The opinion of the court was delivered by: Hon. John E. Jones III
THE BACKGROUND OF THIS MEMORANDUM IS AS FOLLOWS:
This pro se civil rights action was initiated by Plaintiff Kai Dwayne Ingram ("Plaintiff" or "Ingram"), an inmate presently confined at the State Correctional Institution Forest ("SCI Forest") in Marienville, Pennsylvania.
Presently before the Court are a Motion for Summary Judgment filed on behalf of remaining Defendants (Doc. 62) and a Motion for Leave to File an Amended Complaint (Doc. 72) filed by Plaintiff. For the reasons set forth herein, the Motion for Summary Judgment will be granted, and the Motion for Leave to File an Amended Complaint will be denied.
Plaintiff initiated this action on January 4, 2008 by filing a Complaint under the provisions of 42 U.S.C. § 1983 in which he raises claims stemming from events that occurred in August 2007 while he was incarcerated at the State Correctional Institution Camp Hill ("SCI Camp Hill") in Camp Hill, Pennsylvania. (See Doc. 1.) On March 4, 2008, he filed an Amended Complaint on which this case is proceeding. (Doc. 9.) The Defendants remaining in this action all were employed at SCI Camp Hill at the time of filing of the Amended Complaint. These Defendants, and their job titles at the relevant time, are Greg Chiles, Lieutenant; Chris Chambers, Unit Manager for the Restricted Housing Unit ("RHU") and Grievance Officer; Ian Taggart, Facility Grievance Coordinator; Reginald Brown, Correctional Officer; and Teresa Law, Medical Administrator.
In a Report and Recommendation dated April 4, 2008, Magistrate Judge J. Andrew Smyser recommended that the claims asserted by Plaintiff in his Amended Complaint against Defendants Moslak, SCI Camp Hill, and the State Correctional Institution Greene ("SCI Greene") be dismissed, and that Plaintiff's Eighth Amendment claim concerning a denial of hygiene products also be dismissed. (Doc. 10.) By Order dated May 29, 2008, the Honorable Thomas I. Vanaskie, to whom this case then was assigned, adopted the Report and Recommendation of Judge Smyser. (Doc. 16.)
The following claims asserted by in Plaintiff in his Amended Complaint remain: (1) Defendant Brown issued Plaintiff two institutional misconduct charges on August 16, 2007 out of retaliation following Plaintiff's statement that he was going to file a grievance; (2) Defendants Chiles, Chambers, and Taggart denied Plaintiff's right of access to the courts by failing to take action when he informed them that he was unjustly being denied the ability to communicate with the courts; and (3) Defendant Law was deliberately indifferent to Plaintiff's serious medical needs because she "did nothing" after he submitted a grievance to her explaining that he was being forced to take medication that he did not want or need, and he was continuously forced to take the medication after his transfer on September 19, 2007 to the State Correctional Institution Greene ("SCI Greene"). (See Doc. 9.)
Defendants filed an Answer to the Amended Complaint on May 20, 2008. (Doc. 14.) Pursuant to a case management order issued on May 29, 2008, discovery closed on November 28, 2008, and dispositive motions were due on or before January 30, 2009. (Doc. 17.) On January 30, 2009, a motion for summary judgment was filed on behalf of Defendants arguing that they were entitled to judgment as a matter of law because Plaintiff failed to fully exhaust his administrative remedies as to his remaining claims. (Doc. 22.) In a Report and Recommendation dated April 17, 2009, Magistrate Judge Smyser concluded that Defendants had not met their burden of establishing Plaintiff's failure to exhaust administrative remedies and therefore recommended that the motion be denied. (Doc. 30.) Specifically, the Report and Recommendation observed that, as to Plaintiff's claim concerning the allegedly retaliatory misconducts issued by Defendant Brown, Plaintiff had presented evidence that DC-ADM 804, the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections ("DOC") policy providing procedures for the review of inmate grievances, was inapplicable. (See id. at 10.) This evidence consisted of a copy of Plaintiff's grievance regarding the allegedly retaliatory misconduct charges that he had submitted pursuant to the procedures provided by DC-ADM 804, and a copy of the response to the grievance indicating that the grievance was rejected because Plaintiff should pursue the issue under DC-ADM 801, the DOC policy providing procedures for the review of inmate misconduct appeals. (See id. (citing Doc. 28, Pltf. Exs., at 1, 8).) The Report and Recommendation concluded that, because Defendant Brown did not contend or present evidence to establish that Plaintiff had failed to exhaust his administrative remedies under DC-ADM 801, Brown was not entitled to summary judgment as to Plaintiff's retaliation claim against him. (See id.)
The Report and Recommendation also concluded that, although DC-ADM 804 was applicable to Plaintiff's Eighth Amendment claim against Defendant Law concerning her alleged failure to act after she was informed that Plaintiff was being forced to take medication, Law had failed to establish that Plaintiff failed to exhaust available administrative remedies as to that claim. (See id. at 11.) The conclusion was based on Plaintiff's contention that he had not received a response to the grievance he submitted to Defendant Law about this claim, and thus was unable to appeal further in order to exhaust his administrative remedies. (See id.) Because Law had not submitted any evidence that Plaintiff received a response, the Court concluded that she failed to establish that Plaintiff failed to exhaust his administrative remedies as to his claim against her. (See id. at 11-12.)
Similarly, the Report and Recommendation concluded that, although DC-ADM 804 was applicable to Plaintiff's claims against Defendants Chiles, Chambers, and Taggart, Plaintiff again contended that he did not receive a response to his August 27, 2007 grievance concerning his access to the courts claim against them, and because these defendants did not present evidence that Plaintiff received a response, they failed to establish that Plaintiff failed to exhaust his administrative remedies as to his access to the courts claim. (See id. at 12-14.) Based on his conclusions, Magistrate Judge Smyser recommended that Defendants' motion for summary judgment be denied and the case listed for trial. (See id. at 14.) The parties did not file any objections, and by Order dated July 30, 2009, Judge Vanaskie adopted the Report and Recommendation of Magistrate Judge Smyser. (Doc. 33.)
Thereafter, on August 14, 2009, Judge Vanaskie conducted a telephonic scheduling conference during which Plaintiff indicated that he had mailed a motion to appoint counsel to the Court. Several days later, on August 17, 2009, Plaintiff's motion to appoint counsel was docketed. (Doc. 35.) By Order dated August 24, 2009, Judge Vanaskie granted the motion to the extent that a request was submitted to the Pro Bono Chair of the Federal Bar Association to attempt to secure counsel for Plaintiff. (Doc. 36.) After updating the Court in letter dated December 16, 2009 that efforts to secure counsel were ongoing (see Doc. 38), by letter dated February 9, 2010, the Pro Bono Chair informed the Court that the efforts to secure counsel for Plaintiff were unsuccessful. (Doc. 40.) Consequently, by Order of the same date, the Court set a telephonic scheduling conference for March 8, 2010. (Doc. 41.) During that conference, trial was set for June 21, 2010. (Doc. 43.)
On June 4, 2010, following Judge Vanaskie's elevation to the Third Circuit Court of Appeals, this case was verbally reassigned to this Member of the Court. Due to a scheduling conflict, by Order dated June 15, 2010, the trial was re-scheduled to August 3, 2010, and a pre-trial conference was set for July 9, 2010. (Doc. 49.) Thereafter, both parties filed pre-trial memoranda. (Docs. 50, 54.) Following review of those memoranda in preparation for the pre-trial conference scheduled on July 9, 2010, we issued an Order on July 8, 2010 canceling all pre-trial deadlines and directing Defendants within fourteen (14) days to file a renewed motion for summary judgment and supporting brief setting forth the arguments in their pre-trial memorandum. (Doc. 60.) On July 16, 2010, Defendants complied with the Order by filing the Motion for Summary Judgment that presently is before the Court (Doc. 62), along with a supporting brief (Doc. 63), an Appendix (Doc. 64), and a Statement of Facts (Doc. 65.)
On July 29, 2010, a letter from Plaintiff was docketed in which he stated that Defendants had failed to comply with our Order directing them to file a Motion for Summary Judgment. (Doc. 68.) Because it appeared that Plaintiff had not been served with Defendants' Motion as a result of his transfer between institutions, by Order dated August 2, 2010, we directed Defendants to re-serve their Motion and accompanying materials on Plaintiff at SCI Greene, where he then was confined.
(Doc. 69.) Our Order also specifically directed Plaintiff to file his opposition, including an opposing brief as required by Middle District of Pennsylvania Local Rule ("LR") 7.6, and a separate concise statement of material facts responding to the numbered paragraphs of Defendants' statement, as required by LR 56.1, to Defendants' Motion on or before August 25, 2010. (Id.)
On August 23, 2010, Plaintiff filed an opposition brief (Doc. 74) and a document entitled "Plaintiff's Concise Statement of Material Facts" (Doc. 75). On August 30, 2010, Defendants filed a reply brief (Doc. 78) and a supplemental appendix*fn1 (Doc. 77). Accordingly, the Motion is fully briefed and ripe for review.
In addition, on August 3, 2010, Plaintiff filed a Motion for Leave to File an Amended Complaint. (Doc. 72.) We will consider Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment before turning to a discussion of Plaintiff's Motion.
DEFENDANTS' MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT
Summary judgment is appropriate if the record establishes "that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c). Initially, the moving party bears the burden of demonstrating the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). The movant meets this burden by pointing to an absence of evidence supporting an essential element as to which the non-moving party will bear the burden of proof at trial. Id. at 325. Once the moving party meets its burden, the burden then shifts to the non-moving party to show that there is a genuine issue for trial. Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(e)(2). An issue is "genuine" only if there is a sufficient evidentiary basis for a reasonable jury to find for the non-moving party, and a factual dispute is "material" only if it might affect the outcome of the action under the governing law. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248-49 (1986).
In opposing summary judgment, the non-moving party "may not rely merely on allegations or denials in its own pleadings; rather, its response must . . . set out specific facts showing a genuine issue for trial." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(e)(2). The non-moving party "cannot rely on unsupported allegations, but must go beyond pleadings and provide some evidence that would show that there exists a genuine issue for trial." Jones v. United Parcel Serv., 214 F.3d 402, 407 (3d Cir. 2000). Arguments made in briefs "are not evidence and cannot by themselves create a factual dispute sufficient to defeat a summary judgment motion." Jersey Cent. Power & Light Co. v. Twp. of Lacey, 772 F.2d 1103, 1109-10 (3d Cir. 1985). However, the facts and all reasonable inferences drawn therefrom must be viewed in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. P.N. v. Clementon Bd. of Educ., 442 F.3d 848, 852 (3d Cir. 2006).
Summary judgment should not be granted when there is a disagreement about the facts or the proper inferences that a factfinder could draw from them. Peterson v. Lehigh Valley Dist. Council, 676 F.2d 81, 84 (3d Cir. 1982). Still, "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, 477 U.S. at 247-48.
A. Exhaustion Requirement
The Prison Litigation Reform Act ("PLRA") requires inmates to present their claims through an administrative grievance process before filing suit in federal court. Specifically, section 1997e(a) of Title 42 of the United States Code provides that "[n]o 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 exhausted." This "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." Porter v. Nussle, 534 U.S. 516, 532 (2002). "'[I]t is beyond the power of this court- or any other- to excuse compliance with the exhaustion requirement, whether on the ground of futility, inadequacy or any other basis.'" Nyhuis v. Reno, 204 F.3d 65, 73 (3d Cir. 2000) (quoting Beeson v. Fishkill Corr. Facility, 28 F. Supp. 2d 884, 894-95 (S.D.N.Y. 1998) (citing Weinberger v. Salfi, 422 U.S. 749, 766 (1975)). The PLRA "completely precludes a futility exception to its mandatory exhaustion requirement." Nyhuis, 204 F.3d at 71. The PLRA also mandates that inmates "properly" exhaust administrative remedies before filing suit in federal court.*fn2 Woodford v. Ngo, 548 U.S. 81, 92 (2006).
"Proper exhaustion demands compliance with an agency's deadlines and other critical procedural rules because no adjudicative system can function effectively without imposing some orderly structure on the course of its proceedings." Id. at 90-91. Such requirements "eliminate unwarranted federal-court interference with the administration of prisons, and thus seek[ ] to 'affor[d] corrections officials time and opportunity to address complaints internally before allowing the initiation of a federal case.'" Id. at 93 (quoting Porter, 534 U.S. at 525)). Failure to comply with procedural requirements of the applicable prison's grievance system will result in a procedural default of the claim. Spruill v. Gillis, 372 F.3d 218, 227-32 (3d Cir. 2004) ("[P]rison grievance procedures supply the yardstick for measuring procedural default.") A procedural default, "either through late or improper filings, bars the prisoner from bringing a claim in federal court unless equitable considerations warrant review of the claim." Gallego v. United States, Civil No. 1:02-CV-1157, 2005 WL 1653166, at *2 (M.D. Pa. July 8, 2005).
The requirements for filing and opposing a motion for summary judgment in this Court are set forth as follows in LR 56.1:
A motion for summary judgment filed pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 56, shall be accompanied by a separate, short and concise statement of the material facts, in numbered paragraphs, as to which the moving party contends there is no genuine issue to be tried.
The papers opposing a motion for summary judgment shall include a separate, short and concise statement of the material facts, responding to the numbered paragraphs set forth in the [moving party's] statement, as to which it is contended there is a genuine issue to be tried.
Statements of material fact in support of, or in opposition to a motion, shall include references to the parts of the record that support the statements.
All material facts set forth in the statement required to be served by the moving party will be deemed to be admitted unless controverted by the statement ...