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Nelson v. Illinois Department of Corrections

United States District Court, C.D. Illinois

May 5, 2018

JAMES NELSON, Plaintiff,
v.
ILLINOIS DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS, et al., Defendants

          SUMMARY JUDGMENT ORDER

          JAMES E. SHADID UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         This cause is before the Court for consideration of Defendants Dustin Bayler and Joseph Bennett's motion for summary judgment on the issue of exhaustion of administrative remedies. [18].

         Plaintiff alleges Defendants John Doe #1 and John Doe #2 used excessive force against him at Pontiac Correctional Center on August 24, 2016, and Defendants Baylor and Bennett failed to intervene to stop the use of excessive force. See July 20, 2017 Merit Review Order.

         I. FACTS

         The Illinois Department of Corrections (IDOC) has an established grievance process. See 20 Ill. Admin. Code §§ 504.800 et seq. An inmate must first submit a written grievance on the appropriate form to their counselor. 20 Ill. Admin. Code § 504.810(a). The grievance must be submitted within 60 days of the alleged incident or problem.

         The grievance officer must review the grievance and report his or her findings and recommendations to the Chief Administrative Officer or Warden within two months of receipt “when reasonably feasible under the circumstances.” 20 Ill. Admin. Code § 504.830(e). The Warden will then review the recommendations and advise the inmate of the Warden's final decision in writing.

         If the inmate is not satisfied with the Warden's response, he or she can file a written appeal to the IDOC Director through the Administrative Review Board. The appeal must be filed within 30 days of the Warden's decision. 20 Ill. Admin. Code § 504.850(a). The Director shall then review the findings and recommendations of the board and make a final determination within six month after receipt of the grievance “where reasonably feasible under the circumstances.” 20 Ill. Admin. Code § 504.850(f). When an inmate has received a copy of the Director's decision, the grievance procedure is complete.

         An inmate may also request his grievance be handled on an emergency basis by sending it directly to the Chief Administrative Officer. 20 Ill. Admin. Code. §504.840. If the Warden determines the grievance is an emergency, the Warden “shall expedite processing of the grievance and respond to the offender, indicating what action shall be or has been taken.” 20 Ill. Admin. Code. §504.840(b). However, if the Warden determines the issue is not an emergency, the inmate “shall be notified in writing that he or she may resubmit the grievance as non-emergent, in accordance with the standard grievance process.” 20 Ill. Admin. Code. §504.840(c).

         The parties agree the relevant grievance in this case is dated September 14, 2016. Defendants maintain the grievance was filed as a standard, non-emergent grievance. (Def. Mot, p. 6). However, the Plaintiff says he did submit the grievance as an emergency grievance sending it directly to the Warden, and he filled in the box indicating it was an emergency. In addition, the copy provide by the Defendants clearly is marked as an emergency grievance. (Def. Mot., Sept. 14, 2016 Grv.). Defendants chose not to file a reply addressing this inconsistency, and based on the record, the Court must assume the September 14, 2016 grievance was an emergency grievance.

         Defendants further claim Plaintiff never submitted his grievance at Pontiac Correctional Center, but Plaintiff says he submitted his grievance through the standard procedure of placing the grievance in his cell bars for pick up by correctional officers. The parties agree Plaintiff did not receive a response to this September 14, 2016 grievance.

         Plaintiff was aware IDOC procedures require all grievances must be submitted within 60 days of the alleged incident. Therefore, when Plaintiff had not received a response one month later, he sent the Warden a letter with a second copy of his grievance on October 24, 2016. The letter noted Plaintiff had first submitted the grievance in September of 2016, but he did not receive a response. Plaintiff again requested a response. (Plain. Resp., p. 16).

         Plaintiff's letter was returned with a handwritten note stating “[o]riginal grievances must be submitted. This complaint was not received in the Warden's office.

         Re-submit.” (Plain. Resp., p. 16). Plaintiff says he did not receive this response until October 26, 2016, after the 60 day deadline had expired.

         Since there was nothing more Plaintiff could do at the facility, he appeal to the ARB on October 27, 2016. The ARB denied his appeal on November 1, 2016. The board noted Plaintiff's grievance did not have a response from the grievance officer or the ...


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