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Richard L. Isgrigg, Iii v. J. Lebeck

April 2, 2013

RICHARD L. ISGRIGG, III, PLAINTIFF,
v.
J. LEBECK, ET AL.,
DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Carolyn K. Delaney United States Magistrate Judge

FINDINGS & RECOMMENDATIONS

Plaintiff, a state prisoner proceeding pro se, has filed a civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. This action was commenced on October 21, 2011 (Dkt. No. 1) and proceeds on the First Amended Complaint filed June 5, 2012. (Dkt. No. 21 ("FAC").) On September 14, 2012, the undersigned determined that the FAC stated Eighth Amendment claims against defendants Lebeck, Minton, Wilson, Ngo, and Powers. (Dkt. No. 25.)

Pending before the court is defendants' January 24, 2013 motion to dismiss the FAC for failure to exhaust administrative remedies.*fn1 (Dkt. No. 36.) Plaintiff has filed an opposition. (Dkt. No. 38.) For the reasons discussed below, the undersigned will recommend that defendants' motion be granted.

I. Exhaustion of Administrative Remedies

A. Legal Standard

The Prison Litigation Reform Act ("PLRA") provides 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). Pursuant to this rule, prisoners must exhaust their administrative remedies regardless of the relief they seek, i.e., whether injunctive relief or money damages, even though the latter is unavailable pursuant to the administrative grievance process. Booth v. Churner, 532 U.S. 731, 741 (2001). Exhaustion also requires that the prisoner complete the administrative review process in accordance with all applicable procedural rules. Woodford v. Ngo, 548 U.S. 81 (2006).

The PLRA requires that administrative remedies be exhausted prior to filing suit. McKinney v. Carey, 311 F.3d 1198 (9th Cir. 2002). However, the exhaustion requirement is not jurisdictional, but an affirmative defense that may be raised by a defendant in a motion to dismiss pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b). See Jones v. Bock, 549 U.S. 199, 216 (2007) ("inmates are not required to specially plead or demonstrate exhaustion in their complaints"); Wyatt v. Terhune, 315 F.3d 1108, 1117--19 (9th Cir. 2003) (failure to exhaust is an affirmative defense). Defendants bear the burden of raising and proving the absence of exhaustion, and their failure to do so waives the defense. Id. at 1119.

"In deciding a motion to dismiss for a failure to exhaust non-judicial remedies, the court may look beyond the pleadings and decide disputed issues of fact." Wyatt, 315 F.3d at 1119. "I[f] the district court looks beyond the pleadings to a factual record in deciding the motion to dismiss for failure to exhaust -- a procedure closely analogous to summary judgment -- then the court must assure that [the prisoner] has fair notice of his opportunity to develop a record." Id. at 1120 n.14. When the district court concludes that the prisoner has not exhausted administrative remedies on a claim, "the proper remedy is dismissal of the claim without prejudice." Id. at 1120; see also Lira v. Herrera, 427 F.3d 1164, 1170 (9th Cir. 2005) ("mixed" complaints may proceed on exhausted claims). Thus, "if a complaint contains both good and bad claims, the court proceeds with the good and leaves the bad." Jones, 549 U.S. at 221.

"The level of detail in an administrative grievance necessary to properly exhaust a claim is determined by the prison's applicable grievance procedures." Jones, supra, 549 U.S. at 218. In California, prisoners are required to lodge their administrative complaint on a CDC Form 602, which requires only that the prisoner "describe the problem and action requested." Cal.Code Regs. tit. 15, § 3084.2(a). In Griffin v. Arpaio, 557 F.3d 1117 (9th Cir. 2009), the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals adopted the standard enunciated by the Seventh Circuit, which provides that "when a prison's grievance procedures are silent or incomplete as to factual specificity, 'a grievance suffices if it alerts the prison to the nature of the wrong for which redress is sought.'" Griffin, 557 F.3d at 1120 (reviewing Arizona procedures), quoting Strong v. David, 297 F.3d 646, 650 (7th Cir. 2002). Thus, in California, "[a] grievance need not include legal terminology or legal theories unless they are in some way needed to provide notice of the harm being grieved. A grievance also need not contain every fact necessary to prove each element of an eventual legal claim. The primary purpose of a grievance is to alert the prison to a problem and facilitate its resolution, not to lay groundwork for litigation." Griffin, 557 F.3d at 1120; accord, Morton v. Hall, 599 F.3d 942, 946 (9th Cir. 2010).

"[E]xhaustion is not per se inadequate simply because an individual later sued was not named in the grievances." Jones, 549 U.S. at 219. It is nonetheless appropriate to require that a prisoner demonstrate, through the administrative grievance process and consistent with the PLRA, that he has standing to pursue his claims against a particular defendant. "[A]t an irreducible minimum, Art[icle] III [of the United States Constitution] requires the party who invokes the court's authority to 'show that he personally has suffered some actual or threatened injury as a result of the putatively illegal conduct of the defendant.' " Valley Forge Christian College v. Americans United for Separation of Church & State, Inc., 454 U.S. 464, 472 (1982).

B. Facts

Plaintiff alleges that on October 29, 2010, while he was incarcerated at California State Prison-Sacramento, defendants Minton, Wilson, Ngo, Lebeck, and Powers failed to act on plaintiff's statements that he was suicidal, thus showing deliberate indifference to a serious medical need in violation of the Eighth Amendment. (FAC at 3-4.) Plaintiff further alleges that later that night, defendants Lebeck, Minton and Wilson sprayed him with pepper spray, and Minton and Lebeck injured him, in violation of his Eighth Amendment right to be free of excessive force. (Id. at 4-5.) In the FAC, plaintiff asserts that he "attempted" to use the prison's internal grievance procedure, but cites "inflexible dogma" and a "chilling effect"*fn2 as reasons he was unable to do so. (Id. at 6.)

Defendants assert in their motion to dismiss that plaintiff did not exhaust his administrative remedies as to the October 29, 2010 incident. In support, they attach the declaration of L. Zamora, the Chief of the Inmate Correspondence and Appeals Branch (ICAB) for California Correctional Health Care Services. (Dkt. No. 36-1.) Zamora declares that:

Since August of 2008, the ICAB has received and maintained all inmate healthcare appeals accepted for the third and final level of review in the inmate appeals process, ...


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