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Burley v. Williams-Ward

United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division

May 31, 2019

EDWARD DONALD BURLEY, Plaintiff
v.
MICHELLE WILLIAMS-WARD, RANDALL HAAS, GEORGE STEPHENSON, REGINA JENKINS-GRANT, and S. WILLIAMS CARYLON WILLIAMS, Defendants.

          Avern Cohn, District Judge

          REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION TO DENY DEFENDANTS' MOTION FOR PARTIAL SUMMARY JUDGMENT (DE 23) and TO DENY PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR BENCH TRIAL ON EXHAUSTION DISPUTE (DE 26)

          ANTHONY P. PATTI, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         I. RECOMMENDATION

         For the reasons stated below, the Court should DENY Defendants' January 23, 2019 motion for partial summary judgment (DE 23) and DENY Plaintiff's February 12, 2019 motion for bench trial on exhaustion dispute (DE 26).

         II. REPORT:

         A. Prior Lawsuits

         Edward Donald Burley is currently incarcerated at the MDOC's Oaks Correctional Facility (ECF), where he is serving a sentence imposed on February 22, 2006 in No. 04013795-FC-A (Genesee County).[1] This case was appealed in state court on several occasions. See People v. Burley, No. 133517, 478 Mich. 930, 732 N.W.2d 916 (June 26, 2007); People v. Burley, No. 141516, 488 Mich. 1045, 794 N.W.2d 589 (Mar. 8, 2011); and, People v. Burley, No. 154241, 500 Mich. 959, 891 N.W.2d 870, 871 (Apr. 4, 2017).

         Along the way, Burley is or has been a party to quite a few lawsuits in this Court. See Burley v. Prelesnik (2:11-cv-11258-AC-MJH) (habeas corpus);[2]Burley v. Miller, et al. (2:15-cv-12637-DML-MKM) (prisoner civil rights); Burley v. Quiroga, et al. (2:16-cv-10712-GCS-PTM) (prisoner civil rights); Burley v. Abdellatif, et al. (2:16-cv-12256-AJT-DRG) (prisoner civil rights); Burley v. Rider et al. (2:17-cv-10110-PDB-APP) (prisoner civil rights); Burley v. Knickerbocker, et al. (2:18-cv-12625-GAD-MKM) (prisoner civil rights); and, Burley v. Corizon Health, Inc., et al. (2:19-cv-10370-DML-RSW) (prisoner civil rights).[3]

         Additionally, Burley is or has been a party to several Western District of Michigan cases, including: (a) Burley v. Martin, et al., 1:2012-cv-00308 (prison condition), which involved an appeal to the Sixth Circuit (13-01599); (b) Burley v. Leslie, et al., 1:13-cv-00599-RJJ-RSK (W.D. Mich.) (prison condition); (c) Burley v. Daniels, et al., 1:15-cv-00570-RHB-PJG (W.D. Mich.) (prison condition); and, (d) Burley v. Cooley, et al., 1:15-cv-00320-RJJ-RSK (W.D. Mich.) (prison condition).

         B. Instant Lawsuit

         On July 17, 2018, while incarcerated at Parnall Correctional Facility (SMT), Burley filed the instant lawsuit against several Macomb Correctional Facility (MRF) Defendants: (a) Michelle Williams-Ward, an Assistant Resident Unit Supervisor (ARUS); (b) Warden Randall Haas; (c) Deputy Warden George Stephenson; (d) Regina Jenkins-Grant, a Resident Unit Manager (RUM); and, (e) seemingly, “S. Williams, ” who later appeared as “Carylon Williams.” (DE 1 at 1-3, 7, 17; see also DE 16.)[4]

         By way of background, Plaintiff declares that, on March 19, 2015, while he was incarcerated at Lakeland Correctional Facility (LCF), he was approved for prisoner-to-prisoner mail with Christopher Snow, who Plaintiff describes as “a civil witness in People v. Leslie, 13-599[.]” (DE 1 at 7 ¶ D, DE 27 at 26 ¶ 15.) This appears to be a reference to Burley v. Leslie, et al., 1:13-cv-00599-RJJ-RSK (W.D. Mich.).

         Plaintiff claims to have arrived at MRF on March 26, 2015. (DE 1 at 17, DE 27 at 24 ¶ 1.) While the text of Plaintiff's complaint is somewhat difficult to navigate, it does describe the “approximate time period” of the events giving rise to Plaintiff's claims as “from June [2015] through March 2016.” (DE 1 at 6 ¶ C.) Still, other pages of the complaint, coupled with its attachments, suggest that a wider period of time is at issue, which will be discussed in further detail below. At this point, it suffices to say that Plaintiff's complaint alleges claims based on, inter alia, retaliation and access to courts. (DE 1 at 4, 6-7, 17.)

         C. Pending Dispositive Motion

         Currently pending before the Court is the MDOC Defendants' January 23, 2019 motion for partial summary judgment. (DE 23.) Specifically, Defendants argue that:

1. Summary judgment is warranted with respect to most of Burley's claims due to his failure to properly exhaust his administrative remedies with respect to them.
2. Summary judgment is warranted with respect to Burley's claim that Defendant Williams denied him access to the courts[, ] because the allegations in the complaint do not present a cognizable claim.

(DE 23 at 13-24).

         Relatedly, Plaintiff has filed both a motion for a bench trial on exhaustion dispute (DE 26) and a response (DE 27). Defendants have filed a combined reply / response (DE 29), and Plaintiff has filed a sur-reply (DE 31), which was later approved by the Court (DE 32).

         D. Discussion

         1. Defendants have not shown that Plaintiff failed to exhaust his available administrative remedies in accordance with 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(a) as to his claims against Defendants.

         a. Relevant subject matter and time period

         Plaintiffs complaint is purportedly based on several federal constitutional or statutory rights, among which is access to the courts, i.e., his right “to petition the Government for a redress of grievances[, ]” under the First Amendment, and retaliation. (DE 1 at 4.) As noted above, the text of Plaintiff's complaint is somewhat difficult to navigate, although it is replete with references to retaliation and access to the Court. (See DE 1 at 6-7, 17-22.)

         Notwithstanding this navigational difficulty, it makes sense that the events underlying Plaintiffs claims against Defendants, each of whom is identified as located at MRF, span a period of time following his alleged March 26, 2015 arrival at MRF. (DE 1 at 2-3, 17.) When taking into consideration the pleading's attachments, including the grievances identified below, the relevant time period appears to include:

. Plaintiffs April 10, 2015 attempt to send out legal mail, seemingly the subject of MRF-15-04-0704-15b (DE 1 at 35-36, DE 23-2 at 93-97);
. Plaintiffs May 18, 2015 letter to Stephenson, which bears the same date as the incident underlying MRF-15-05-0955-17z (DE 1 at 23-24, 37; DE 23-2 at 102-106);
. Plaintiffs June 12, 2015 attempt to send out “3 parcels” of legal mail (to Heyns, Levin, and Snyder) regarding No. 04013795-FC-A (Genesee County) (DE 1 at 25-27);
. Plaintiffs June 14, 2015 letter to Stephenson and Haas regarding “continued denial of access to courts & violations of policy by ARUS M. Williams, ” (DE 1 at 33);
. Stephenson's June 18, 2015 reply to prisoner correspondence (DE 1 at 34);
. Plaintiff's September 25, 2015 attempt to send Step III grievance appeals, specifically Step III grievances in MRF-15-06-01174-12d4 and MRF-15-07-012040-12I, each of which was received at Step III on ...

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