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Smith v. Secretary of Pennsylvania Department of Corrections

United States District Court, W.D. Pennsylvania

January 3, 2018



          MAUREEN P. KELLY JUDGE. [1]

         Plaintiff Anthony Tusweet Smith ("Plaintiff) is an inmate in the custody of the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections ("DOC"), and is presently incarcerated at the State Correctional Institution at Greene ("SCI Greene"). Plaintiff brings this civil rights action against Defendants Secretary of Pennsylvania Department of Corrections; SCI Greene F-Unit Manager; SCI Greene Captain Shrader; SCI Greene RHU Lt. Morris; SCI Greene RHU Sgt. Tikey ("Tikey"); SCI Greene C/O Arbabell; SCI Greene C/O Carter; SCI Greene C/O Hollowood ("Hollowood"); SCI Greene C/O Lewis; SCI Greene C/O Riddle ("Riddle"); SCI Greene C/O Recichar; and SCI Greene Facility Manager, alleging that cavity/strip searches are being conducted to harass Level 5 prisoners and deter them from participating in Level 5 activities and that Defendants have retaliated against him for filing a grievance relative to the strip/cavity searches.[2]

         Plaintiff submitted the instant Complaint on January 19, 2017, which was filed with the Court on April 17, 2017. ECF Nos. 1, 6. On August 3, 2017, Defendants filed a Motion for Leave to file a Motion for Summary Judgment On the Issue of Exhaustion Only, which was granted by the Court on August 4, 2017. ECF Nos. 23, 24. Defendants were directed to file the Motion for Summary Judgment by August 18, 2017 and, at the same time, Plaintiff was ordered to file a response to the Motion by September 18, 2017. ECF No. 24. Defendants timely filed their Motion for Summary Judgment on August 14, 2017, and on September 25, 2017, having failed to receive Plaintiffs response to the Motion as ordered, the Court issued an Order to Show Cause directing Plaintiff to show cause why the Motion should not be granted for failing to respond. ECF No. 31. In his response to the Order to Show Cause, Plaintiff indicated, amongst other things, that he did not receive the Court's Order granting Defendants leave to file the Motion for Summary Judgment and setting the briefing schedule. ECF No. 33. Plaintiff also indicated that he is unable to substantiate that he exhausted his administrative remedies absent discovery. Id. Consequently, the Court ordered Defendants to provide Plaintiff with any and all documents relevant to the issue of exhaustion that had not already been produced in conjunction with Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment and to do so by October 30, 2017. The Court also extended the time for Plaintiff to respond to the Motion for Summary Judgment until 11/30/2017. 10/16/17 Text Order; ECF No. 34. In a letter dated October 23, 2017, Defendants represented that all of the documents related to the issue of exhaustion had been provided to Plaintiff in the Appendix to the Motion for Summary Judgment and thus no further discovery would be forthcoming. ECF No. 36-1 at 2. Plaintiff subsequently requested an extension of time to file his response, which was granted by the Court. ECF Nos. 38, 40. Plaintiff filed his Response to Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment on December 27, 2017. ECF Nos. 38, 40, 41. As such, the Motion is ripe for review. For the reasons that follow, the Motion for Summary Judgment will be granted.


         Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provides that: "The court shall grant summary judgment if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). An issue of material fact is in genuine dispute if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). See Doe v. Abington Friends Sch.. 480 F.3d 252, 256 (3d Cir. 2007) ("A genuine issue is present when a reasonable trier of fact, viewing all of the record evidence, could rationally find in favor of the non-moving party in light of his burden of proof'). Thus, summary judgment is warranted where, "after adequate time for discovery and upon motion ... a party ... fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case, and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial." Marten v. Godwin, 499 F.3d 290, 295 (3d Cir. 2007), quoting Celotex Corp. v. Catrett. 477 U.S. 317, 322-23 (1986).

         The moving party bears the initial burden of demonstrating to the court that there is an absence of evidence to support the non-moving party, 's case. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322(1986). See Conoshenti v. Pub. Serv. Elec. & Gas Co.. 364 F.3d 135. 140 (3d Cir. 2004). "[W]hen the moving party has carried its burden under Rule 56(c), its opponent must do more than simply show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts .... Where the record taken as a whole could not lead a rational trier of fact to find for the nonmoving party, there is no genuine issue for trial." Scott v. Harris, 550 U.S. 372, 380 (2007), quoting Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp.. 475 U.S. 574. 586-87 (1986). .

         In deciding a summary judgment motion, a court must view the facts in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party and must draw all reasonable inferences, and resolve all doubts in favor of the nonmoving party. Matreale v. N.J. Dep't of Military & Veterans Affairs, 487 F.3d 150, 152 (3d Cir. 2007); Woodside v. Sch. Dist. of Phila. Bd. of Educ. 248 F.3d 129, 130 (3d Cir. 2001).


         The Prison Litigation Reform Act ("PLRA"), requires a prisoner filing a Section 1983 action to exhaust all administrative remedies before filing a claim in federal court. 42 U.S.C. § 1997(e)(a).[3] See Spruill v. Gillis. 372 F.3d 218, 228 (3d Cir. 2004). See a]so Nyhuis v. Reno.-204 F.3d 65, 73, (3d Cir. 2000) ("it is beyond the power of the court to excuse compliance with the exhaustion requirement"). In order to properly exhaust his or her administrative remedies, a plaintiff must be in "compliance with an agency's deadlines and other critical procedural rules .. .." Woodford v. Ngo. 548 U.S. 81, 90-91 (2006). The DOC's Grievance System Policy, DC-ADM 804, sets out a three-step grievance and appeals process. First, an inmate is required to legibly set forth all facts and identify all persons relevant to his claim in a grievance which will then be subject to "initial review." Spruill v. Gillis. 372 F.3d at 232, 233. Second, after the initial review by a grievance officer, the inmate must file an appeal to the Facility Administrator for a second level of review. Id. at p. 232. Finally, the inmate is required to file an appeal to the Secretary's Office of Inmate Grievances and Appeals ("the Secretary's Office"). Id.

         In addition, the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit has found that the PLRA's exhaustion requirement includes a procedural default component which requires more than "simple" exhaustion; it requires "proper" exhaustion. Id. at 228, 230. Thus, where the inmate fails to specifically name the individual in the grievance or where the grievance is untimely or otherwise defective, claims against an accused individual are procedurally defaulted. Id. at 234. See Woodford v. Ngo, 548 U.S. at 90-91 (exhaustion of administrative remedies under the PLRA requires "using all steps that the agency holds out, " and "demands compliance with an agency's deadlines and other critical procedural rules") (internal quotations and citations omitted).

         Moreover, courts have held that the mandatory language contained in the DOC's policy governing inmate grievances, which provides that, "the inmate must request the specific relief sought in his/her initial grievance" if the inmate desires compensation or other legal relief normally available from a court, requires an inmate who seeks legal relief from a Court to state in the grievance what relief is sought (e.g. monetary relief) or else he has not properly exhausted administrative remedies as to any legal remedies not mentioned in that grievance. ECF No. 29-1 at 41 ¶ 11.d. See e.g., Mobley v. Snyder. No. 1:13-772, 2015 WL 5123909, at *7-9 (M.D. Pa. Sept. 1, 2015), favorably cited by Mavon v. Capozza. No. 2:14-1203, 2017 WL 476790, at *8 (W.D. Pa. Feb. 6, 2017); Sanders v. Beard. No. 3:09-1384, 2013 WL 1703582, at *6 (M.D. Pa. April 19, 2013); Collins v. Walsh. No. 1:09-1932, 2012 WL 3536803, at *3-4 (M.D. Pa. Aug. 15, 2012); Stafford v. Wetzel. No. 4:13-2026, 2016 WL 5171725, at *5 (M.D. Pa. Sept. 21, 2016), citins Geisler v. Hoffman. No. 99-1971, slip op. at 4 (3d Cir. Sept. 29, 2000).

         Failure to exhaust administrative remedies is an affirmative defense and, hence, the burden lies with party asserting it. Karpiel v. Ogfi, Cordes, Murphy & Ignelzi, LLP, 297 Fed.Appx. 192, 193 (3d Cir. 2008).

         Here, it is clear from the record that Plaintiff has not only failed to exhaust his administrative remedies but that his claims are procedurally defaulted as well.

         A. ...

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