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Jackson v. Hobart

United States District Court, C.D. Illinois

June 16, 2017




         This cause is before the Court on Defendants Daniel Hobart and Susan Hobart's motion for summary judgment on the issue of failure to exhaust administrative remedies. As explained more fully infra, the Hobarts are entitled to summary judgment because Plaintiff Maurice Jackson failed to exhaust properly his administrative remedies against them before filing this suit.


         Plaintiff Maurice Jackson is an inmate within the Illinois Department of Corrections (“IDOC”) who is housed at the IDOC's Pontiac Correctional Center (“Pontiac”). Defendants Daniel Hobart and Susan Hobart (collectively, “the Hobarts”) are food service workers at Pontiac.

         Jackson filed this Complaint on July 18, 2016, alleging, among other things, that the Hobarts had tampered with his food beginning in May 2016. Based upon this allegation, the Court determined that Jackson's Complaint stated a claim against the Hobarts for violating his Eighth Amendment rights based upon the conditions of his confinement. The Hobarts have now moved for summary judgment arguing that Jackson failed to exhaust his administrative remedies prior to filing this suit.


         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(a) provides that summary judgment shall 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); Ruiz-Rivera v. Moyer, 70 F.3d 498, 500-01 (7th Cir. 1995). The moving party has the burden of providing proper documentary evidence to show the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323-24 (1986). Once the moving party has met its burden, the opposing party must come forward with specific evidence, not mere allegations or denials of the pleadings, which demonstrates that there is a genuine issue for trial. Gracia v. Volvo Europa Truck, N.V., 112 F.3d 291, 294 (7th Cir. 1997). “[A] party moving for summary judgment can prevail just by showing that the other party has no evidence on an issue on which that party has the burden of proof.” Brazinski v. Amoco Petroleum Additives Co., 6 F.3d 1176, 1183 (7th Cir. 1993). “As with any summary judgment motion, we review cross-motions for summary judgment construing all facts, and drawing all reasonable inferences from those facts, in favor of the nonmoving party.” Laskin v. Siegel, 728 F.3d 7314, 734 (7th Cir. 2013)(internal quotation marks omitted).

         Accordingly, the non-movant cannot rest on the pleadings alone, but must designate specific facts in affidavits, depositions, answers to interrogatories or admissions that establish that there is a genuine triable issue; he must do more than simply show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material fact. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 261 (Brennan, J., dissenting)(1986)(quoting Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986)); Hot Wax, Inc. v. Turtle Wax, Inc., 191 F.3d 813, 818 (7th Cir. 1999). Finally, a scintilla of evidence in support of the non-movant's position is not sufficient to oppose successfully a summary judgment motion; “there must be evidence on which the jury could reasonably find for the [non-movant].” Anderson, 477 U.S. at 252.


         The Prison Litigation Reform Act requires an inmate to exhaust the available administrative remedies before filing a § 1983 lawsuit. 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(a)(“[n]o action shall be brought with respect to prison conditions . . . by a prisoner . . . until such administrative remedies as are available are exhausted.”); Massey v. Wheeler, 221 F.3d 1030, 1034 (7th Cir. 2000). Exhaustion is mandatory. Woodford v. Ngo, 548 U.S. 81, 95 (2006)(“The benefits of exhaustion can be realized only if the prison grievance system is given a fair opportunity to consider the grievance. The prison grievance system will not have such an opportunity unless the grievant complies with the system's critical procedural rules.”); Dole v. Chandler, 43 F.3d 804, 809 (7th Cir. 2006).

         No futility, sham, or substantial compliance exception exists to this requirement, and a plaintiff seeking only monetary damages for ongoing conditions must still utilize the grievance procedure in place before filing suit. Massey, 259 F.3d at 646 (inmate alleging failure to repair a hernia timely must exhaust administrative remedies even though surgery was performed and only money damages claim remained); Booth v. Churner, 532 U.S. 731, 736-37 (2001)(the PLRA requires administrative exhaustion even where grievance process does not permit award of money damages, if “some action” in response to a grievance can be taken). Likewise, the exhaustion requirement includes claims that only seek equitable relief. Falcon v. United States Bureau of Prisons, 52 F.3d 137, 139 (7th Cir. 1995).

         Exhaustion means properly and timely taking each step in the administrative process established by the applicable procedures. Pozo v. McCaughtry, 286 F.3d 1022, 1025 (7th Cir. 2002)(failure to file timely administrative appeal constitutes failure to exhaust administrative remedies and bars a § 1983 suit). “[I]f a prison has an internal administrative grievance system through which a prisoner can seek to correct a problem, the prisoner must utilize that administrative system before filing a claim.” Massey v. Helman, 196 F.3d 727, 733 (7th Cir. 1999). A dismissal for failure to exhaust is without prejudice, so reinstatement is not barred unless the time for exhaustion has expired. Walker v. Thompson, 288 F.3d 1005, 1009 (7th Cir. 2002).

         If issues of fact exist in determining whether an inmate has exhausted his administrative remedies, a judge should hold a hearing and resolve these factual disputes. Pavey v. Conley, 544 F.3d 739, 742 (7th Cir. 2008). The Court is permitted to make findings of fact and credibility assessments of witnesses at such an evidentiary hearing. Pavey v. Conley, 663 F.3d 899, 904 (7thCir. 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.” 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. Id. No evidentiary hearing is ...

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