United States District Court, S.D. Illinois
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER ON DEFENDANT'S SUMMARY JUDGMENT MOTION
MICHAEL J. REAGAN, District Judge.
In August 2013, Steve Collier (confined at Big Muddy Correctional Center, within this Judicial District) filed suit in this Court under 42 U.S.C. 1983, alleging deprivation of rights secured to him by the United States Constitution. The complaint alleged that while working in the dietary department at Big Muddy, Collier (Plaintiff) was subjected to sexual advances, sexual harassment, and retaliation at the hands of Charles Conrad, a correctional officer and Plaintiff's supervisor on the job.
On threshold review under 28 U.S.C. 1915A, the undersigned Judge found that the complaint stated two cognizable claims: Count 1 - alleging that Conrad sexually harassed (and strip-searched) Plaintiff in violation of the Eighth Amendment, and Count 2 - alleging that Conrad retaliated against Plaintiff for (a) rebuffing Conrad's sexual advances, and (b) filing grievances against Conrad.
In November 2013, Conrad answered the complaint and asserted the affirmative defense of failure to exhaust administrative remedies. Now before the Court is Conrad's February 4, 2014 motion for summary judgment, based on Plaintiff's alleged failure to exhaust administrative remedies prior to filing this suit, as required by the Prison Litigation Reform Act, 42 U.S.C. 1997e(a). The parties filed memoranda supporting and opposing that motion.
On April 23, 2014, Magistrate Judge Stephen C. Williams conducted an evidentiary hearing (a "Pavey" hearing) on the issue of exhaustion. On April 24, 2014, Judge Williams submitted a thorough Report and Recommendation (Report). The Report recommends that the undersigned District Judge grant Defendant Conrad's motion for summary judgment. Plaintiff filed objections to the Report on May 14, 2014, which the Court deems timely, based on the evidence that Plaintiff did not receive the Report until May 10, 2014 (see Doc. 26, p. 5).
Timely objections having been filed, the District Judge undertakes de novo review of the portions of the Report to which Plaintiff specifically objected. 28 U.S.C. 636(b)(1); FED. R. CIV. P. 72(b); SOUTHERN DIST. OF ILLINOIS LOCAL RULE 73.1(b). The undersigned can accept, reject, or modify Judge Williams' recommendations, receive further evidence, or recommit the matter to Judge Williams with instructions. Id. For the reasons stated below, the Court adopts Judge Williams' Report in its entirety. Analysis begins with the procedural standards governing analysis of Defendant's summary judgment motion.
B. Standard Applicable to Federal Summary Judgment Motions
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56 governs motions for summary judgment. Summary judgment is appropriate if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and that the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Archdiocese of Milwaukee v. Doe, 743 F.3d 1101, 1105 (7th Cir. 2014), citing FED. R. CIV. P. 56(a). Accord Anderson v. Donahoe, 699 F.3d 989, 994 (7th Cir. 2012). A genuine issue of material fact remains "if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party." Serednyj v. Beverly Healthcare, LLC, 656 F.3d 540, 547 (7th Cir. 2011), citing Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). Accord Bunn v. Khoury Enterpr., Inc., ___ F.3d ___, 2014 WL 2198557 (7th Cir. May 28, 2014).
In assessing a summary judgment motion, the district court views the facts in the light most favorable to, and draws all reasonable inferences in favor of, the nonmoving party. Anderson, 699 F.3d at 994; Righi v. SMC Corp., 632 F.3d 404, 408 (7th Cir. 2011); Delapaz v. Richardson, 634 F.3d 895, 899 (7th Cir. 2011). As the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit has explained, as required by Rule 56(a), "we set forth the facts by examining the evidence in the light reasonably most favorable to the non-moving party, giving her the benefit of reasonable, favorable inferences and resolving conflicts in the evidence in her favor." Spaine v. Community Contacts, Inc., ___ F.3d ___, 2014 WL 2855000 (7th Cir. June 24, 2014).
Bearing these principles in mind, the Court assesses the record before it. Of course, the reasonable inferences drawn from this evidence must be viewed in the light most favorable to Plaintiff, the nonmovant.
▸ Overview of Exhaustion Requirement
The Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA), Pub. L. 104-134, 110 Stat. 1321 (1996), requires prisoners to exhaust administrative remedies before they file suit in federal court. 42 U.S.C. 1997e(a). The exhaustion requirement applies to all lawsuits challenging prison conditions under 42 U.S.C. 1983 and actions under any other federal law brought by a prisoner confined in any jail or correctional facility. See Porter v. Nussle, 534 U.S. 516, 532 (2002)(the PLRA exhaustion requirement "applies to all inmate suits about prison ...