United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania
September 15, 2005.
CHARLIE EAKLE, Plaintiff,
FRANKLIN TENNIS, Superintendent, et al., Defendants.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: JOHN E. JONES, District Judge
Charles Eakle ("Plaintiff" or "Eakle"), an inmate presently
confined in the Smithfield State Correctional Institution, in
Huntingdon, Pennsylvania, filed this civil rights action filed
pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. His complaint centers around
several alleged constitutional violations which occurred while he
was confined in the Rockview State Correctional Institution.
Specifically, Plaintiff alleges that he found a piece of metal in
his food on April 13, 2004, and that he was threatened by a
corrections officer when he attempted to report the incident. He
also alleges that several corrections officers used "shockguns"
and lasers to torture him on several occasions. Named as
Defendants are the following employees and entities of
SCI-Rockview: Program Review Committee ("PRC"); Superintendent Franklin Tennis; Deputy Superintendent
Gregory Gaertner, Ph.D.; Deputy Superintendent Joel Dickson;
Former Deputy Superintendent Anthony Biviano; Program Manager Ray
Coffman; Corrections Counselor Michael Knapp; Lieutenant Dale
Walker; and Corrections Officers Timothy Watson, and Timothy
Gensamer. Presently pending before the Court is the Defendants'
Motion for Summary Judgment ("the Motion"). (Rec. Doc.
17).*fn1 The Motion is fully briefed and is ripe for
disposition. Defendants assert entitlement to the entry of
summary judgment in their favor because Eakle failed to exhaust
available administrative remedies. For the reasons set forth
below, the motion will be granted.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(c) requires the court to
render summary judgment ". . . forthwith if the pleadings,
depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file,
together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no
genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party
is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c).
"[T]his standard provides that the mere existence of some alleged factual dispute between the parties will not defeat an
otherwise properly supported motion for summary judgment; the
requirement is that there be no genuine issue of material
fact." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 247-48
(1986) (emphasis in original).
A disputed fact is "material" if proof of its existence or
nonexistence would affect the outcome of the case under
applicable substantive law. See Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248;
Gray v. York Newspapers, Inc., 957 F.2d 1070, 1078 (3d Cir.
1992). An issue of material fact is "genuine" if the evidence is
such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the
nonmoving party. See Anderson, 477 U.S. at 257; Brenner v.
Local 514, United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of
America, 927 F.2d 1283, 1287-88 (3d Cir. 1991).
When determining whether there is a genuine issue of material
fact, the court must view the facts and all reasonable inferences
in favor of the nonmoving party. See Moore v. Tartler,
986 F.2d 682 (3d Cir. 1993); Clement v. Consolidated Rail
Corporation, 963 F.2d 599, 600 (3d Cir. 1992); White v.
Westinghouse Electric Company, 862 F.2d 56, 59 (3d Cir. 1988).
In order to avoid summary judgment, however, the nonmoving party
may not rest on the unsubstantiated allegations of his or her
pleadings. When the party seeking summary judgment satisfies its burden under Rule 56(c) of
identifying evidence which demonstrates the absence of a genuine
issue of material fact, the nonmoving party is required by Rule
56(e)*fn2 to go beyond the pleadings with affidavits,
depositions, answers to interrogatories or the like in order to
demonstrate specific material facts which give rise to a genuine
issue. See Celotex Corporation v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 324
(1986). The party opposing the motion "must do more than simply
show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts." Matsushita
Electric Industrial Co. v. Zenith Radio, 475 U.S. 574, 586
(1986). When Rule 56(e) shifts the burden of production to the
nonmoving party, that party must produce evidence to show the
existence of every element essential to its case which it bears
the burden of proving at trial, for "a complete failure of proof
concerning an essential element of the nonmoving party's case
necessarily renders all other facts immaterial." Celotex,
477 U.S. at 323. See Harter v. G.A.F. Corp., 967 F.2d 846, 851
(3d Cir. 1992).
STATEMENT OF FACTS
On April 13, 2004, while housed in the Restricted Housing Unit
("RHU") at SCI-Rockview, Plaintiff claims that Officer Hagg
placed a piece of metal in the food on Plaintiff's lunch
tray. (Rec. Doc. 1 at 2). Further, Plaintiff alleges that while
picking up the lunch trays, Officer Hagg threatened Plaintiff,
stating that if he "did not stop acting like a female, he would
kill [Plaintiff]." (Rec. Doc. 1 at 2).
On April 24, 2004, Plaintiff spoke with Lt. Vance about the
incident. Plaintiff claims that Lt. Vance confiscated the piece
of metal and gave Plaintiff a confiscation receipt, claiming that
the piece of metal would be put in the evidence safe in the
security office. (Rec. Doc. 1 at 2). On May 10, 2004, Plaintiff wrote a letter the Superintendent,
concerning the April 13, 2004, incident. He claims to have
received no response. (Rec. Doc. 1 at Ex. 1).
On June 4, 2004, Plaintiff sent a letter to the members of the
SCI-Rockview PRC, informing them of "all the times Officer Hagg
and other officers had taken shockguns, mirrors, and lazorlights"
to try and "force [him] to change [his] feminine ways."(Rec. Doc.
1 at Ex. 1). On June 10, 2004, Plaintiff spoke with two members
of the PRC, who informed him that they would investigate. (Rec.
Doc. 1 at Ex. 1) Plaintiff, was subsequently released from the
RHU, and transferred to SCI-Smithfield on June 17, 2004. (Rec.
Doc. 1 at Ex. 1).
On June 17, 2004, upon his arrival at SCI-Smithfield, Plaintiff
filed Grievance No. 88108, regarding the food contamination
incident, the use of stun guns and incidents relating to mail
tampering, which occurred while he was housed in the SCI-Rockview
RHU. (Rec. Doc. 20 at Ex. 1-A). Attached to his grievance were
copies of letters that were allegedly sent to the SCI-Rockview
Superintendent and the PRC. (Rec. Doc. 20 at Ex. 1-A).
On June 29, 2004, the SCI-Smithfield Grievance Coordinator
returned Plaintiff's grievance to him. (Rec. Doc. 20 at Ex. 1-B).
Although it was clear from the grievance that the alleged food contamination incident occurred sometime before
May 10, 2004, it was impossible to tell when the remaining
incidents occurred. (Rec. Doc. 20 at Ex. 1, Aff. of Jeffrey
Rackovan, SCI-Rockview Grievance Coordinator, at ¶ 6). Thus, the
Grievance Coordinator returned Eakle's grievance to him due to:
(1) his failure to submit the grievance within fifteen (15)
calendar days of the food contamination incident; and (2) his
failure to state the dates on which the mail tampering and
excessive force events occurred. (Aff. of Jeffrey Rackovan, at ¶
6). Eakle did not resubmit the grievance with supporting dates or
appeal the decision of the Grievance Coordinator to the
Superintendent, or the Secretary's Office of Inmate Grievances
and Appeals. (Aff. of Jeffrey Rackovan, at ¶ 6).
On July 14, 2004, Plaintiff filed the instant action in which
he seeks compensatory and punitive damages and to "prevent
[defendants] from any other forms of harassment. (Rec. Doc. 1 at
Defendants contend that Eakle's failure to exhaust available
administrative remedies entitles them to an entry of summary
judgment in their favor. In pertinent part, the Prison Litigation
Reform Act provides: 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
42 U.S.C. § 1997e(a).
Exhaustion requires completion of the entire administrative
process. See Ahmed v. Sromovski, 103 F. Supp. 2d 838, 843-44
(E.D. Pa. 2000). If a prisoner fails to follow the required
administrative procedures, including meeting deadlines, the
inmate's action cannot be maintained. See Buckner v.
Bussanich, No. 1:CV-00-1594, slip op. at 6 (M.D. Pa. April 3,
2001) (Caldwell, J.) ("an administrative remedy is not made
unavailable simply because a prisoner failed to timely exercise
his rights under the procedure. Otherwise, the prisoner could
avoid the exhaustion requirement simply by refusing to pursue
The Pennsylvania DOC has established procedures for the filing
of complaints. First, the Pennsylvania DOC Consolidated Inmate
Review System provides for three levels of administrative review
of inmate grievances: the initial grievance submitted to the
Facility Grievance Coordinator, an intermediate level of appeal
to the Facility Manager, and a final level of appeal to the
Secretary's Office of Inmate Grievances and Appeals. (See Doc.
20 at Ex. 2-A, Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Department of
Corrections, Consolidated Inmate Grievance Review System, Policy No. DC-ADM
804 § VI). See also Booth v. Churner, 206 F.3d 289, 293 n.
2 (3d Cir. 2000) (outlining the grievance review process).
The grievance procedure requires a prisoner to submit a
grievance for initial review within fifteen working days after
the event upon which the grievance is based. (See Rec. Doc. 20
at Ex. 2-A, DC-ADM 804 § VI, Part A(1)(h)). The inmate should
state the facts upon which he is entitled to relief. (See Rec.
Doc. 20 at Ex. 2-A, DC-ADM 804 § VI, Part A(1)(g))("The inmate
shall include a statement of facts relevant to the claim . . .
The inmate should identify any persons who may have information
that could be helpful in resolving the grievance. The inmate
should also include information on attempts to resolve the matter
informally."). Indeed, in Spruill v. Gillis, 372 F.3d 218,
227-28 (3d Cir. 2004), the Third Circuit recognized the
significance in identifying the relevant facts and persons in
order to bring a subsequent federal lawsuit:
On this matter, the text is mandatory, or nearly so . . .
To the extent that Brown's identity is a "fact 
relevant to the claim." and it is it was
mandatory for Spruill to include it. To the extent
that Brown was a "person  who may have information"
or someone with whom Spruill made "attempts to
resolve the matter informally" and he was Spruill
was required to identify Brown if practicable.
Spruill, 372 F.3d at 234. Moreover, the exhaustion requirement
of § 1997e(a) is not satisfied simply "whenever there is no further process available
to the inmate within the grievance system (which would happen if,
say, an inmate fails to file an administrative appeal). . . ."
Spruill, 372 F.3d at 227-28. Rather, § 1997e(a) requires that
an inmate "avail himself of every process at every turn (which
would require all appeals to be timely pursued, etc.)." Id.
In applying the above analysis to the factual background
surrounding this action, it is readily apparent that Plaintiff
has procedurally defaulted on his claims and summary judgment
will be granted in favor of the Defendants. Plaintiff's grievance
was returned to him because Plaintiff's claim regarding the metal
in his food was patently untimely and it was unclear when the
alleged incidents of abuse occurred. (Rec. Doc. 20 at Ex. 1-B).
The record discloses that Eakle failed to either resubmit a
grievance with the necessary information, or timely file an
appeal from the Grievance Coordinator's decision. Thus, Eakle has
sustained a procedural default under the applicable DOC
Spruill cited with approval the Seventh Circuit decision in
Pozo v. McCaughtry, 286 F.3d 1022, 1025 (7th Cir. 2002). See
Spruill, 372 F.3d at 231. In Pozo, the Seventh Circuit ruled
that "to exhaust remedies, a prisoner must file complaints and
appeals in the place, and at the time, the prison's
administrative rules require." Pozo, 286 F.3d at 1025 (emphasis added). Eakle offers no justification for his failure
to resubmit his grievance, or file an appeal therefrom, within
the deadline set by regulation. Thus, Eakle is now foreclosed
from litigating this claim in this Court.
In Spruill, the Third Circuit found that a procedural default
component to the exhaustion requirement served the following
congressional objectives: "(1) to return control of the inmate
grievance process to prison administrators; (2) to encourage
development of administrative record, and perhaps settlements,
within the inmate grievance process; and (3) to reduce the burden
on the federal courts by erecting barriers to frivolous prisoner
lawsuits." 372 F.3d at 230. In Pusey v. Belanger, No. Civ.
02-351, 2004 WL 2075472 at *2-3 (D. Del. Sept. 14, 2004), the
court applied Spruill to dismiss an inmate's action for failure
to timely pursue an administrative remedy over the inmate's
objection that he did not believe the administrative remedy
program operating in Delaware covered his grievance. In Berry v.
Kerik, 366 F.3d 85, 86-88 (2d Cir. 2004), the court affirmed the
dismissal of an inmate's action with prejudice where the inmate
had failed to offer appropriate justification for the failure to
timely pursue administrative grievances. In Ross v. County of
Bernalillo, 365 F.3d 1181, 1186 (10th Cir. 2004), the court
embraced the holding in Pozo, stating that "[a] prison
procedure that is procedurally barred and thus is unavailable to a prisoner is not thereby
considered exhausted." These precedents support dismissal of this
action for Eakle's failure to pursue his administrative remedies
with respect to his claims. Accordingly, Defendants' motion for
summary judgment will be granted.
NOW, THEREFORE, IT IS ORDERED THAT:
1. Defendants' Motion (doc. 17) is GRANTED.
Judgment is hereby entered in favor of Defendants and
against the Plaintiff.
2. Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment (doc. 26)
3. Plaintiff's Motion to Amend*fn3 (doc. 27) is
4. The Clerk of Court is directed to CLOSE this
5. Any appeal taken from this order will be deemed
frivolous, without probable cause, and not taken in
© 1992-2005 VersusLaw Inc.