United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division
Jordan Sepulveda, et al. Plaintiffs,
County of Wayne, et al., Defendants.
Elizabeth A. Stafford U.S. Magistrate Judge
ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANTS' MOTION TO DISMISS
J. Tarnow Senior United States District Judge
the fourth in a series of cases challenging the
constitutionality of the policy and practice of the Wayne
County Jail system's strip-searching procedures. As in
the companion case, Woodall v. Wayne County, No.
2:17-13707-AJT-EAS, Plaintiffs are women formerly
incarcerated by the Wayne County Sherriff. They allege that
they were subjected to demeaning, unsanitary, abusive, and
invasive group strip searches, and they seek relief under 42
U.S.C. § 1983.
case differs from Woodall in at least one important
respect. Plaintiffs - Jordan Sepulveda, Krista Anson, and
Nicole Thomas - were all incarcerated at the time that they
filed their Complaint. As a result, they may have standing to
seek injunctive relief, unlike the Woodall
Plaintiffs. Also as a result, Plaintiffs are subject
to the Prison Litigation Reform Act of 1995
(“PLRA”), which requires incarcerated persons to
exhaust their administrative remedies before filing suit.
Defendants have moved to dismiss  on the basis of the
PLRA's exhaustion requirement.
none of the three Plaintiffs exhausted their administrative
remedies prior to filing suit, Defendants' Motion will be
PLRA provides, “[n]o action shall be brought with
respect to prison conditions under § 1983…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) (2000).
“[T]o properly exhaust administrative remedies
prisoners must ‘complete the administrative review
process in accordance with the applicable procedural
rules,' rules that are defined not by the PLRA, but by
the prison grievance process itself.” Jones v.
Bock, 549 U.S. 199, 218 (2007) (quoting Woodford v.
Ngo, 548 U.S. 81, 88 (2006)).
“dominant concern” of the PLRA is “to
promote administrative redress, filter out groundless claims,
and foster better prepared litigation of claims aired in
court.” Napier v. Laurel Cty., Ky., 636 F.3d
218, 222 (6th Cir. 2011) (citing Porter v. Nussle,
534 U.S. 516, 528 (2002)). Prisoners must exhaust a grievance
procedure so long as it is “available.” Whether
or not such procedure is “available” is not
affected by the subjective beliefs of the inmate.
Id. (citing Brock v. Kenton County, 93
Fed.Appx. 793, 798 (6th Cir. 2004) (prisoner must take
affirmative steps to file grievance and be thwarted; simple
belief that a grievance would be futile is not sufficient to
waive exhaustion requirement)).
three plaintiffs filed grievances according to the procedures
of the Wayne County Jails. None of the Plaintiffs waited for
the final disposition of those grievances before filing suit.
present three counterarguments to Defendants' motion.
First, they argue that the Wayne County Jail grievance
procedure did not govern the complaints in this case. Second,
they argue that the procedure was permissive, not mandatory.
Third, they argue that Plaintiffs had no duty to appeal the
denial of their grievances. For the purposes of this motion,
the Court will assume that the Wayne County Jail Operations
Manual controlled the grievance process.
Applicability of the Grievance Procedure to Strip Searches
and Uniform Exchanges.
Wayne County Jail Operations Manual (“the Jail
Operations Manual”) lists the following as
non-grievable issues: “Content of Administrative Rules,
Policy Directives, Operating Procedures” and
“Issues, which may affect the entire population or a
significant number of the inmates.” (Dkt. 24-5; PageID
637). Plaintiffs argue that because issues arising from strip
searches and uniform exchanges affect all the inmates and are
related to the Jail's policy and custom, such issues are
non-grievable. If Plaintiffs are right, no remedy would have
been available to them, and they would not have needed to
file grievances prior to filing suit.
start, the fact that Plaintiffs did grieve their complaints,
and that jail officials did respond to these grievances on
the merits, undercuts Plaintiffs' arguments that the
issues raised are non-grievable. Moreover, this issue had
already been settled by Weathington v. Cnty. Of
Wayne, No. 12-13573, 2015 WL 3771460 (E.D. Mich. May 22,