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Hubbard v. Hougland

June 11, 2010

DARRYL HUBBARD, PLAINTIFF,
v.
C.D. HOUGLAND, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Gregory G. Hollows United States Magistrate Judge

FINDINGS & RECOMMENDATIONS

Introduction

Plaintiff is a state prisoner proceeding pro se with a civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Pending before the court are defendants' November 10, 2009, motion to dismiss for failure to exhaust administrative remedies (Doc. 39).*fn1 Plaintiff filed an opposition on December 7, 2009 (Doc. 40) and defendants filed a reply on February 2, 2010 (Doc. 50). Background

This case is currently proceeding on the second amended complaint (SAC) filed on September 23, 2009 (Doc. 30).*fn2 Plaintiff alleges that in early March 2008, defendant Hougland grabbed plaintiff's pill bag from him and dropped the contents on the ground. After plaintiff picked up the papers that had been in the pill bag, defendant Hougland grabbed them from him and dropped the papers that had been in the bag one by one on the ground. After he handed a few papers back to plaintiff, he said, "I'm done." Plaintiff responded, "No you're not. Pick them up." A female officer picked up the papers and handed them to defendant Hougland. He then shoved them at plaintiff and said, "I'm going to get your fat ass." Plaintiff then submitted two inmate grievances regarding the incident which received no response.

Plaintiff alleges that on July 7, 2008, defendant Hougland hit him on the back of the head so hard that he lost consciousness. When plaintiff regained consciousness, defendant Hougland was on top of him, hitting him on the head and telling him to stop resisting. Defendant McBride hit plaintiff on the back of the head.

Legal Standard

The Prison Litigation Reform Act of 1995 (PLRA) amended 42 U.S.C. § 1997e to provide that "[n]o action shall be brought with respect to prison conditions under [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 exhausted." 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(a). Exhaustion in prisoner cases covered by § 1997e(a) is mandatory. Porter v. Nussle, 534 U.S. 516, 524 (2002). Exhaustion is a prerequisite for all prisoner suits regarding the conditions of their confinement, whether they involve general circumstances or particular episodes, and whether they allege excessive force or some other wrong. Porter, 534 U.S. at 532.

Exhaustion of all "available" remedies is mandatory; those remedies need not meet federal standards, nor must they be "plain, speedy and effective." Id. at 524; Booth v. Churner, 532 U.S. 731, 740, n. 5 (2001). Even when the prisoner seeks relief not available in grievance proceedings, notably money damages, exhaustion is a prerequisite to suit. Booth, 532 U.S. at 741. A prisoner "seeking only money damages must complete a prison administrative process that could provide some sort of relief on the complaint stated, but no money." Id. at 734.*fn3

A prisoner need not exhaust further levels of review once he has either received all the remedies that are "available" at an intermediate level of review, or has been reliably informed by an administrator that no more remedies are available. Brown v. Valoff, 422 F.3d 926, 934-35 (9th Cir. 2005). As there can be no absence of exhaustion unless some relief remains available, a movant claiming lack of exhaustion must demonstrate that pertinent relief remained available, whether at unexhausted levels or through awaiting the results of the relief already granted as a result of that process. Brown, 422 F.3d at 936-37.

The PLRA requires proper exhaustion of administrative remedies. Woodford v. Ngo, 548 U.S. 81, 83-84 (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. Thus, compliance with prison grievance procedures is required by the PLRA to properly exhaust. Id. The PLRA's exhaustion requirement cannot be satisfied "by filing an untimely or otherwise procedurally defective administrative grievance or appeal." Id. at 83-84.

The State of California provides its prisoners the right to appeal administratively "any departmental decision, action, condition or policy which they can demonstrate as having an adverse effect upon their welfare." Cal. Code Regs. tit. 15, § 3084.1(a). It also provides them the right to file appeals alleging misconduct by correctional officers and officials. Id. § 3084.1(e). In order to exhaust available administrative remedies within this system, a prisoner must proceed through several levels of appeal: (1) informal resolution, (2) formal written appeal on a 602 inmate appeal form, (3) second level appeal to the institution head or designee, and (4) third level appeal to the Director of the CDCR. Barry v. Ratelle, 985 F.Supp. 1235, 1237 (S.D. Cal. 1997) (citing Cal.Code Regs. tit. 15, § 3084.5). A final decision from the Director's level of review satisfies the exhaustion requirement under § 1997e(a). Id. at 1237-38.

Failure to exhaust administrative remedies is an affirmative defense properly raised by a defendant in an unenumerated Fed. R. Civ. P. Rule 12(b) motion. Jones v. Bock, 549 U.S. 199, 216 (2007). If the court concludes the prisoner has not exhausted non-judicial remedies, the proper remedy is dismissal of the claim without prejudice. Wyatt v. Terhune, 315 F.3d 1108, 1119-1120 (9th Cir. 2003). Defendants bear the burden of raising and proving non-exhaustion. Id. at 1119. The court may resolve any disputed material facts on the exhaustion issue by looking beyond the pleadings in deciding a motion to dismiss for failure to exhaust. Id. at 1119-20. No presumption of truthfulness attaches to a plaintiff's assertions associated with the exhaustion requirement. See Ritza v. Int'l Longshoremen's and Warehousemen's Union, 837 F.2d 365, 369 (9th Cir. 1988).

Discussion

In ruling on the instant motion the court is faced with a scarcity of evidence as the pleadings from both parties are lacking. Somewhat surprisingly, defendants' motion to dismiss includes no exhibits and has instead relied on plaintiff's exhibits from the second amended complaint. Therefore, the court assumes that defendants believe that all of plaintiff's ...


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