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Anthony Graham v. Jubb

September 8, 2011

ANTHONY GRAHAM, PLAINTIFF,
v.
JUBB, ET AL.,
DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Kendall J. Newman United States Magistrate Judge

ORDER AND FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS

Plaintiff is a state prisoner, proceeding without counsel and in forma pauperis, with an action filed pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. In his second amended complaint ("SAC"), plaintiff claims defendants were deliberately indifferent. On June 21, 2011, defendant Wiggins filed a motion to dismiss based on an alleged failure to exhaust administrative remedies, and defendants Jubb, Whitted and Wiggins*fn1 moved to dismiss alleging that plaintiff's allegations are too vague and conclusory to state a cognizable civil rights claim. (Dkt. No. 47.) Plaintiff filed an opposition and declaration on August 22, 2011. (Dkt. No. 53.) Defendants filed a reply on August 29, 2011. (Dkt. No. 54.)

For the reasons set forth below, the undersigned recommends that defendants' motion to dismiss plaintiff's claims against defendant Wiggins as unexhausted be granted, and defendants' motion to dismiss plaintiff's claims against defendant Jubb and Whitted be granted based on plaintiff's failure to state a cognizable civil rights claim, but with leave to file a third amended complaint.

I. Motion to Dismiss - Exhaustion

Defendants contend plaintiff failed to exhaust his administrative remedies as to defendant Wiggins. In the SAC, plaintiff alleges that defendant Wiggins denied plaintiff's request to see a psychiatrist and to receive different medications. (Dkt. No. 26 at 7.) Defendants have presented evidence they contend demonstrates plaintiff did not raise these allegations in any of the grievances plaintiff filed or properly exhausted prior to the filing of the instant action. (Dkt. No. 26 at 1-35.)

In opposition, plaintiff argues that defendant Wiggins, a medical doctor, was plaintiff's primary clinician who knew the risk to plaintiff. (Dkt. No. 53.) Plaintiff also contends that defendant Wiggins is included in plaintiff's use of the term "staff" in plaintiff's staff complaint dated September 23, 2007. (Dkt. No. 53 at 3, 12.) In reply, defendants contend that plaintiff failed to rebut defendants' evidence of non-exhaustion. (Dkt. No. 54 at 6.)

A. Legal Standard re Exhaustion

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 conditions of 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. The fact that the administrative procedure cannot result in the particular form of relief requested by the prisoner does not excuse exhaustion because some sort of relief or responsive action may result from the grievance. See Booth, 532 U.S. at 737; see also Porter, 534 U.S. at 525 (purposes of exhaustion requirement include allowing prison to take responsive action, filtering out frivolous cases, and creating administrative records).

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). Because 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. Id., 422 F.3d at 936-37.

As noted above, 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) (2011). It also provides them the right to file appeals alleging misconduct by correctional officers and officials. Id. at § 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 California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. 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.

Non-exhaustion under § 1997e(a) is an affirmative defense which should be brought by defendants in an unenumerated motion to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b). Wyatt v. Terhune, 315 F.3d 1108, 1119 (9th Cir. 2003). Moreover, the court may look beyond the pleadings to ...


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