United States District Court, S.D. Illinois
EMMANUEL O. BROOKS, Plaintiff,
JOHN MICH and KENNETH DONNALS, Defendants.
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
Michael J. Reagan United States District Judge
of 2016, Emmanuel Brooks, then an inmate at Menard
Correctional Center, filed suit in this Court under 42 U.S.C.
1983. After his initial pro se complaint was dismissed for
failure to state a claim on which relief could be granted,
Brooks amended his complaint (see Docs. 10, 12). On
threshold review of the amended complaint in December 2016,
the undersigned dismissed a claim against one named Defendant
(Warden Kim Butler) and concluded that Brooks had stated
cognizable Eighth Amendment claims for failure to protect him
from harm at the hands of his former cellmate against
correctional officers Kenneth Donnals and John Mich.
(see Doc. 14). Donnals and Mich. (collectively,
“Defendants”) answered the complaint in February
2016. The answer included the affirmative defense, inter
alia, that Plaintiff Brooks had failed to exhaust all
administrative remedies before filing this suit (Doc. 20, p.
2017, Defendants moved for summary judgment on the basis of
exhaustion. The Honorable Stephen C. Williams, the Magistrate
Judge to whom the case is referred for pretrial proceedings,
conducted a status conference on the issue in September 2017
(with Brooks, by then incarcerated at Danville Correctional
Center) participating via videoconference. Judge Williams
ordered Defendants to produce certain documents relevant to
the question of whether Brooks had exhausted his
administrative remedies before filing this action.
October 2017, Judge Williams held an evidentiary hearing on
Defendants' summary judgment motion, again with Plaintiff
Brooks participating by videoconference. Judge Williams heard
Plaintiff's testimony, received exhibits, ordered a
transcript prepared, and took the matter under advisement.
Now before the Court is a Report and Recommendation issued by
Judge Williams (Doc. 45, the “R&R”), to which
Plaintiff Brooks timely objected twice (Docs. 46, 48), and
Defendants responded on November 22, 2017 (Doc. 50). Analysis
begins with reference to the standards governing
Defendants' exhaustion-based summary judgment motion.
Applicable Legal Standards
judgment is proper only “if the admissible evidence
considered as a whole shows there is no genuine dispute as to
any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a
matter of law.” Dynegy Mktg. & Trade v. Multi
Corp., 648 F.3d 506, 517 (7th Cir. 2011)
(internal quotation marks omitted), citing Fed. R.
Civ. P. 56(a). See also Ruffin-Thompkins v. Experian
Info. Solutions, Inc., 422 F.3d 603, 607
party seeking summary judgment bears the initial burden of
showing --based on the pleadings, affidavits, and/or
information obtained via discovery -- the lack of any genuine
issue of material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett,
477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). After a properly supported motion
for summary judgment is made, the adverse party “must
set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine
issue for trial.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby,
Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 250 (1986), quoting Fed R.
Civ. P. 56(e)(2). A fact is material if it is outcome
determinative under applicable law. Anderson, 477
U.S. at 248; Ballance v. City of Springfield, Ill. Police
Department, 424 F.3d 614, 616 (7thCir. 2005);
Hottenroth v. Village of Slinger, 388 F.3d 1015,
1027 (7th Cir. 2004). A genuine issue of material
fact exists if “the evidence is such that a reasonable
jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party.”
Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248.
a district court's role on summary judgment is not to
evaluate the weight of the evidence, judge witness
credibility, or determine the truth of the matter. It is only
to determine whether a general issue of triable fact exists.
Nat'l Athletic Sportwear Inc. v. Westfield Ins.
Co., 528 F.3d 508, 512 (7th Cir. 2008). A
slightly different standard applies to summary judgment on
the issue of exhaustion.
motion for summary judgment based upon failure to exhaust
administrative remedies often involves a hearing to determine
contested issues regarding exhaustion, and the judge may make
limited findings of fact at that time. Pavey v.
Conley, 544 F.3d 739, 742 (7th Cir. 2008).
The case may proceed on the merits only after any contested
issue of exhaustion is resolved. Pavey, 544 F.3d at
742. In the case at bar, Judge Williams conducted a hearing
in light of contested factual issues (see Doc. 45, p. 5).
Plaintiff testified at the hearing, specifically addressing
the issue of a grievance at the heart of the dispute here -
his October 23, 2015 grievance relating to a request to be
moved from his cell at Menard, away from cellmate D. Sankey -
as well as two grievances filed in 2016 related to law
library access. The undersigned has reviewed the transcript
prepared from the October 19, 2017 hearing before Judge
Exhaustion Under the PLRA
brought by prisoners are governed by the Prison Litigation
Reform Act (PLRA), 42 U.S.C 1997e. The PLRA requires that
“no action shall be brought with respect to prison
conditions under section 1983 of this title, or any other
Federal law, by a prisoner confined in any jail, prison, or
other correctional facility until … administrative
remedies as are available are exhausted.”
42 U.S.C. 1997e(a).
is a condition precedent to suit in federal court, so the
inmate must exhaust before he commences his federal
litigation; he cannot exhaust while his lawsuit is
pending. See Perez v. Wisconsin Department of
Corrections, 182 F.3d 532, 535 (7thCir.
1999); Dixon v. Page, 291 F.3d 485, 488
(7th Cir. 2002). If the inmate fails to exhaust
before filing suit in federal court, the district court must
dismiss the suit. See Jones v. Bock, 549 U.S. 199,
223 (2007); Burrell v. Powers, 431 F.3d 282, 284-85
(7th Cir. 2005).
Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit requires strict
adherence to the PLRA's exhaustion requirement. See
Dole v. Chandler, 438 F.3d 804, 809 (7th Cir.
2006) ('This circuit has taken a strict compliance
approach 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 may not
consider the claims. Pavey v. Conley, 663 F.3d 899,
903 (7th Cir. 2011).
purpose of the exhaustion requirement is two-fold. 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 ...