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Thornton v. Lashbrook

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

December 9, 2019

CHARLES E. THORNTON, Plaintiff,
v.
JACQUELINE LASHBROOK, MISTY NEW, REGINA PRICE, CYNTHIA GIMBER, and PAMELA SCOTT, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          NANCY J. ROSENSTENGEL, CHIEF U.S. DISTRICT JUDGE

         This matter is before the Court on the motion for summary judgment on the issue of exhaustion of administrative remedies filed by Defendants Regina Price and Cynthia Gimber (Doc. 72). For the reasons stated below, the motion is granted in part and denied in part.

         Background

         Plaintiff Charles Thornton is an inmate in the Illinois Department of Corrections. He brought this pro se civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 claiming prison officials at Menard Correctional Center (“Menard”) violated his constitutional rights when they wrongfully denied him access to publications that he ordered. At the time the motion for summary judgment was filed in March 2019, Thornton was proceeding on two claims against Defendants Misti New, Cynthia Gimber, and Regina Price for violating his First Amendment rights when they erroneously rejected an issue of “Phat Puffs” magazine and sets of “Phat Puffs Shotz” photographs in June 2017 (Count 1) and erroneously rejected another set of “Phat Puffs Shotz” photographs in February 2018 (Count 2) (Doc. 10; Doc. 50).[1]

         On March 20, 2019, Defendants Gimber and Price filed a motion for summary judgment, arguing that Thornton failed to exhaust his administrative remedies as to them prior to filing suit (Doc. 72).[2] More specifically, Defendants Gimber and Price argue that, in the grievances Thornton submitted following the rejection of the Phat Puffs publications in June 2017 (which is the basis of Count 1), he did not name them, reference them, or allege that they had any role in denying the publications (Doc. 73). Notably, Defendants Gimber and Price make no arguments and present no evidence regarding grievances filed in the wake of Phat Puffs publication that went unaccounted for in February 2018 (which is the basis of Count 2) (see Doc. 73). In other words, the motion for summary judgment pertains only to Thornton's failure to exhaust as to Defendants Gimber and Price as it relates to Count 1. Thornton filed a response in opposition to the motion for summary judgment on April 3, 2019 (Doc. 77). Defendants Gimber and Price did not file a reply.

         In May 2019, before the motion for summary judgment was ruled on, Thornton moved to amend his complaint once again (Doc. 87). Thornton was permitted to add Pamela Scott as a Defendant to Count 2 (Docs. 119, 122). Thornton also was permitted to add a claim for retaliation against Counselor Price as an alternative to Count 2 (Count 3).

         As of the date of this Order, Thornton is proceeding on the following claims against the following Defendants:

Count 1 - First Amendment claim against Defendants Misti New, Cynthia Gimber, and Regina Price for denying Thornton's request for a copy of Issue No. 10 of “Phat Puffs” (Spring 2017) and “Phat Puffs Shotz” without a legitimate penological reason.
Count 2 - First Amendment claim against Defendants New, Gimber, Price, and Pamela Scott for denying Thornton's “set of phat puffs no nudity shotz” requested in February 2018 without a legitimate penological reason.
Count 3 - First Amendment retaliation claim against Defendant Price for ensuring Thornton did not receive the “set of phat puffs no nudity shotz” requested in February 2018 in retaliation for Thornton filing grievances and a lawsuit against Price.

         After Defendant Pamela Scott was added as a defendant, she did not seek leave to file a motion for summary judgment on the issue of exhaustion. Additionally, Counselor Price did not seek to amend her motion to add an argument related to Count 3, which was the new claim for retaliation. Accordingly, the only issue before the Court is whether Thornton exhausted his administrative remedies as to Defendants Cynthia Gimber and Regina Price as it relates to Count 1.

         Because the parties' filings do not implicate a genuine issue of material fact, no evidentiary hearing pursuant to Pavey v. Conley, 544 F.3d 739 (7th Cir. 2008) was necessary, and Defendants' motion for summary judgment on the issue of exhaustion is ripe for disposition.

         Factual Background

         Defendant Regina Price is a correctional counselor at Menard (Doc. 73-2). She does not have a position on the Publications Review Committee, and she does not have a role in ...


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