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Mays v. Godinez

United States District Court, C.D. Illinois, Peoria Division

February 13, 2014

KENNETH MAYS, Plaintiff,
v.
S.A. GODINEZ, et al., Defendants.

SUMMARY JUDGMENT OPINION

JOE BILLY McDADE, District Judge.

Defendants Pfister, Reed, Brown, Miller, Godinez, and Lemke and Defendant Tilden have filed Motions for Summary Judgment on the issue of exhaustion [d/e 53, 55]. Plaintiff, a state prisoner, filed his lawsuit pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 claiming that his constitutional rights were violated at Pontiac Correctional Center. On March 27, 2013, the Court conducted a merit review of Plaintiff's Complaint and found that Plaintiff adequately alleged imminent danger in order to proceed in forma pauperis after he already accumulated three strikes under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(g), and that Plaintiff stated claims of deliberate indifference to his serious medical need and retaliation. Specifically, Plaintiff alleged that he experienced pain and disfigurement from an untreated tooth condition.

A. LEGAL STANDARD

Summary judgment should be granted "if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). All facts must be construed in the light most favorable to the non-moving party, and all reasonable inferences must be drawn in his favor. Ogden v. Atterholt , 606 F.3d 355, 358 (7th Cir. 2010). The party moving for summary judgment must show the lack of a genuine issue of material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett , 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). In order to be a "genuine" issue, there must be more than "some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts." Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp. , 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986). "Only disputes over facts that might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law will properly preclude the entry of summary judgment." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc. , 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986).

B. ANALYSIS

The IDOC Defendants argue in their Motion for Summary Judgment that of the two grievances the Administrative Review Board (ARB) found relevant to Plaintiff's Complaint, neither was pursued in accordance with prison administrative rules before Plaintiff filed his lawsuit. Defendant Tilden argues that while Plaintiff may have filed grievances pertaining to his dental issues and alleged lack of treatment, he failed to follow the necessary steps of the Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA) to ensure that exhaustion was complete before filing his lawsuit. The PLRA provides:

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.

42 U.S.C. § 1997e(a).

The Seventh Circuit has taken a strict compliance approach to exhaustion requiring a prisoner to pursue all available administrative remedies and comply with the prison's procedural rules and deadlines. Pozo v. McCaughtry , 286 F.3d 1022, 1025 (7th Cir. 2002). Therefore, if an inmate fails to follow the grievance procedure rules, his claims will not be considered to be exhausted, but instead forfeited, and he will be barred from filing suit in federal court even if administrative remedies are for practical purposes no longer available to him due to his procedural default. Pozo , 286 F.3d at 1025.

The Illinois Department of Corrections has an established grievance process. See 20 ILL. ADMIN. CODE §§ 504.800 et seq . An inmate is first required to speak with a counselor about the contested issue. 20 ILL. ADMIN. CODE § 504.810(a). If the counselor does not resolve the problem, the inmate must file a grievance form directed to the Grievance Officer within 60 days of the incident. Id . The Grievance Officer submits his recommendation to the Chief Administrative Officer who "shall advise the offender of the final decision in writing within two months after receipt of the written grievance, where reasonably feasible." 20 ILL. ADMIN. CODE § 504.830(d). If the inmate is not satisfied with the Chief Administrative Officer's response, he or she can file an appeal with the Director through the Administrative Review Board within 30 days after the date of the Chief Administrative Officer's decision. 20 ILL. ADMIN. CODE § 504.850(a). The Director shall then review the findings and recommendations of the board and make a final determination within six months after receipt of the grievance. 20 ILL. ADMIN. CODE § 504.850(f). When an inmate has received a copy of the Director's decision, the grievance procedure is complete.

The IDOC Defendants discuss just two grievances as relevant to Plaintiff's Complaint; one was received by the ARB on June 6, 2011 and one was received September 18, 2012. They point out that the former was returned to Plaintiff because it did not include a grievance officer's report, and the latter was still pending at the ARB when Plaintiff filed his lawsuit on March 13, 2013. Defendant Tilden discusses the two grievances identified by the IDOC Defendants as well as a few more grievances concerning Plaintiff's allegations of dental issues and lack of treatment. Defendant Tilden argues that Plaintiff's various grievances do not suffice for exhaustion purposes for various reasons including failure to identify Defendant Tilden by name or description, failure to await the ARB's final decision on the July 20, 2012 and August 2, 2012 grievances before filing his lawsuit, and failure to mention Defendant Tilden within the context of dental care in any grievance.

In response to the IDOC Defendants' Motion, Plaintiff counters that he received responses to his grievances outside the timeframe provided by the Illinois administrative rules, the Defendants withheld grievances, and Defendants Godinez, the warden (Pfister), and Miller all know what is going on. In response to Defendant Tilden's Motion, Plaintiff again argues that he received responses to grievances outside the administrative rules' provided timeframes, he implicated Tilden as the HCU (Healthcare Unit) director in his grievances in connection with dental issues, his family made phone calls and sent letters to the ARB, warden (Defendant Pfister), and IDOC Director (Defendant Godinez) regarding his medical issues, and Plaintiff wrote letters all over Illinois seeking help. Plaintiff also emphasizes that the administrative rules allow a prisoner to still file a grievance where he does not know the individuals involved.

In his Reply, Defendant Tilden disputes that Plaintiff properly exhausted his claims against Dr. Tilden where Plaintiff did not refer to or implicate him in any grievances within the context of dental care. Defendant Tilden also disputes Plaintiff's reference to the timeframe provided for officials' responses to grievances where Plaintiff omitted the fact that the administrative rules provide that responses must be provided within the stated timeframes only where reasonably feasible under the circumstances.

In his Sur-Reply, Plaintiff again argues that Defendant Tilden was implicated in his various grievances, that some of his grievances were thrown away, and that Defendants did not turn over ...


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