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Washington v. Michigan Department of Corrections

United States District Court, W.D. Michigan, Northern Division

January 9, 2018

ROBERT TYWAN WASHINGTON, Plaintiff,
v.
MICHIGAN DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS, et al., Defendants.

          HON. GORDON J. QUIST JUDGE.

          REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

          TIMOTHY P. GREELEY UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         This is a civil rights action brought by state prisoner Robert Tywan Washington pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiff alleges that Defendants Ernst, Martin, Derry, and Wonacott retaliated against him by taking his television set. Defendants filed a motion for summary judgment (ECF No. 13) on the ground that Plaintiff failed to exhaust his available administrative remedies. Plaintiff did not file a response.

         Summary judgment is appropriate when the record reveals that there are no genuine issues as to any material fact in dispute and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c); Kocak v. Comty. Health Partners of Ohio, Inc., 400 F.3d 466, 468 (6th Cir. 2005); Thomas v. City of Chattanooga, 398 F.3d 426, 429 (6th Cir. 2005). The standard for determining whether summary judgment is appropriate is “whether the evidence presents a sufficient disagreement to require submission to a jury or whether it is so one-sided that one party must prevail as a matter of law.” State Farm Fire & Cas. Co. v. McGowan, 421 F.3d 433, 436 (6th Cir. 2005) (quoting Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 251-52 (1986)); see also Tucker v. Union of Needletrades Indus. & Textile Employees, 407 F.3d 784, 787 (6th Cir. 2005). The court must consider all pleadings, depositions, affidavits, and admissions on file, and draw all justifiable inferences in favor of the party opposing the motion. See Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co., Ltd. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986); Twin City Fire Ins. Co. v. Adkins, 400 F.3d 293, 296 (6th Cir. 2005).

         A prisoner's failure to exhaust his administrative remedies is an affirmative defense, which Defendants have the burden to plead and prove. Jones v. Bock, 549 U.S. 199, 212-216 (2007). A moving party without the burden of proof need show only that the opponent cannot sustain his burden at trial. See Morris v. Oldham County Fiscal Court, 201 F.3d 784, 787 (6th Cir. 2000); see also Minadeo v. ICI Paints, 398 F.3d 751, 761 (6th Cir. 2005). A moving party with the burden of proof faces a “substantially higher hurdle.” Arnett v. Myers, 281 F.3d 552, 561 (6th Cir. 2002); Cockrel v. Shelby County Sch. Dist., 270 F.3d 1036, 1056 (6th Cir. 2001). “Where the moving party has the burden -- the plaintiff on a claim for relief or the defendant on an affirmative defense -- his showing must be sufficient for the court to hold that no reasonable trier of fact could find other than for the moving party.” Calderone v. United States, 799 F.2d 254, 259 (6th Cir. 1986) (quoting W. Schwarzer, Summary Judgment Under the Federal Rules: Defining Genuine Issues of Material Fact, 99 F.R.D. 465, 487-88 (1984)). The United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit repeatedly has emphasized that the party with the burden of proof “must show the record contains evidence satisfying the burden of persuasion and that the evidence is so powerful that no reasonable jury would be free to disbelieve it.” Arnett, 281 F.3d at 561 (quoting 11 James William Moore, et al., Moore's Federal Practice § 56.13[1], at 56-138 (3d ed. 2000); Cockrel, 270 F.2d at 1056 (same). Accordingly, summary judgment in favor of the party with the burden of persuasion “is inappropriate when the evidence is susceptible of different interpretations or inferences by the trier of fact.” Hunt v. Cromartie, 526 U.S. 541, 553 (1999).

         Pursuant to the applicable portion of the Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA), 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(a), a prisoner bringing an action with respect to prison conditions under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 must exhaust his available administrative remedies. See Porter v. Nussle, 534 U.S. 516, 532 (2002); Booth v. Churner, 532 U.S. 731, 733 (2001). A prisoner must first exhaust available administrative remedies, even if the prisoner may not be able to obtain the specific type of relief he seeks in the state administrative process. See Porter, 534 U.S. at 520; Booth, 532 U.S. at 741; Knuckles El v. Toombs, 215 F.3d 640, 642 (6th Cir. 2000); Freeman v. Francis, 196 F.3d 641, 643 (6th Cir. 1999). In order to properly exhaust administrative remedies, prisoners must complete the administrative review process in accordance with the deadlines and other applicable procedural rules. Jones v. Bock, 549 U.S. 199, 218-19 (2007); Woodford v. Ngo, 548 U.S. 81, 90-91 (2006). “Compliance with prison grievance procedures, therefore, is all that is required by the PLRA to ‘properly exhaust.'” Jones, 549 U.S. at 218-19. In rare circumstances, the grievance process will be considered unavailable where officers are unable or consistently unwilling to provide relief, where the exhaustion procedures may provide relief, but no ordinary prisoner can navigate it, or “where prison administrators thwart inmates from taking advantage of a grievance process through machination, misrepresentation, or intimidation.” Ross v. Blake, 136 S.Ct. 1850, 1859-1860 (2016).

         MDOC Policy Directive 03.02.130 (effective July 9, 2007), sets forth the applicable grievance procedures for prisoners in MDOC custody at the time relevant to this complaint. Inmates must first attempt to resolve a problem orally within two business days of becoming aware of the grievable issue, unless prevented by circumstances beyond his or her control. Id. at ¶ P. If oral resolution is unsuccessful, the inmate may proceed to Step I of the grievance process and submit a completed grievance form within five business days of the attempted oral resolution. Id. at ¶¶ P, V. The inmate submits the grievance to a designated grievance coordinator, who assigns it to a respondent. Id. at ¶ V. The Policy Directive also provides the following directions for completing grievance forms: “The issues should be stated briefly but concisely. Information provided is to be limited to the facts involving the issue being grieved (i.e., who, what, when, where, why, how). Dates, times, places and names of all those involved in the issue being grieved are to be included.” Id. at ¶ R (emphasis in original). The Sixth Circuit has explained:

[A] prisoner ordinarily does not comply with MDOCPD 130-and therefore does not exhaust his administrative remedies under the PLRA-when he does not specify the names of each person from whom he seeks relief. See Reed-Bey v. Pramstaller, 603 F.3d 322, 324-25 (6th Cir. 2010) (“Requiring inmates to exhaust prison remedies in the manner the State provides-by, say, identifying all relevant defendants-not only furthers [the PLRA's] objectives, but it also prevents inmates from undermining these goals by intentionally defaulting their claims at each step of the grievance process, prompting unnecessary and wasteful federal litigation process.”). An exception to this rule is that prison officials waive any procedural irregularities in a grievance when they nonetheless address the grievance on the merits. See id. at 325. We have also explained that the purpose of the PLRA's exhaustion requirement “is to allow prison officials ‘a fair opportunity' to address grievances on the merits to correct prison errors that can and should be corrected to create an administrative record for those disputes that eventually end up in court.” Id. at 324.

Mattox v. Edelman, 2017 WL 992510, slip op. at 8-9 (6th Cir. 2017).[1]

         If the inmate is dissatisfied with the Step I response, or does not receive a timely response, he may appeal to Step II by obtaining an appeal form within ten business days of the response, or if no response was received, within ten days after the response was due. Id. at ¶¶ T, BB. The respondent at Step II is designated by the policy, e.g., the regional health administrator for a medical care grievances. Id. at ¶ DD. If the inmate is still dissatisfied with the Step II response, or does not receive a timely Step II response, he may appeal to Step III using the same appeal form. Id. at ¶¶ T, FF. The Step III form shall be sent within ten business days after receiving the Step II response, or if no Step II response was received, within ten business days after the date the Step II response was due. Id. at ¶¶ T, FF. The Grievance and Appeals Section is the respondent for Step III grievances on behalf of the MDOC director. Id. at ¶ GG. “The total grievance process from the point of filing a Step I grievance to providing a Step III response shall generally be completed within 120 calendar days unless an extension has been approved . . . .” Id. at ¶ S.

         In addition, the grievance policy provides that, where the grievance alleges conduct that falls under the jurisdiction of the Internal Affairs Division pursuant to PD 01.01.140, the prisoner may file his Step I grievance directly with the inspector of the institution in which the prisoner is housed, instead of with the grievance coordinator, as set forth in ¶ V of PD 03.02.130. Id. at ¶Q. In such instances, the grievance must be filed within the time limits prescribed for filing grievances at Step I. Id. Regardless of whether the grievance is filed with grievance coordinator or the inspector, the grievance will be referred to the Internal Affairs Division for review and will be investigated in accordance with PD 01.01.140. The prisoner will be promptly notified that an extension of time is needed to investigate the grievance. Id.

         Plaintiff filed grievance URF 16-01-0316-27a (ECF No. 14-1, PageID.60-66) asserting that Defendant Ernst and the “3rd shift sergeant with 5 other officers” conspired to retaliate against him by taking his television set. That grievance was rejected at each step of the grievance process as a non-grievable issue because the issue involved a misconduct hearing decision. At the misconduct hearing, Plaintiff pleaded “guilty” because he “was going through some things.” (ECF No. 14-2, PageID.68). Plaintiff never raised the retaliation issue during his misconduct hearing. Siggers v. Campbell, 652 F.3d 681, 693-94 (6th Cir. 2011). Accordingly, in the opinion of the undersigned, Plaintiff failed to properly exhaust his claims against the remaining Defendants.

         For the foregoing reasons, I recommend that the motion for summary judgment filed by Defendants Ernst, Martin, Derry, and Wonacott (ECF No. 13) be granted dismissing the remaining issues in the case without prejudice.

         Should the court adopt the report and recommendation in this case, the court must next decide whether an appeal of this action would be in good faith within the meaning of 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a)(3). See McGore v. Wrigglesworth, 114 F.3d 601, 611 (6th Cir. 1997). For the same reasons that the undersigned recommends granting Defendants' motion for summary judgment, the undersigned discerns no good-faith basis for an appeal. Should the court adopt the report and recommendation and should Plaintiff appeal this decision, the court will assess the $505 appellate filing fee pursuant to § 1915(b)(1), see McGore, 114 F.3d at 610-11, unless Plaintiff is barred from ...


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