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James v. Doe

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

June 22, 2015

JULIUS JAMES, Plaintiff,


MICHAEL J. REAGAN, Chief District Judge.

Introduction and Procedural Background

Pro se Plaintiff Julius James, currently incarcerated at Pontiac Correctional Center, filed this case on March 10, 2014, alleging he was involuntarily injected with psychotropic medication while at Menard Correctional Center. (Doc. 1). After threshold screening, only one claims remains: that Defendants Pelker, Hillerman, and Jane Doe Nurse denied Plaintiff due process when they forcibly gave him a psychotropic medication called Haldol. (Doc. 7, p. 4).

Now before the Court is Defendants' motion for summary judgment on the issue of whether Plaintiff exhausted his administrative remedies before filing suit. Defendants Hillerman and Pelker filed the motion on December 15, 2014. (Doc. 17). The matter is ripe for ruling: Plaintiff filed his Response on December 24, 2014 (Doc. 20), and no reply was filed. For the following reasons, the Court DENIES the Motion for Summary Judgment. (Doc. 17).


1. PLRA's Exhaustion Requirement

Suits brought by prisoners are governed by the Prison Litigation Reform Act ("PLRA"), 42 U.S.C § 1997e. The PLRA requires a prisoner to exhaust all administrative remedies available before bringing an action concerning prison conditions. 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(a). The exhaustion requirement of the PLRA is dependent upon the procedures established by the state in which the prison is located. Jones v. Bock, 549 U.S. 199, 218 (2007). Unexhausted claims may not be brought to court. Jones, 549 U.S. at 211 (citing Porter v. Nussell, 534 U.S. 516, 524 (2002)).

The Seventh Circuit requires strict compliance in regards to exhaustion. "Unless a prisoner completes the administrative process by following rules the state has established for that process, exhaustion has not occurred." Pozo v. McCaughtry, 286 F.3d 1022, 1025 (7th Cir. 2002). This includes the filing of "complaints and appeals in the place, and at the time, the prison's rules require." Id. at 1025. If the prisoner fails to comply with the established procedures, including time restraints, the court will not consider the grievance. Pavey, 663 F.3d at 903.

The purpose of the exhaustion requirement is two-fold. McCarthy v. Madigan, 503 U.S. 140, 145 (1992). First, it gives the prison officials the chance to address the prisoner's claims internally, before any litigation becomes necessary. Kaba v. Stepp, 458 F.3d 678, 684 (7th Cir. 2006); Woodford v. Ngo, 548 U.S. 81, 89-90 (2006). Second, it "seeks to reduce the quantity and improve the quality of prisoner suits." Porter, 534 U.S. at 524; see Booth v. Churner, 532 U.S. 731, 737 (2001) (noting that PLRA's requirement will help "filter out some frivolous claims.").

Because exhaustion is a prerequisite to filing a suit, a prisoner must wait until he has completed the established process, and may not file in anticipation that administrative remedies will soon be exhausted. Perez v. Wisconsin Dept. of Corrections, 182 F.3d 532, 535 (7th Cir. 1999) (citing 42 U.S.C § 1997e(a)); Ford v. Johnson, 362 F.3d 395, 398 (7th Cir. 2004). A suit filed prior to exhaustion of available remedies will be dismissed even if the remedies become exhausted while the suit is pending. Perez, 182 F.3d at 535.

2. Exhaustion Requirement under Illinois Law

Inmates confined in the Illinois Department of Corrections must adhere to the Department's Grievance Procedures for Offenders in order to properly exhaust claims. 20 Ill. Admin. Code § 504.810. The prisoner must first speak with their Counselor about the issues they raise; if the dispute is not resolved, a written grievance must be filed within sixty days of the events or occurrence with the Grievance Officer. 20 Ill. Admin. Code § 504.810(a). The grievance must:

Contain factual details regarding each aspect of the offender's complaint, including what happened, when, where, and the name of each person who is the subject of or who is otherwise involved in the complaint. The provision does not preclude an offender from filing a grievance when the names of individuals are not known, but the offender must include as much descriptive information about the individual as possible.

20 Ill. Admin. Code § 504.810(b). The grievance officer must then review the grievance and report findings and recommendations to the Chief Administrative Officer ("Warden"). 20 Ill. Adm. Code § 504.830(d). The prisoner then has the opportunity to review the Warden's response, and if he is unsatisfied, he may appeal to the Director through the Administrative Review Board ("ARB") within 30 days. 20 Ill. Adm. Code § 504.830(d); 20 Ill. Adm. Code § 504.850. The ARB is then required to provide a written report to the Director of its recommendation on the grievance, and the Director "shall review the findings and recommendations of the Board and make a final ...

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