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Cooper v. Baldwin

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

August 21, 2019

CHARLES COOPER, #M41894, Plaintiff,
DIRECTOR JOHN BALDWIN, et al., Defendants.



         Plaintiff Charles Cooper (“Cooper”), an inmate of the Illinois Department of Corrections, filed this civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for alleged deprivations of his constitutional rights that occurred while he was incarcerated at Pinckneyville Correctional Center (“Pinckneyville”). He asserts claims under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Eighth Amendment.

         This matter is now before the Court on a motion for summary judgment on the issue of exhaustion of administrative remedies filed by Defendants. For the reasons set forth below, the motion is granted.


          Cooper uses a wheelchair to ambulate and catheters and diapers to dispose of bodily waste. (Doc. 1, pp. 6, 8). According to the Complaint, Defendants Jaimet and Brown failed to accommodate Cooper's needs by housing him in a cell that is not equipped for disabled inmates, failing to provide him with access to wheelchair accessible shower facilities and recreational activities, failing to provide a sanitary means for disposing of soiled diapers, and forcing him to reuse single-use catheters. (Doc. 1, pp. 6-11, 15-16). Additionally, Dr. Meyer (not a defendant in this action) stopped prescribing a medication that was effectively treating his heart condition because it was too expensive. (Doc. 1, pp. 6, 9). Cooper claims that Brown knew he was not receiving appropriate treatment for his heart condition but failed to remedy the inadequate medical care. (Doc. 1, pp. 10-12). Cooper filed his complaint on November 13, 2018 (Doc. 1).

         Following review pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A, the following claims proceeded: (1) an ADA and/or Rehabilitation Act claim against Baldwin (official capacity) for failing to meet Cooper's disability-related needs; (2) an Eighth Amendment claim against Brown and Jaimet for exhibiting deliberate indifference to Cooper's disability-related needs; and (3) an Eighth Amendment deliberate indifference claim against Brown for failing to act despite knowing that Cooper was not receiving adequate medical care for his heart condition.

         Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment

         Defendants filed the pending motion for summary judgment arguing that Cooper failed to exhaust his administrative remedies on the claims against them prior to filing suit. (Docs. 26 and 27). Cooper failed to file a response to the motion. The Court considers Cooper's failure to respond an admission of the facts set forth in Defendants' motion. SDIL Local Rule 7.1(c) (failure to timely file a response to a motion may be considered an admission of the merits of the motion); Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e)(facts may be considered undisputed if a party fails to respond as required by Rule 56(c)); Smith v. Lamz, 321 F.3d 680, 683 (7th Cir. 2003)(failure to respond by the nonmovant as mandated by the local rules results in an admission); Flynn v. Sandahl, 58 F.3d 283, 288 (7th Cir. 1995) (non-movant's failure to respond to a motion for summary judgment constitutes an admission that there are no disputed issues of material facts).

         The following facts are undisputed: An inmate may grieve prison conditions with the Illinois Department of Corrections by following the grievance procedures set forth in 20 Ill. Admin. Code § 504.800 et seq. (Doc. 27, p. 2). Cooper had access to grievances and to the grievance process at Pinckneyville. (Id.). Cooper did grieve to his Counselor regarding re-useable catheters and medical issues on December 5, 13, 28, and 30, 2016, and January 30, 2017. (Doc. 27, p. 2, Doc. 27-3, pp. 2-3). Cooper did not, however, file grievances with the Grievance Officer or Warden of Pinckneyville on the claims in this case prior to filing his complaint in this case. (Doc. 27, p. 2; Doc. 27-1, pp. 1-3). Cooper also did not file any appeals or direct grievances to the Administrative Review Board. (Doc. 27, p. 2; Doc. 27-2, pp. 1-3).

         Legal Standards

          Motions for summary judgment are governed by Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56. “Summary judgment is proper if the pleadings, discovery materials, disclosures, and affidavits demonstrate no genuine issue of material fact such that [Defendants are] entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Wragg v. Village of Thornton, 604 F.3d 464, 467 (7th Cir. 2010); Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c).

         Lawsuits filed by inmates are governed by the Prison Litigation Reform Act (“PLRA”), which provides, in pertinent part, 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 such administrative remedies as are available are exhausted.” 42 U.S.C. §1997e(a). The Seventh Circuit requires strict adherence to the PLRA's exhaustion requirement. Dole v. Chandler, 438 F.3d 804, 809 (7th Cir. 2006). Exhaustion must occur before the suit is filed. Ford v. Johnson, 362 F.3d 395, 398 (7th Cir. 2004). Cooper cannot file suit and then exhaust his administrative remedies while the suit is pending. Id. Moreover, “[t]o exhaust remedies, a prisoner must file complaints and appeals in the place, and at the time, the prison administrative rules require.” Pozo v. McCaughtry, 286 F.3d 1022, 1025 (7th Cir. 2005). Consequently, if a prisoner fails to properly utilize a prison's grievance process, “the prison administrative authority can refuse to hear the case, and the prisoner's claim can be indefinitely unexhausted.” Dole, 438 F.3d at 809. In Pavey v. Conley, the Seventh Circuit held that “debatable factual issues relating to the defense of failure to exhaust administrative remedies” are not required to be decided by a jury but are to be determined by the judge. 544 F.3d 739, 740-41(7th Cir. 2008).

         As an inmate confined within the Illinois Department of Corrections, Cooper was required to follow the regulations contained in the Illinois Department of Corrections' Grievance Procedures for Offenders (“grievance procedures”) to properly exhaust his claims. 20 Ill. Administrative Code § 504.800 et seq. The grievance procedures first require inmates to file their grievance with the Counselor within 60 days of the discovery of an incident. 20 Ill. Admin. Code § 504.810(a). The grievance form must:

[C]ontain factual details regarding each aspect of the offender's complaint, including what happened, when, where, and the name of each person who is the subject of or who is otherwise involved in the complaint. This provision does not preclude an offender from filing a grievance when the names of individuals are not known, but the offender ...

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