United States District Court, S.D. Illinois
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
M. YANDLE UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
David Bentz, an inmate in the custody of the Illinois
Department of Corrections (“IDOC”), filed this
lawsuit pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging that his
constitutional rights were violated while he was incarcerated
at Menard Correctional Center (“Menard”).
Plaintiff is currently proceeding on the following claim:
Count 1: Violation of Plaintiff's right to access the
courts in Bentz v. Maue, No. 16- cv-00854-NJR (S.D.
Ill. 2016) by Gregson, Clendenin, Rodely, Teas, Whitley,
Stewart, and other John and/or Jane Does.
matter is now before the Court on Defendants' Motion for
Summary Judgment on the Issue of Exhaustion of Administrative
Remedies (Doc. 46). Plaintiff filed a Response (Doc. 74). For
the following reasons, Defendants' motion is
claims in this case were originally filed in Bentz v.
Gregson, 16-1349, on December 15, 2016.
Following threshold review in that case, the following claim
was severed and referred to this case:
Count 6: Violation of Plaintiff's right to access the
courts by Gregson, Clendenin, Rodely, Teas, Whitley, and
other John and/or Jane Does in 2016.
claim was reviewed pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §1915A and the
Court clarified that Bentz's claims are limited to the
defendants' interference with his court access in
Bentz v. Maue, No. 16-cv-00854-NJR (S.D. Ill. 2016)
(“Maue”), because that is the only case
cited by Bentz in which he suffered actual substantial
prejudice to specific litigation (Doc. 7 at 4). This claim is
distinct from the claims in Bentz's seventeen other cases
filed with this Court.
Bentz contends he filed multiple grievances regarding library
staff interfering with his access to the courts, and at least
one of those grievances was denied on the merits by the ARB;
therefore exhausting his administrative remedies. Defendants
acknowledge that Bentz filed multiple grievances against
library staff, but argue none of the grievances were relevant
to his access to the courts in the Maue case filed
on July 27, 2016, and therefore, they did not serve to
exhaust his administrative remedies in this case.
are five grievances filed by Bentz prior to his filing the
present action regarding the law library staff interfering
with his access to the courts:
9, 2015 (#90-9-15): Bentz grieves the
“runner system” created by law library policy and
requests that he be allowed to browse the legal materials
himself, rather than relying on law library staff to retrieve
materials. The Counselor responded to this grievance on
September 21, 2015, stating that the runner system is an
administrative decision made to ensure the safety and
security of law library staff and inmates. The Grievance
Officer responded on December 5, 2015, denying the grievance
because the law library policy was based on the needs,
safety, and security of the facility. The CAO concurred with
the Grievance Officer's Response on December 10, 2015.
There is no further documentation regarding this grievance.
19, 2016 (#102-6-16): Bentz filed this
grievance against John and Jane Doe property staff. He states
that he has continually put in for legal exchange to no avail
and that he has approximately 50 court deadlines that the law
library refuses to log. He further states that he has missed
court deadlines and is being denied access to the courts. The
requested relief is access to legal storage on a regular
basis. The Counselor responded on May 23, 2016 that Bentz has
been scheduled for personal property for May 24, 2016 to
handle this issue. The Grievance Officer reviewed the
grievance on July 1, 2016 and stated that she contacted
personal property and was advised Bentz was present for legal
exchanges on the following dates: May 24, 2016, May 31, 2016,
June 7, 2016, and June 14, 2016. North 2 property also
advised that Bentz would be added to the legal exchange list
for the upcoming weekend. The Grievance Officer notes that
Bentz would not be called over on a regular basis to access
legal storage because an offender is required to submit a
request to the property department each time he wishes to
access his property. She also noted that the law library
advised that Bentz's court deadlines had been logged and
that he has submitted proof of deadlines and is on deadline
status (automatic call) until June 13, 2017. The Grievance
Officer's recommendation was that Bentz's grievance
is moot because he is provided access to his legal materials.
The CAO concurred with the Grievance Officer's Report on
July 7, 2016. Bentz appealed the CAO's decision to the
ARB. However, the ARB did not receive the appeal until August
15, 2016, more than 30 days after the CAO's decision, so
it was denied as not submitted within the timeframe outlined
in the rules.
19, 2016 (#103-6-16 #1): Bentz states that on
May 4, 2016, Menard was on Level 1 lockdown and law library
staff member Shane Gregson came to his cell due to deadlines.
Bentz informed him that he had a deadline of May 9, 2016 and
needed legal copies returned so he could mail them to the
7th Circuit Court before the weekend. Gregson told
him he would bring the copies back but did not return. On May
11, 2016, the law library staff made rounds in the SU-Cell
House where Bentz requested to see Jennifer Clendenin. She
refused to address the issue of the copies. On May 18, 2016,
Bentz went to the law library and asked Gregson about his
copies. He was told that he should not write grievances on
staff and “things like that would not happen.”
Bentz received the same response from all other library
staff. Bentz grieved that the law library staff was
intentionally retaliating against him, causing him to miss
known court deadlines. The requested relief was: (1) staff to
log all of his court deadlines, (2) return original copies
and e-filings, (3) stop taking his legal materials, (4) stop
causing him to miss court deadlines, (5) terminate all
library staff and replace with qualified staff that will do
their jobs, and (6) stop denying Bentz adequate access to the
courts. The Counselor responded on May 23, 2016, stating
library staff does log court deadlines, library staff does
return original copies and e-filings, library staff does not
take his legal materials, library staff does not cause him to
miss deadlines, staffing is an administrative decision, and
the law library staff does not deny or retaliate in any way.
All allegations were found to be unsubstantiated. This
grievance was appealed along with a second grievance dated
June 10, 2016. The Grievance Officer and ARB reviewed the two
grievances together. The responses are documented below.
10, 2016 (#103-6-16 #2): Bentz filed this
grievance against “John and Jane Doe privy respondents
of the IDOC administrative, supervisorial, security, and law
library staff personnel.” He asserts that inmates in
segregation are not provided with access to a satellite law
library, trained clerks, nor the ability to check out any
books from the library. He goes on to state a number of
complaints regarding law library policy. He grieves the
“runner system, ” the fact that inmate law clerks
do not receive formal training, no outside agencies are
available to provide inmates with substantive help, and a
number of other issues relating to the operation of the law
library. The Counselor responded on June 16, 2016, stating
the offender has already ...