United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania
September 23, 2005.
ERNIE STANDIFER, Plaintiff
PATRICIA DAVIS, et al., Defendants.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: SYLVIA RAMBO, Senior District Judge
Plaintiff, Ernie Standifer, while confined at the Low Security
Correctional Institution in Allenwood ("LSCI-Allenwood"),
Pennsylvania, commenced this action pro se with a
Bivens*fn1 civil rights complaint (Doc. 1). Named as
Defendants are: (1) Patricia Davis, an employee at a private
corrections facility in McRae, Georgia; (2) M.J. Ellis,
LSCI-Allenwood Inmate Systems Manager; and (3) LSCI-Allenwood
Warden Craig Apker.
Plaintiff claims that he is a United States citizen, and
Defendants improperly classified him as an alien, thereby
excluding him from programs and benefits during his incarceration at Defendants' facilities. As
relief, Plaintiff seeks compensatory damages in the amount of
$150,000.00 from each Defendant.
Presently before the Court are Defendants' motions for summary
judgment (Docs. 15 and 25), which assert that Plaintiff has
failed to exhaust administrative remedies available to him. In
response, Plaintiff claims that he did exhaust administrative
remedies. The motions have been briefed, and they are ripe for
decision. For the following reasons Defendants' motions will be
II. Summary Judgment Standard
Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(c), summary judgment
may be entered only "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." The party moving for summary judgment has
the burden of proving that there is no genuine issue of material
fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322-23 (1986).
Additionally, on summary judgment, the inferences to be drawn
from the underlying facts must be viewed in the light most
favorable to the non-moving party. Pulice v. Enciso,
39 Fed.Appx. 692, 695 (3d Cir. 2002). "Only disputes over facts that
might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law will
properly preclude the entry of summary judgment." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc.,
477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). To preclude summary judgment, there must be a
"genuine" issue of a material fact, "that is, if the evidence is
such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the
nonmoving party." Id. "If the evidence is merely colorable, or
is not significantly probative, summary judgment may be granted."
Id. at 249-250 (citations omitted).
Moreover, Rule 56 provides that the adverse party may not
simply sit back and rest on the allegations contained in the
pleadings. Rather, the adverse party must show by affidavits,
pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and
admissions on file that there is a genuine issue for trial.
Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e). When addressing a summary judgment motion, our
inquiry focuses on "whether the evidence presents a sufficient
disagreement to require submission to the jury or whether it is
so one-sided that one party must prevail as a matter of law."
Anderson, 477 U.S. at 251-52 (emphasis added).
Defendant's summary judgment motions are based, in part, upon a
contention that Plaintiff has failed to exhaust his
administrative remedies related to his claim. The Prison
Litigation Reform Act ("PLRA") requires prisoners to exhaust administrative remedies prior to filing claims in federal court.
Under the provisions of § 1997e(a) of the PLRA:
No action shall be brought with respect to prison
conditions under Section 1979 of the Revised Statutes
of the United States (42 U.S.C. 1983), 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) This provision makes no distinction between
an action for damages, injunctive relief, or both. Nyhuis v.
Reno, 204 F.3d 65
, 67 (3d Cir. 2000). The exhaustion requirement
is mandatory, whether or not the administrative remedies afford
the inmate-plaintiff the relief sought in the federal court
action. Id. Thus, prisoners are required to exhaust available
administrative remedies prior to seeking relief pursuant to
42 U.S.C. § 1983 or any other federal law. Fortes v. Harding,
19 F. Supp. 2d 323, 325 (M.D. Pa. 1998). The exhaustion requirement
of § 1997e(a) applies to all actions brought with respect to
prison conditions, whether under § 1983 or any other federal law.
Porter v. Nussle, 534 U.S. 516
, 532 (2002) (concluding that the
PLRA's exhaustion requirement applies to all inmate suits about
prison life, whether they involve general circumstances or
particular episodes, and whether they allege excessive force or
some other wrong).
Nevertheless, "[f]ailure to exhaust administrative remedies is
an affirmative defense that must be pled and proven by the
defendant." Brown v. Croak, 312 F.3d 109, 111 (3d Cir. 2002) (citing Ray v. Kertes, 285 F.2d 287,
295 (3d Cir. 2002)). A prisoner has no duty to plead exhaustion
in the complaint, and it is the Defendants' issue to support with
credible evidence. Ray, 285 F.3d at 297.
The Federal Bureau of Prisons has established a multi-tier
system whereby a federal prisoner may seek formal review of any
aspect of his imprisonment. See 28 C.F.R. §§ 542.10-542.16
(1994). First, "[i]nmates shall informally present their
complaints to staff, and staff shall attempt to informally
resolve any issue before an inmate files a request for
Administrative Remedy." Id., at § 542.13(a). Second, "[i]f an
inmate is unable to informally resolve his complaint, he may file
a formal written complaint, on the appropriate form, within
fifteen (15) calendar days of the date on which the basis of the
complaint occurred." Id., at § 542.13(b). The warden has
fifteen (15) days in which to respond. See id., at § 542.14.
If an inmate is not satisfied with the warden's response, the
response may be appealed (on the appropriate form) to the
Regional Director within twenty (20) calendar days from the date
of the warden's response. Finally, if the inmate is dissatisfied
with the Regional Director's response, that decision may then be
appealed to the General Counsel (central office) within thirty
(30) calendar days from the date of the Regional Director's
response. Id., at § 542.15. The Regional Director and the
General Counsel each have thirty (30) days to respond. See id.,
at § 542.14. Defendants have attached exhibits to their brief in support of
summary judgment (Doc. 17), which incorporate the declaration of
Department of Justice Attorney-Advisor John F. Wallace (Doc. 17,
Ex. 1). In his declaration, submitted under penalty of perjury,
Wallace verifies that Plaintiff has not exhausted his
administrative remedies on the issues raised in the instant
Complaint. (Id. at ¶ 7.) Although Plaintiff has filed three
administrative grievances in the administrative process, two
related to safety issues and one related to a denial of medical
care. (Id. at ¶ 8.) Defendants have also submitted the sworn
declaration of Darla O'Barr, Grievance Coordinator at a private
correctional facility in McRae, Georgia, where Plaintiff was
initially housed. (Doc. 31, Ex. A). This declaration is also
submitted under penalty of perjury. O'Barr similarly verifies
that Plaintiff had not exhausted administrative remedies on the
claims set forth in the Complaint when it was filed. (Id. at
Although Plaintiff contends that he has exhausted
administrative remedies on his claims, he has submitted no
evidence to support the contention. To the contrary, his
assertions bolster the Wallace declaration. Supporting Wallace's
claim (Doc. 17, Ex. 1) that Plaintiff filed one appeal to the
Regional Office that was rejected as incomplete (Id. at ¶ 8C),
Plaintiff states that "the Warden ignore [sic] the Regional
letter on use [sic] incorrect information. . . ." (Doc. 21 at 5.)
In his discussion of administrative remedies (Doc. 21 at 5), Plaintiff states that he
filed a mandamus action that was ultimately dismissed as moot.
Plaintiff seems to believe that a mandamus action previously
filed in this court satisfies the exhaustion requirement ("by
filing is [sic] Complaint of Mandamus . . . show that plaintiff
established exhau[s]tion. . . ." Doc. 21 at 8.) However,
Plaintiff does not set forth any authority in support of his
belief, and he is mistaken.
The complete administrative procedure of 28 C.F.R. §§ 542.10 et
seq. was made available to the Plaintiff, and he did not fully
avail himself of that process. The procedure contemplates several
tiers of review, and the grievance system is not exhausted when
an inmate fails to take timely action through established
channels to a conclusion. Plaintiff's failure to comply with
established procedures and his failure to obtain and provide
necessary documentation warrants summary judgment in this case.
Accordingly, summary judgment will be granted to Defendants.
For the reasons stated above, the court will grant Defendants'
motion for summary judgment. An appropriate order will issue. ORDER
In accordance with the foregoing memorandum, IT IS HEREBY
1) Defendants' motions for summary judgment (Docs. 15 and 25)
2) The Clerk of Court is directed to close this case.
3) Any appeal from this order will be deemed frivolous, without
probable cause, and not taken in good faith.
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