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Bryant v. Sczerua

United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division

March 20, 2017

Michael Bryant #2014-1127173, Plaintiff,
Sheriff's Deputy Sczerua, Defendant.


          Joan B. Gottschall United States District Judge

         I. Introduction

         Plaintiff Michael Bryant, currently an Illinois state prisoner, has brought this pro se civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiff claims that Defendant, an officer at the Cook County Jail, violated Plaintiff's constitutional rights by acting with deliberate indifference to his safety. More specifically, Plaintiff alleges that Defendant failed to take reasonable steps to protect him from two assaults by a fellow detainee. This matter is before the Court for ruling on Defendant's motion for judgment on the pleadings [18]. Although granted the opportunity to respond to the motion, see briefing schedule entered February 16, 2017, Plaintiff has not filed an opposing brief. For the following reasons, the uncontested motion is granted.

         II. Standard

         Rule 12(c) provides that “[a]fter the pleadings are closed-but early enough not to delay trial-a party may move for judgment on the pleadings.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(c). The distinction between a motion to dismiss and a motion for judgment on the pleadings is largely inconsequential for present purposes because both are evaluated under the same standard: the Court accepts as true all facts alleged in the complaint and construes all reasonable inferences in favor of the non-moving party. See Lodholtz v. York Risk Servs. Grp., Inc., 778 F.3d 635, 639 (7th Cir. 2015) (citing Vesely v. Armslist LLC, 762 F.3d 661, 664-65 (7th Cir. 2014)); Hayes v. City of Chicago, 670 F.3d 810, 813 (7th Cir. 2012). In considering a motion under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(c), the Court may rely on the pleadings, documents attached to or critical to (and referred to in) the pleadings, or information subject to judicial notice. See Geinosky v. City of Chicago, 675 F.3d 743, 745 n.1 (7th Cir. 2012) (discussing review of motions under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6)) (citations omitted); Lodholtz, 778 F.3d at 639 (explaining that the same standards govern Rules 12(b)(6) and 12(c) (citing Adams v. City of Indianapolis, 742 F.3d 720, 727-28 (7th Cir. 2014)); see also Fed. R. Civ. P. 10(c). A motion for judgment on the pleadings is granted “only if it appears beyond doubt that the plaintiff cannot prove any facts that would support his claim for relief.” Buchanan-Moore v. County of Milwaukee, 570 F.3d 824, 827 (7th Cir. 2009) (quoting Northern Indiana Gun and Outdoor Shows, Inc. v. City of South Bend, 163 F.3d 449, 452 (7th Cir. 1998)).

         III. Background

         Plaintiff alleges the following facts, assumed true for purposes of Defendant's motion for judgment on the pleadings: On December 14, 2015, Plaintiff advised Defendant Sczerua that a fellow inmate was threatening him. Sczerua ignored Plaintiff's concern that he was in danger and allowed both inmates to go to the recreation yard together. During the recreation period, the other detainee attacked Plaintiff.

         When the prisoners returned from recreation, Plaintiff told Sczerua what had happened. Sczerua refused to take any action, and accused Plaintiff of lying. Shortly thereafter, Sczerua abandoned his post, once again leaving Plaintiff alone with the younger, hostile, declared enemy. The other inmate assaulted Plaintiff again, causing injuries to his mouth, hand and legs.

         Plaintiff attached a copy of his ensuing grievance as an exhibit to the Complaint. The grievance form reflects that Plaintiff did not appeal the denial of his grievance.

         IV. Discussion

         Defendant is entitled to judgment on the pleadings, having shown that Plaintiff failed to complete the administrative grievance process prior to initiating suit.

         The Prison Litigation Reform Act of 1996 contains a comprehensive administrative exhaustion requirement. Under that statute, “[n]o action shall be brought with respect to prison conditions ... by a prisoner ... until such administrative remedies as are available are exhausted.” 42 U.S.C. § 1997(e)(a); see also Jones v. Bock, 549 U.S. 199, 204 (2007); Maddox v. Love, 655 F.3d 709, 720 (7th Cir. 2011). “[I]f a prison has an internal administrative grievance system through which a prisoner can seek to correct a problem, then the prisoner must utilize that administrative system before filing a claim under Section 1983.” Massey v. Helman, 196 F.3d 727, 733 (7th Cir. 1999); Howard v. Maselko, No. 11 C 9278, 2013 WL 1707955, at *2 (N.D. Ill. Apr. 19, 2013) (Kocoras, J.).

         In order to satisfy the PLRA's exhaustion requirement, a prisoner “must take all steps prescribed by the prison's grievance system.” Ford v. Johnson, 362 F.3d 395, 397 (7th Cir. 2004). An inmate must comply with the rules established by the State with respect to the form, timeliness, and content of grievances. Dale v. Lappin, 376 F.3d 652, 655 (7th Cir. 2004); Pozo v. McCaughtry, 286 F.3d 1022, 1023-25 (7th Cir. 2002). “Administrative remedies have not been exhausted unless the inmate has given the process a chance to work and followed through with administrative appeals.” Worthem v. Boyle, 404 Fed. App'x 45, 46, 2010 WL 4683631, at *2 (7th Cir. Nov. 18, 2010) (citing Ford, 362 F.3d at 398-400; Dixon v. Page, 291 F.3d 485, 490-91 (7th Cir. 2002)). If a prisoner fails to properly avail himself of the prison's or jail's grievance process, he may lose his right to sue. Massey, 196 F.3d at 733; Howard, 2013 WL 1707955, at *2. Correctional officials bear the burden of pleading and proving failure to exhaust. Kaba v. Stepp, 458 F.3d 678, 681 (7th Cir. 2006) (citing Dole v. Chandler, 438 F.3d 804, 809 (7th Cir. 2006)).

         The Cook County Department of Corrections has established a grievance procedure that is available to all inmates. Brengettcy v. Horton, 423 F.3d 674, 678 (7th Cir. 2005). This process requires filing a grievance and an appeal. Id. A prisoner plaintiff must complete the full exhaustion process before bring suit in federal court. 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(a). An inmate at the Cook County Jail is required to submit a grievance in a designated lockbox within fifteen days of the matter being grieved. Stallings v. Cook County, No. 11 C 7349, 2013 WL 3669623, at *4 (N.D. Ill. July 12, 2013) (Coleman, J.). The grievances are picked up daily by the Correctional Rehabilitation Worker (CRW), who must address the ...

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