on a Report and Recommendation (the "Report") filed by Magistrate Judge Clifford J. Proud on January 13, 2006 pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B). (Doc. 23.) The Report concerns two motions for summary judgment filed by Defendants. (Docs. 15, 20.) Judge Proud recommends that these motions be granted. (Doc. 23.) Because Plaintiff timely objects (Doc. 24), this Court undertakes de novo review of the Report. 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B); FED. R.CIV.P.72(b); Govas v. Chalmers, 965 F.2d 298, 301 (7th Cir. 1992). The Court may "accept, reject or modify the recommended decision." FED. R.CIV.P.72(b); Willis v. Caterpillar Inc., 199 F.3d 902, 904 (7th Cir. 1999).

A. Summary Judgment

Summary judgment is proper where the pleadings and affidavits, if any, "show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." FED. R. CIV. P. 56(c); Oats v. Discovery Zone, 116 F.3d 1161, 1165 (7th Cir. 1997) (citing Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986)). The movant bears the burden of establishing the absence of fact issues and entitlement to judgment as a matter of law. Santaella v. Metro. Life Ins. Co., 123 F.3d 456, 461 (7th Cir. 1997) (citing Celotex, 477 U.S. at 323). In reviewing a summary judgment motion, the Court does not determine the truth of asserted matters, but rather decides whether there is a genuine factual issue for trial. Celex Group, Inc. v. Executive Gallery, Inc., 877 F. Supp. 1114, 1124 (N.D. Ill. 1995) (Castillo, J.). The Court must consider the entire record, drawing reasonable inferences and resolving factual disputes in favor of the non-movant.

Regensburger v. China Adoption Consultants, Ltd., 138 F.3d 1201, 1205 (7th Cir. 1998) (citing Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 255 (1986)).

In response to a motion for summary judgment, the non-movant may not simply rest on the allegations in his pleadings. Rather, she must show through specific evidence that an issue of fact remains on matters for which she bears the burden of proof at trial. Walker v. Shansky, 28 F.3d 666, 670-71 (7th Cir. 1994), aff'd, 51 F.3d 276 (citing Celotex, 477 U.S. at 324). No issue remains for trial "unless there is sufficient evidence favoring the non-moving party for a jury to return a verdict for that party. If the evidence is merely colorable, or is not sufficiently probative, summary judgment may be granted." Anderson, 477 U.S. at 249-50 (citations omitted); accord Starzenski v. City of Elkhart, 87 F.3d 872, 880 (7th Cir. 1996); Tolle v. Carroll Touch, Inc., 23 F.3d 174, 178 (7th Cir. 1994). "[P]laintiff's own uncorroborated testimony is insufficient to defeat a motion for summary judgment." Weeks, 126 F.3d at 939. Further, Plaintiff's own subjective belief does not create a genuine issue of material fact. Chiaramonte v. Fashion Bed Group, Inc., 129 F.3d 391, 401 (7th Cir. 1997).

B. Exhaustion of Remedies

Pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(a), "No action shall be brought with respect to prison conditions under section 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." Exhaustion of administrative remedies is a precondition to suit, and is required before a suit can be brought. Perez v. Wisconsin Dep't of Corrections, 182 F.3d 532, 535-36 (7th Cir. 1999). It "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 v. Nussle, 534 U.S. 516, 532 (2002). Exhaustion must occur before a suit is filed, Ford v. Johnson, 362 F.3d 395, 398 (7th Cir. 2004),and requires that prisoners "properly take each step within the administrative process." Pozo v. McCaughtry, 286 F.3d 1022, 1024 (7th Cir. 2002).*fn2

In Illinois, the prisoner-grievance system is laid out in Ill. Admin. Code tit. 20, § 504.800 et seq. The regulations therein provide that an inmate must submit her grievance to a grievance officer, who then makes a written report to a Chief Administrative Officer. That individual issues a written decision. If the grievance is denied, the inmate has thirty days in which to file an appeal with the Administrative Review Board ("ARB"). Id.

C. Defendants' Motions/Plaintiff's Objection

Defendants filed two motions for summary judgment, on August 11, 2005 and November 18, 2005. (Docs. 15, 20.) In those motions, Defendants state that Plaintiff failed to exhaust his administrative remedies and, as such, his suit is improper. Specifically, Defendants claim that Plaintiff failed to complete the appeals process with the ARB. (Id.) In support of these statements, Defendants submit an affidavit from Sherry Benton, Chairperson of the Office of Inmate Issues for the Illinois Department of Corrections ("IDOC"). (Doc. 16, Benton Aff.; Doc. 21, ...

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