United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division
J. Tharp, Jr. United States District Judge.
reasons set forth in the Statement below, the defendant's
motion to dismiss based upon the plaintiff's failure to
exhaust his administrative remedies  is granted. The
plaintiff's amended complaint  is dismissed without
prejudice. Civil case terminated.
Sood, the only remaining defendant in this case, seeks to
dismiss Plaintiff Jonathan Chamber's medical indifference
claim on the basis that Chambers failed to exhaust his
administrative remedies while he was an inmate in the
Illinois Department of Corrections (“IDOC”). Sood
argues that Chambers “jumped the gun” by filing a
federal action before appealing his underlying grievance
through the proper IDOC channels. The Court agrees. Because
Chambers had an available remedy through IDOC's grievance
process, his failure to appeal his grievance prior to filing
suit is fatal to his claim.
following facts are undisputed, or if necessary, drawn in a
light most favorable to Chambers. In late February 2014,
Chambers was processed into Stateville's Northern
Reception and Classification Center (“NRC”).
According to Chambers, he asked to see a doctor during intake
to treat a herpes outbreak. He was seen by Sood on March 1,
2014. Although Sood examined the outbreak and Chambers'
medical file indicated a history of herpes, Sood did not
prescribe anti-viral medication during the visit. Instead, he
directed Chambers to “put in for sick call”
(where he would have a $5 co-pay) to obtain the medication.
his visit with Sood, Chambers twice submitted a request for
sick-call to obtain medication to treat his herpes outbreak;
once on March 6, 2014 and again on March 8, 2014. Chambers
then filed a written grievance on March 9, 2014 with his
counselor, complaining that he had not yet been given a
sick-call slip to obtain his herpes medication and had been
in pain during that period. (IDOC Offender's Grievance
1-2, ECF No. 94-1.) Chambers requested to see a doctor that
day and sought $60, 000 in compensatory damages.
counselor, Amy Gomez, responded to his grievance on March 13,
2014. (Id. at 1.) She stated that a copy of the
grievance had been forwarded to the NRC's Health Care
Unit (“HCU”) for review and response.
(Id.) She added that the original grievance had been
forwarded to the Grievance Office for a final response after
the HCU had addressed his complaint. (Id.) On March
21, 2014, Chambers was transferred to Western Illinois
Correctional Center (“Western”). He had not
received any herpes medication prior to his transfer.
April 3, 2014, Stateville's Grievance Office issued a
memorandum to Chambers stating that his grievance was being
returned to him because it had not been reviewed prior to his
transfer. (Grievance Office Mem. 1, ECF No. 94-2.) The
memorandum informed Chambers that if he wanted to appeal his
grievance, he must forward a copy of the grievance along with
the memorandum to the Administrative Review Board
(“ARB”). (Id.) Four days later, on April
7, 2014, Chambers filed a pro se complaint in this
Court under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 alleging that he had been
subjected to cruel and unusual punishment because the NRC had
failed to timely provide him with herpes medication. Chambers
did not send his grievance to the ARB before filing the
Chambers filed suit, he drafted a second grievance on June 2,
2014, asking that that certain “medical staff” be
suspended due to their failure to provide him with herpes
medication. (IDOC Offender's Grievance 1, ECF No. 94-3.)
This grievance stated that he had previously filed a
grievance at the NRC on March 9, 2014 regarding his lack of
medication and that he had received a memorandum confirming
that his grievance had not been reviewed prior to his
transfer to Western. (Id. at 1-2.) The ARB received
Chambers' second grievance on June 6, 2014. (ARB Response
1, ECF No 94-4.) In November 2014, the ARB investigated
Chambers' claim to have been improperly denied herpes
medication at the NRC and whether he had received medication
after his transfer. (See Email between Sherry
Benton, ARB, and Kindel Kestner, HCU Office Associate,
Western Corr. Ctr. (Nov. 8-10, 2014), ECF No. 94-5.) On
November 10, 2014, the ARB issued a response following its
investigation, stating: “Per contact with HCU staff,
[Chambers' herpes medication] claim cannot be
substantiated as medically needed.” (ARB Response 1.)
Prison Litigation Reform Act (“PLRA”) states that
a prisoner may not bring a federal action concerning prison
conditions until all available remedies have been exhausted.
42 U.S.C § 1997e(a); Ross v. Blake, 136 S.Ct.
1850, 1856 (2016). This requirement “applies to all
inmate suits about prison life, ” Porter v.
Nussle, 534 U.S. 516, 532 (2002), and is
“mandatory.” Ross, 136 S.Ct. at 1856
(citations omitted). Moreover, “an inmate must exhaust
irrespective of the forms of relief sought and offered
through administrative avenues.” Booth v.
Churner, 532 U.S. 731, 741 n.6 (2001). “An
inmate's perception that exhaustion would be futile does
not excuse him from the exhaustion requirement.”
Thornton v. Snyder, 428 F.3d 690, 694 (7th Cir.
2005) (citations omitted). That is, “[e]ven when the
prisoner seeks relief not available in grievance proceedings,
notably money damages, exhaustion is a prerequisite to
suit.” Porter, 534 U.S. at 524 (citation
omitted). To exhaust his administrative remedies, an inmate
must take each of the steps prescribed by the state's
prison grievance system. Pozo v. McCaughtry, 286
F.3d 1022, 1023-25 (7th Cir. 2002) (“[A] prisoner must
file complaints and appeals in the place, and at the time,
the prison's administrative rules require.”).
has an established process for addressing inmate grievances.
See 20 Ill. Admin. Code § 504.800 et
seq. An inmate should first attempt to resolve his
grievance through his counselor. Id. §
504.810(a). If the grievance remains unresolved, the inmate
may submit it to the prison's Grievance Office for
further review and investigation. Id. After
investigating the inmate's complaint, the Grievance
Office must submit its findings and recommendations to the
facility's Chief Administrative Officer
(“CAO”) (usually the warden), who then issues a
ruling to the inmate. Id. § 504.830(d). If the
inmate disagrees with the CAO's decision, he may appeal
his grievance to the Director of IDOC through the ARB.
Id. § 504.850(a). After reviewing the ARB's
findings and recommendations, the Director renders a final
determination on the grievance within six months of the
appeal, where feasible. Id. § 504.850(e).
Finally, if an inmate is transferred after an incident
occurs, he may file his grievance directly with the ARB.
Id. § 504.870(a)(4). The ARB must then review
the grievance in the same manner and within the same
timeframe as if the inmate had appealed from his original
facility. Id. § 504.870(b).
argues that Chambers' medical indifference claim is
barred by the PLRA. (Def.'s Mot. to Dismiss 3-5, ECF No.
94.) Although Chambers submitted a written grievance to his
counselor and Stateville's Grievance Office before filing
suit, he had not appealed his grievance to the ARB. Thus,
Sood contends, Chambers failed to exhaust IDOC's
grievance procedures. The Court agrees. Although Sood bears
the burden of establishing a failure to exhaust, Maddox
v. Love, 655 F.3d 709, 720 (7th Cir. 2011), Chambers
unquestionably jumped the gun. His initial ...