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Chester Ray Wiseman v. Matthew Cate

March 12, 2013

CHESTER RAY WISEMAN,
PLAINTIFF,
v.
MATTHEW CATE, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Sheila K. Oberto United States Magistrate Judge

FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS RECOMMENDING DEFENDANT'S MOTION TO DISMISS FOR FAILURE TO EXHAUST BE DENIED, WITHOUT PREJUDICE (Doc. 22) FIFTEEN-DAY OBJECTION DEADLINE

Findings and Recommendations Addressing Defendant's Motion to Dismiss

I. Procedural History

Plaintiff Chester Ray Wiseman, a state prisoner proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis, filed this civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 on January 6, 2010. This action for damages is proceeding on Plaintiff's amended complaint, filed on March 21, 2011, against Defendant Romero for failing to honor Plaintiff's lower bunk/lower tier medical chrono, in violation of the Eighth Amendment of the United States Constitution. The incident giving rise to Plaintiff's claim allegedly occurred between June and August 2009 at Kern Valley State Prison in Delano, California.

On September 12, 2012, Defendant filed a motion to dismiss for failure to exhaust the available administrative remedies. 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(a); Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b). Plaintiff filed an opposition on October 22, 2012.*fn1 Defendant did not file a reply and the motion has been submitted upon the record. Local Rule 230(l).

II. Legal Standard

Pursuant to the Prison Litigation Reform Act of 1996, "[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). Prisoners are required to exhaust the available administrative remedies prior to filing suit. Jones v. Bock, 549 U.S. 199, 211, 127 S.Ct. 910 (2007); McKinney v. Carey, 311 F.3d 1198, 1199-1201 (9th Cir. 2002). Exhaustion is required regardless of the relief sought by the prisoner and regardless of the relief offered by the process, Booth v. Churner, 532 U.S. 731, 741, 121 S.Ct. 1819 (2001), and the exhaustion requirement applies to all suits relating to prison life, Porter v. Nussle, 435 U.S. 516, 532, 122 S.Ct. 983 (2002).

The failure to exhaust in compliance with section 1997e(a) is an affirmative defense under which the defendants have the burden of raising and proving the absence of exhaustion. Jones, 549 U.S. at 216; Wyatt v. Terhune, 315 F.3d 1108, 1119 (9th Cir. 2003). The failure to exhaust is subject to an unenumerated Rule 12(b) motion, and in resolving the motion, the Court may look beyond the pleadings and decide disputed issues of fact. Stratton v. Buck, 697 F.3d 1004, 1008 (9th Cir. 2012); Morton v. Hall, 599 F.3d 942, 945 (9th Cir. 2010); Wyatt, 315 F.3d at 1119-20. If the Court concludes that Plaintiff has failed to exhaust, the proper remedy is dismissal without prejudice. Jones, 549 U.S. at 223-24; Lira v. Herrrera, 427 F.3d 1164, 1175-76 (9th Cir. 2005).

III. Discussion

A. Appeals Process

The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation has an administrative grievance system for prisoners to appeal any departmental decision, action, condition, or policy having an adverse effect on prisoners' welfare. Cal. Code Regs. tit. 15, § 3084.1. During the relevant time period, the process was initiated by submitting a CDC Form 602 describing the problem and the action requested, tit. 15, § 3084.2(a), and appeal had to be submitted within fifteen working days of the event being appealed or of the receipt of the unacceptable lower level decision, tit. 15, § 3084.6(c).*fn2 Up to four levels of appeal may be involved, including the informal level, first formal level, second formal level, and third formal level, also known as the Director's Level. Tit. 15, § 3084.5. In order to satisfy section 1997e(a), California state prisoners are required to use this process to exhaust their claims prior to filing suit. Woodford v. Ngo, 548 U.S. 81, 85-86, 126 S.Ct. 2378 (2006); McKinney, 311 F.3d at 1199-1201.

B. Parties' Positions

Defendant argues that Plaintiff failed to exhaust his claim that Defendant failed to honor his lower bunk/lower tier medical chrono. Defendant states that Plaintiff filed two inmate appeals while at Kern Valley State Prison, but the first appeal, log number KVSP-09-01601, grieved Plaintiff's fall from the upper bunk and the failure to provide immediate medical attention. (Doc. 22, Motion, Daviega Dec., ¶¶4, 5, Ex. B.) The second appeal was screened out as untimely and it concerned a legal matter rather than Plaintiff's claim against Defendant. (Id.)

In his amended complaint, Plaintiff alleges that he filed an inmate appeal and it was partially granted at the first and second levels of review, and then denied at the Director's ...


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