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Sanganza v. Doe

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

August 22, 2019

JOE DOE 1, et al., Defendants


          Christopher C. Conner, Chief Judge

         Themba Bernard Sanganza, a federal inmate, filed this amended Bivens[1]complaint alleging that Defendants violated Sanganza's constitutional rights by illegally holding him in custody, attempting to interfere with his criminal case and coerce him into pleading guilty, and retaliating against him for filing or threatening to file a civil complaint. (Doc. 9 at 3-4). Sanganza has also filed a series of motions that are ripe for consideration, including motions: for a preliminary injunction (Doc. 13); for a jury trial (Doc. 28); for default judgment (Doc. 32); for oral argument or adjudication of other motions (Doc. 45); to unseal the case (Doc. 46); and to compel initial and expert disclosures (Doc. 47). Defendants filed two motions to dismiss the complaint, which the Court subsequently converted to motions for summary judgment. (Docs. 25, 30, 42). For the following reasons, Defendants' motions for summary judgment will be granted, and Sanganza's motions will be denied.

         I. Factual Background & Procedural History [2]

         In 2017, Sanganza was convicted of mail and bank fraud and was sentenced to 144 months' imprisonment. (Doc. 34 ¶ 2; Doc. 34-1 at 4-5). Sanganza was thereafter assigned to the Allenwood Federal Correctional Institution (“Allenwood FCI”). (Doc. 34 ¶ 1). Sanganza alleges that, in October 2017-while he was incarcerated at Allenwood FCI-Defendant Gardner attempted to coerce Sanganza into agreeing that he suffered from a mental illness, and Kahley Charles attempted to provide Sanganza with medication that would render Sanganza unconscious, thereby allowing the government to force Sanganza to sign documents that would result in a “tainted conviction.” (Doc. 9 at 3). Sanganza further alleges that, beginning in February 2018, Defendants issued false misconduct reports, placed Sanganza in solitary confinement, and orchestrated a sexual assault against Sanganza in retaliation for Sanganza threatening to sue, suing, or encouraging other prisoners to sue prison officials. (Id. at 3-4). Sanganza did not file any administrative grievances or claims related to those matters. (Doc. 34 ¶¶ 15-17).

         In late 2018, Sanganza filed suit against Defendants alleging violations of his constitutional rights. (Id.). Defendants in turn filed two motions to dismiss contending, inter alia, that Sanganza's complaint must be dismissed because he failed to exhaust his administrative remedies, as required by the Prison Litigation Reform Act[3] (“PLRA”). (See Docs. 26, 35).

         Because Defendants' motions relied in part on the contention that Sanganza failed to exhaust his administrative remedies, this Court issued an order-pursuant to Paladino v. Newsome, 885 F.3d 203, 211 (3rd Cir. 2018)-that converted to motions to motions for summary judgment and permitted the parties to supplement the record with any pertinent documents or arguments related to the exhaustion of Sanganza's administrative remedies. (Doc. 42). Defendants declined to supplement the record (Docs. 43, 44), while Sanganza submitted a timely supplemental brief. (Doc. 48). The matter is now ripe for consideration.

         II. Legal Standard

         “Summary judgment is appropriate when, drawing all reasonable inferences in favor of the nonmoving party, the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact, and thus the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Minarsky v. Susquehanna Cty., 895 F.3d 303, 309 (3d Cir. 2018) (internal quotation marks omitted). “A dispute is genuine if a reasonable trier-of-fact could find in favor of the non-movant, and material if it could affect the outcome of the case.” Bradley v. W. Chester Univ. of Pa. State Sys. of Higher Educ., 880 F.3d 643, 650 (3d Cir.) (internal quotation marks omitted), cert. denied, 139 S.Ct. 167 (2018)).

         III. Discussion

         Defendants contend that summary judgment is appropriate because Sanganza failed to exhaust his administrative remedies prior to filing suit. (Docs. 26, 35, 44). Sanganza in turn asserts that the motions should be denied because: (1) Defendants unambiguously violated his constitutional rights; (2) administrative remedies are inadequate to address his irreparable injuries; (3) exhausting his remedies would be futile because grievances “usually disappear” after they are filed; and (4) the Court should, in the exercise of its discretion and “in the interests of justice, ” excuse his failure to exhaust administrative remedies. (Doc. 48 at 1).

         A. Summary Judgment Motions

         The PLRA requires that federal prisoners exhaust all available administrative remedies prior to filing suit in federal court. Rinaldi v. United States, 904 F.3d 257, 264-65 (3d Cir. 2018). “Exhaustion is thus a non-jurisdictional prerequisite to an inmate bringing suit and, for that reason, . . . it constitutes a threshold issue that courts must address to determine whether litigation is being conducted in the right forum at the right time.” Id. at 265 (emphasis and internal quotation marks omitted). To exhaust administrative remedies in federal prison:

As a general matter, inmates must (1) attempt an informal resolution with staff at the institution; (2) file a formal complaint with the institution; (3) file an appeal to the appropriate Regional Director if the inmate is not satisfied with the institution's response to the formal complaint; and (4) file another appeal to the General Counsel if ...

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