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Smith v. Pina

United States District Court, Ninth Circuit

August 15, 2013

S. PINA, et al., Defendants.


MICHAEL J. SENG, Magistrate Judge.

Plaintiff Robert Lewis Smith ("Plaintiff") is a state prisoner proceeding in forma pauperis in this civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983.

Plaintiff began this action by filing a Complaint on September 29, 2011. (Compl., ECF No. 1.) On March 20, 2102, the Court screened Plaintiff's Complaint and dismissed it, with leave to amend, for failure to state a claim. (ECF No. 14.) Plaintiff filed a First Amended Complaint. (Am. Compl., ECF No. 17.) The Court issued Findings and Recommendations finding that Plaintiff stated a cognizable claim and recommending that certain claims and defendants be dismissed from this action. (ECF No. 18.) The Findings and Recommendations were adopted. (ECF No. 19.) Plaintiff is currently proceeding on an Eighth Amendment claim against Defendant Pina for his alleged failure to protect Plaintiff.

On December 18, 2012, Defendant Pina filed a motion to dismiss this action on the ground that Plaintiff failed to exhaust his administrative remedies prior to commencing this action. (Def.'s Mot., ECF No. 29.) Plaintiff filed an opposition on January 3, 2013. (Pl.'s Opp'n, ECF No. 30.) Defendant Pina filed a reply on January 9, 2013. (Def.'s Reply, ECF No. 31.)

Defendant Pina's motion to dismiss is now ready for ruling pursuant to Local Rule 230( l ).


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 ("CDCR") has an administrative grievance system for prisoner complaints; the process is initiated by submitting a CDCR Form 602. Cal. Code Regs., tit. 15, §§ 3084.1, 3084.2(a) (2009). During the time relevant to this case, four levels of appeal existed: an informal level, a first formal level, a second formal level, and a third formal level, also known as the "Director's Level"; each successive appeal had to be submitted within fifteen working days of the event being appealed. Id. at §§ 3084.5, 3084.6(c).[1] To properly exhaust 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) is not a pleading requirement, but rather an affirmative defense. Defendants have the burden of proving plaintiff failed to exhaust the available administrative remedies before filing a complaint in the District Court. Jones v. Bock , 549 U.S. 199, 216 (2007). 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 v. Terhune , 315 F.3d 1108, 1119 (9th Cir. 2003); Ritza v. Int'l Longshoremen's & Warehousemen's Union , 837 F.2d 365, 368 (9th Cir. 1998) (per curium). In determining whether a case should be dismissed for failure to exhaust 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 essential allegations of Plaintiff's First Amended Complaint are summarized as follows:

Plaintiff was previously incarcerated at California State Prison, Corcoran ("CSP-COR"), where the events alleged in the First Amended Complaint occurred.

Plaintiff alleges that in 2007 he was diagnosed with a heart condition that caused fainting. (Am. Compl. at 7.) As a result, he needed to be housed in a bottom bunk on a downstairs tier, so that if he fainted he would not injure himself in a fall. (Id.) Plaintiff informed Defendant Pina, the supervising officer, about his medical chrono. (Id. at 4-6.) Defendant Pina did not accommodate Plaintiff's medical needs. (Am. Compl. at 5.) On October 2, 2010, while being escorted up a set of stairs to his upstairs bunk, Plaintiff suffered a fainting spell, fell down the stairs, and injured his right knee, back, and neck. (Id.)


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