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Synrico Rodgers v. R. Lopez

September 24, 2012


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Michael J. Seng United States Magistrate Judge



Plaintiff Synrico Rodgers is a state prisoner proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis in this civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiff and Defendants Martin and Battel have consented to Magistrate Judge jurisdiction. (ECF Nos. 5, 10 & 35.)

Plaintiff began this action by filing his Complaint on March 25, 2011. (ECF No. 1.) On January 31, 2012, the Court screened Plaintiff's Complaint and, finding a cognizable claim against Defendants Martin and Blattel for the violation of Plaintiff's Eighth Amendment right to adequate medical care, ordered Plaintiff to either file an amended pleading or notify the Court of his intention to proceed on his cognizable claim. (ECF No. 13.) On February 9, 2012, Plaintiff notified the Court of his intention to proceed on his cognizable Eighth Amendment medical care claim against Defendants Battel and Martin. (ECF No. 14.)

On June 15, 2012, Defendants Battel and Martin filed a motion to dismiss on the ground that Plaintiff had failed to exhaust his administrative remedies pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(a). (ECF No. 24.) On July 20, 2012, pursuant to Woods v. Carey, 684 F.3d 934 (9th Cir. 2012) and Wyatt v. Terhune, 315 F.3d 1108 (9th Cir. 2003), the Court notified Plaintiff of his rights, obligations and methods for opposing the motion and gave him an opportunity to file opposition by not later than August 23, 2012. (ECF No. 30.) Plaintiff filed an opposition to the motion to dismiss on July 30, 2012. (ECF No. 31.) Defendants Battel and Martin filed a reply on August 6, 2012. (ECF No. 32.) On August 27, 2012, Plaintiff lodged purported supplemental opposition to the motion to dismiss.*fn1 (ECF No. 33.) The motion to dismiss is now ready for ruling.


The Prison Litigation Reform Act ("PLRA") stipulates, "No 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). Therefore, prisoners are required to exhaust all available administrative remedies prior to filing suit. Jones v. Bock, 549 U.S. 199, 211 (2007). The Supreme Court held that "the PLRA's 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). Further, the exhaustion of remedies is required, regardless of the relief sought by the prisoner, as long as the administrative process can provide some sort of relief on the prisoner's complaint. Booth v. Churner, 532 U.S. 731, 741 (2001).

The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation has an administrative grievance system for prisoner complaints, and at the time of the events in question, the process was initiated by submitting a CDCR Form 602. Cal. Code Regs., tit. 15, §§ 3084.1, 3084.2(a) (2010). During the relevant time period, four levels of appeal were involved, including the informal level, First Formal Level, Second Formal Level, and Third Formal Level, the latter also known as the "Director's Level". Id. at §§ 3084.5, 3084.6(c).*fn2 To properly exhaust the administrative remedies, a prisoner must comply with the deadlines and other applicable procedural rules. Woodford v. Ngo, 548 U.S. 81, 93 (2006).

The exhaustion requirement of § 1997e(a) does not impose a pleading requirement, but rather is an affirmative defense under which defendants have the burden of proving the plaintiff failed to exhaust the available administrative remedies before filing a complaint in the District Court. Jones, 549 U.S. at 216. A motion raising a prisoner's failure to exhaust the administrative remedies is properly asserted by way of an unenumerated motion under Fed. R. Civ. P 12(b). Wyatt, 315 F.3d at 1119; Ritza v. Int'l Longshoremen's & Warehousemen's Union, 837 F.2d 365, 368 (9th Cir. 1998). In determining whether a case should be dismissed for failure to exhaust the administrative remedies, "the court may look beyond the pleadings and decide disputed issues of fact" in a procedure that is "closely analogous to summary judgment." Id. at 1119--20. When the court concludes the prisoner has not exhausted all of his available administrative remedies, "the proper remedy is dismissal without prejudice." Id.

The Ninth Circuit has held that the standards established in Strong v. David, 297 F.3d 646, 650 (7th Cir. 2002), are appropriately applied to ascertain whether prisoner grievances/appeals are sufficient to notify prison personnel of a problem for exhaustion purposes. Griffin v. Arpaio, 557 F.3d 1117, 1120 (9th Cir. 2009.) "[I]f prison regulations do not prescribe any particular content for inmate grievances, 'a grievance suffices if it alerts the prison to the nature of the wrong for which redress is sought. As in a notice pleading system, the grievant need not lay out the facts, articulate legal theories, or demand particular relief. All the grievance need do is object intelligibly to some asserted shortcoming.'" Johnson v. Testman, 380 F.3d 691, 697 (2d Cir. 2004), quoting Strong, 297 F.3d at 650. In addition, where a prison's appeal process does not specifically require a prisoner to identify offending prison staff in an inmate grievance/appeal, the failure to do so will not be seen as a per se failure to exhaust a claim against a defendant who was not named in the prison grievance/appeal process. Jones, 549 U.S. at 200-201. However, the grievance must "provide enough information . . . to allow prison officials to take appropriate responsive measures." Griffin, 557 F.3d at 1121.


A. Plaintiff's Claim

Plaintiff's inadequate medical care claim arises out of a November 29, 2010 incident in which Defendants Martin and Blattel allegedly failed to provide for decontamination following application of pepper spray. Compl. at 3. He seeks ...

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