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Randall S. White v. White County Jail

April 11, 2012


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


I. Introduction and Factual/Procedural Background

Plaintiff Randall White, an inmate currently incarcerated in the Pinckneyville Correctional Center, was at all times relevant to this action housed in the White County Jail. White brings this action for deprivations of his constitutional rights pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Liberally construed, White's complaint alleges three claims of Eighth Amendment violations: Defendants housed him in unsanitary and hazardous conditions (Count 1); Defendants subjected him to verbal harassment (Count 2); and Defendants were deliberately indifferent to his serious medical needs (Count 3).

On preliminary review, the Court dismissed Count 2, White's claim that Defendants had subjected him to verbal harassment, but found that he had stated a claim as to his allegations of being housed in unsanitary conditions and deliberate indifference to serious medical needs (Doc. 13).

On October 28, 2011, Defendants filed a motion to dismiss (which Judge Williams construed as a motion for summary judgment), asserting that White failed to exhaust his administrative remedies prior to filing suit, in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(a) (Docs. 30, 42). Approximately one month later, Defendants filed a second motion to dismiss (Doc. 32). Pursuant to Rule 41(b), Defendants requested involuntary dismissal of this action because White failed to file a response to their summary judgment motion. Additionally, Defendants alleged that White failed to answer their Requests for Admissions and failed to keep the Court apprised of his address.

White responded to the second motion to dismiss as well as providing Answers to Defendants' Requests for Admissions on December 6, 2012 (Docs. 36, 37). He informed the Court that while he had completed his Answers to the Requests for Admissions, Pickneyville Correctional Center, where he was housed at the time, would not e-file his responses (Doc. 37 at ¶ 2). His subsequent transfer to Big Muddy River Correctional Center also delayed his mail. After his November 16, 2011, arrival at Big Muddy, White tried to e-file his responses but was told that the library could not file the responses until after the Thanksgiving holiday (Id. at ¶¶ 4 & 5).

In light of White's responsive pleading and his Answers to the Request to Admit, Judge Williams deemed it necessary to set this matter for a hearing pursuant to Pavey v. Conley, 544 F.3d 739 (7th Cir. 2008) (Doc. 31). On February 8, 2012, Judge Williams conducted a Pavey hearing and took the matter under advisement.

On February 17, 2012, Judge Williams submitted a Report and Recommendation ("the Report") pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B), recommending that the Court grant in part and deny in part Defendants' motion for summary judgment based on failure to exhaust administrative remedies (Doc. 30) and deny Defendants' Rule 41(b) motion for involuntary dismissal (Doc. 32). Specifically, Judge Williams recommended that the Court deny Defendants' motion as to the cell conditions claims but grant it as to the deliberate indifference medical claim and dismiss that claim with prejudice because White had not exhausted his remedies as to that claim.

The Report was sent to the parties with a notice informing them of their right to appeal by way of filing "objections" within 14 days of service of the Report. White filed a timely objection (Doc. 50).

Accordingly, the Court will undertake de novo review of the portions of the Report to which specific objection was made. 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B); FED.R.CIV.P.72(b); Southern District of Illinois Local Rule 73.1(b); Govas v. Chalmers, 965 F.2d 298, 301 (7th Cir. 1992). The Court may accept, reject or modify the recommended decision, or recommit the matter to the Magistrate Judge with instructions. FED.R.CIV. P. 72(b); Local Rule 73.1(b); Willis v. Caterpillar, Inc., 199 F.3d 902, 904 (7th Cir. 1999).

II. Applicable Legal Standard

Generally, when deciding a motion to dismiss or for summary judgment, the Court construes all facts in the light most favorable to and draws all legitimate inferences in favor of, the non-moving party. Regent v. City of LaCrosse, 595 F.3d 691, 695 (7th Cir.2010). However, when ruling on the exhaustion issue, the Court may make credibility determinations and findings of fact. Pavey v. Conley, 663 F.3d 899, 904--05 (7th Cir. 2011), citing Anderson v. City of Bessemer City, N.C., 470 U.S. 564, 575 (1985) ("[W]hen a trial judge's finding is based on his decision to credit the testimony of one of two or more witnesses, each of whom has told a coherent and facially plausible story that is not contradicted by extrinsic evidence, that finding, if not internally inconsistent, can virtually never be clear error."); United States v. Norris, 640 F.3d 295, 297 n. 1 (7th Cir. 2011) (explaining that a credibility determination may be disturbed only if "completely without foundation").

As the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals explained, where (as here) a magistrate judge conducts an evidentiary hearing, submits his findings of fact and recommendations for disposition, and objections are filed, The district court is required to conduct a de novo determination of those portions of the magistrate judge's report and recommendations to which objections have been filed. But this de novo determination is not the same as a de novo hearing. The district court is not required to conduct another hearing to review the magistrate judge's findings or credibility determinations. Rather, the district court has discretion to "accept, reject, modify, in whole or in part, the findings or recommendations made by the magistrate." If the district court finds a problem, it may take additional evidence, call witnesses, or remand to the magistrate judge for further ...

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