WILLIAM J. BUCK, Plaintiff,
C/O HARTMAN, et al., Defendants.
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
PHILIP M. FRAZIER, Magistrate Judge.
Before the Court is Defendant C/O Hartman's (Doc. 29) motion for summary judgment and Plaintiff William J. Buck's (Doc. 32) response thereto. For the following reasons, it is recommended that C/O Hartman's motion for summary judgment (Doc. 29) be denied.
On March 28, 2012, the Plaintiff, William J. Buck, filed this civil rights lawsuit pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Buck is an inmate at Pontiac Correctional Center ("Pontiac"). During all times relevant to this lawsuit, Buck was an inmate at Menard Correctional Center ("Menard"). Both Pontiac and Menard are correctional facilities under the jurisdiction of the Illinois Department of Corrections ("IDOC"). The movant, Defendant C/O Hartman, was employed at Menard as a correctional officer during Buck's confinement at that institution. Buck alleges that Hartman was deliberately indifferent to Buck's serious medical condition on July 20, 2011, when he refused to summon medical attention for Buck while he was having difficulty breathing in his cell due to asthma.
On August 14, 2012, the Court conducted a preliminary review of the complaint pursuant to its authority in 28 U.S.C. § 1915A. See Doc. 11. In that order, the Court dismissed eight of the nine defendants identified in the complaint. See id. The Court also found that Buck stated a deliberate indifference claim against Hartman. See id. Hartman filed the instant (Doc. 29) motion for summary judgment on February 5, 2013, seeking a ruling on his affirmative defense of failure to exhaust administrative remedies.
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 Hartman's ...