MICHAEL M. JONES, Plaintiff,
DR. BAHRAT SHAH, et al., Defendants.
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
PHILIP M. FRAZIER, Magistrate Judge.
Before the Court is defendant Dr. Rayford's (Doc. 49) motion for summary judgment and plaintiff Michael M. Jones' (Doc. 63) response thereto. For the following reasons, it is recommended that Dr. Rayford's motion for summary judgment (Doc. 49) be denied.
On July 14, 2011, the plaintiff, Michael M. Jones, filed this civil rights lawsuit pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Jones is an inmate at Southwestern Illinois Correctional Center ("SWICC"). Immediately prior to his confinement at SWICC, Jones was an inmate at Vandalia Correctional Center ("Vandalia") from September 14, 2010 to March 2, 2011. Both SWICC and Vandalia are correctional facilities under the jurisdiction of the Illinois Department of Corrections ("IDOC"). Dr. Rayford was employed at Vandalia during Jones' confinement at that institution. Jones claims that Dr. Rayford failed to provide adequate medical treatment at Vandalia regarding Jones' hernia condition.
On July 13, 2012, the Court conducted a preliminary review of the complaint pursuant to its authority in 28 U.S.C. § 1915A. See Doc. 14. In that order, the Court dismissed five of the eight defendants identified in the complaint. See id. The Court also found that Jones stated a deliberate indifference claim against three defendants, including Dr. Rayford. See id. Dr. Rayford filed the instant (Doc. 49) motion for summary judgment on December 13, 2012, seeking a ruling on his affirmative defense of failure to exhaust administrative remedies. The other remaining defendants, Dr. Shah and RN Harris, do not join Dr. Rayford on the instant (Doc. 49) motion.
Pursuant to the Prison Litigation Reform Act ("PLRA"), all prison inmates bringing an action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 with respect to prison conditions, must first exhaust all administrative remedies that may be available to them before being allowed to proceed with a lawsuit. See 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(a); see also Pavey v. Conley, 544 F.3d 739, 740 (7th Cir. 2008); Perez v. Wisconsin Dept. of Corrections, 182 F.3d 532, 535 (7th Cir. 1999). The Seventh Circuit has taken a strict compliance approach to exhaustion, requiring inmates to follow all grievance rules established by the correctional authority. See Dole v. Chandler, 438 F.3d 804, 809 (7th Cir. 2006). "Exhaustion is an affirmative defense, and the burden of proof is on the defendants." Id. (citing Dale v. Lappin, 376 F.3d 652, 655 (7th Cir. 2004)).
The IDOC has a three-step process that prisoners under their jurisdiction are required to follow in order to exhaust administrative remedies. For the first step, the prisoner must first attempt to resolve the dispute through his or her grievance counselor. See 20 Ill.Admin.Code § 504.810. At step two, if the prisoner is unable to resolve the dispute through his or her counselor, the prisoner may file a written grievance with the Grievance Officer within sixty (60) days of discovery of the dispute. See id. The grievance must contain factual details regarding each aspect of the dispute, including "what happened, when, where, and the name of each person who is the subject of or who is otherwise involved in the [dispute]." Id. The Grievance Officer then considers the grievance and reports his or her findings and recommendations in writing to the Chief Administrative Officer ("CAO"). See 20 Ill.Admin.Code § 504.830. The CAO typically advises the prisoner of the decision at step two in writing within two months after receipt of the written grievance. See id. The third and final step of the exhaustion process is an appeal to the Administrative Review Board ("ARB"). After receiving a response from the CAO at step two, the prisoner has thirty (30) days from the date of the response to appeal to the ARB. See 20 Ill.Admin.Code § 504.850. The ARB typically makes a final determination within six (6) months after receipt of the appealed grievance. See id. With regard to prisoners under the control of the IDOC, administrative remedies may be deemed fully exhausted after the prisoner receives a copy of the ARB's decision at step three.
When there are factual issues relating to the exhaustion defense, the Court must resolve those issues by conducting an evidentiary hearing. See Pavey, 544 F.3d at 740-42. The Court is permitted to make findings of fact and credibility assessments of witnesses at such an evidentiary hearing. See Pavey v. Conley, 663 F.3d 899, 904 (7th Cir. 2011). If the Court finds that the prisoner exhausted his administrative remedies, "the case will proceed to pretrial discovery, and if necessary a trial, on the merits." See Pavey, 544 F.3d at 742. If the Court finds that the prisoner did not exhaust his administrative remedies, the Court determines whether:
(a) the plaintiff has unexhausted remedies, and so he must go back and exhaust;
(b) or, although he has no unexhausted remedies, the failure to exhaust was innocent (as where prison officials prevent a prisoner from exhausting his remedies), in which event he will be allowed to go back and exhaust; or
(c) the failure to exhaust was the prisoner's fault, in which event the case is over.
A. Defendant Dr. ...