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Gerald A. West v. Federal Bureau of Prisons

April 2, 2013

GERALD A. WEST, PLAINTIFF,
v.
FEDERAL BUREAU OF PRISONS, ET AL.,
DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Dennis L. Beck United States Magistrate Judge

FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS REGARDING DEFENDANT'S MOTION TO DISMISS FOR FAILURE TO EXHAUST (Document 66)

I. BACKGROUND

Plaintiff Gerald A. West ("Plaintiff"), a federal prisoner proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis, filed this civil action on July 22, 2009, pursuant to Bivens v. Six Unknown Named Agents of Federal Bureau of Narcotics, 403 U.S. 388 (1971). Pursuant to the Court's April 20, 2012, order, the action is proceeding on Plaintiff's Fourth Amended Complaint, which states a claim for failure to protect in violation of the Eighth Amendment against Defendant Michael McNease. All other claims and Defendants have been dismissed.

On September 13, 2012, Defendant filed this motion to dismiss for failure to exhaust administrative remedies.*fn1 Plaintiff opposed the motion on October 29, 2012, and Defendant filed a reply on November 7, 2012.

Plaintiff's claims arise from events occurring in 2007, while he was incarcerated at United States Penitentiary- Atwater ("USP-Atwater"). Plaintiff alleges that on October 26, 2007, he arrived at USP-Atwater with inmate Morton. On October 27, 2007, inmate Morton was attacked and stabbed by a group on inmates. While in the infirmary, inmate Morton told Defendant that Plaintiff was the intended target of the attack. Plaintiff alleges that Defendant ignored the information and told inmate Morton that his shift was over and he was going home. After a one hour lockdown was lifted, Plaintiff was attacked by the same group of inmates that attacked inmate Morton.

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. Herrera, 427 F.3d 1164, 1175-76 (9th Cir. 2005).

III. THE BOP'S ADMINISTRATIVE REMEDY PROCESS

As set forth in Defendant's motion and the Declaration of Jennifer Vickers, the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) provides a grievance procedure, known as the Administrative Remedy Program, which allows inmates to seek formal review of any issue relating to their confinement at BOP-run institutions. 28 C.F.R. § 542.10 (2012). The first step in the process requires the inmate to present the grievance issue to staff for informal resolution, a step which may be waived by the Warden or the institution's Administrative Remedy Coordinator. 28 C.F.R. § 542.13.

The next step is the submission of a formal written administrative remedy request (request) on a BP-9 form to the institutional-level staff person designated to receive requests. 28 C.F.R. § 542.14. An exception exists at this step for sensitive issues, and an inmate who reasonably believes his issue is sensitive and his safety or well-being would be placed in danger if the request became known at the institution may submit the request directly to the Regional Director. 28 C.F.R. § 542.14(d)(1) (quotation marks omitted). If the request is not accepted, the inmate is to be notified in writing without return of the request. Id. (quotation marks omitted). If a remedy has been rejected, it may indicate that the inmate did not follow the appropriate procedures and it was returned in accordance with 28 C.F.R. § 542.17(a).

If an inmate is not satisfied with the Warden's response to his request at the first formal level of review, the inmate may submit the request to the Regional Director on a BP-10 form within twenty days of the Warden's response. 28 C.F.R. § 542.15. If not satisfied with the Regional Director's response, the inmate may appeal to the final level of review by submitting a BP-11 form appeal to the General Counsel within thirty days of the Regional Director's response. Id.

IV. DISCUSSION

Defendant contends that Plaintiff failed to exhaust his claim at all three administrative levels prior to filing this action. Indeed, in his Fourth Amended Complaint, Plaintiff admitted that he had not completed the appeals process because prison officials refused to "provide [him] with documents and/or did not respond to informal ...


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