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Ahmed v. Duffy

United States District Court, E.D. California

June 16, 2017

SAIYEZ AHMED, Plaintiff,
v.
BRIAN DUFFY, et al., Defendants.

          ORDER AND FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS

          ALLISON CLAIRE UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         INTRODUCTION

         Plaintiff Saiyez Ahmed is a state prisoner under the custody of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR), currently incarcerated at California State Prison, Los Angeles County (CSP-LAC). Plaintiff proceeds pro se and in forma pauperis with this civil rights action filed pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, on his First Amended Complaint (FAC), filed October 30, 2015. See ECF No. 9.

         As ordered by the court, the FAC is comprised of plaintiff's one-page amended complaint and pages 4 through 34 of plaintiff's original complaint. See ECF Nos. 9, 10. Upon screening the FAC pursuant to the Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA), 28 U.S.C. 1915A(a), this court found the allegations therein sufficient to state a cognizable Eighth Amendment claim against sole defendant Correctional Officer Johnson for deliberate indifference to plaintiff's serious medical needs, during plaintiff's prior incarceration at the California Medical Facility (CMF). \See ECF No. 10. A settlement conference was held in this action on June 9, 2017, but the case did not settle.

         Presently pending is defendant's motion to dismiss this action, filed pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6), Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, based on plaintiff's alleged failure to exhaust his administrative remedies. See ECF No. 15. Defendant asserts that this is “the rare event that a failure to exhaust is clear on the face of the complaint, ” Albino v. Baca, 747 F.3d 1162, 1166 (9th Cir. 2014), thus authorizing resolution of the matter pursuant to a motion to dismiss rather than a motion for summary judgment.

         This matter is referred to the undersigned United States Magistrate Judge pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B) and Local Rule 302(c). For the reasons that follow, this court recommends that defendants' motion to dismiss be denied.

         LEGAL STANDARDS

         The Prison Litigation Reform Act of 1995 (PLRA) mandates that “[n]o action shall be brought with respect to prison conditions under section 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). The PLRA also requires that prisoners, when grieving their appeal, adhere to CDCR's “critical procedural rules.” Woodford v. Ngo, 548 U.S. 81, 91 (2006). “[I]t is the prison's requirements, and not the PLRA, that define the boundaries of proper exhaustion.” Jones, 549 at 218.

         A prisoner need exhaust only those administrative remedies that are in fact “available” to him. “The obligation to exhaust ‘available' remedies persists as long as some remedy remains ‘available.' Once that is no longer the case, then there are no ‘remedies . . . available, ' and the prisoner need not further pursue the grievance.” Brown v. Valoff, 422 F.3d 926, 935 (9th Cir. 2005) (original emphasis) (citing Booth v. Churner, 532 U.S. 731, 739 (2001)). “The only limit to § 1997e(a)'s mandate is the one baked into its text: An inmate need exhaust only such administrative remedies as are ‘available.'” Ross v. Blake, 136 S.Ct. 1850, 1862 (2016).

         “[A]n inmate is required to exhaust those, but only those, grievance procedures that are ‘capable of use' to obtain ‘some relief for the action complained of.'” Ross, 136 S.Ct. at 1859 (quoting Booth, 532 U.S. at 738). The Supreme Court has clarified that there are only “three kinds of circumstances in which an administrative remedy, although officially on the books, is not capable of use to obtain relief.” Ross, at 1859. These circumstances are as follows: (1) the “administrative procedure . . . operates as a simple dead end - with officers unable or consistently unwilling to provide any relief to aggrieved inmates;” (2) the “administrative scheme . . . [is] so opaque that it becomes, practically speaking, incapable of use . . . so that no ordinary prisoner can make sense of what it demands;” and (3) “prison administrators thwart inmates from taking advantage of a grievance process through machination, misrepresentation, or intimidation.” Id. at 1859-60 (citations omitted). Other than these circumstances demonstrating the unavailability of an administrative remedy, the mandatory language of 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(a) “foreclose[es] judicial discretion, ” which “means a court may not excuse a failure to exhaust, even to take [special] circumstances into account.” Ross, 136 S.Ct. at 1856-57.

         Dismissal of a prisoner civil rights action for failure to exhaust administrative remedies must generally be brought and decided pursuant to a motion for summary judgment under Rule 56, Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. See generally, Albino, 747 F.3d 1162. The Ninth Circuit has laid out the following burdens and analytical approach to be taken by district courts in assessing the merits of a motion for summary judgment based on the alleged failure of a prisoner to exhaust his administrative remedies, id. at 1172 (citation and internal quotations omitted):

[T]he defendant's burden is to prove that there was an available administrative remedy, and that the prisoner did not exhaust that available remedy. . . . Once the defendant has carried that burden, the prisoner has the burden of production. That is, the burden shifts to the prisoner to come forward with evidence showing that there is something in his particular case that made the existing and generally available administrative remedies effectively unavailable to him. However, . . . the ultimate burden of proof remains with the defendant.

         The only exception to this approach is “[i]n the rare event that a failure to exhaust is clear on the face of the complaint.” Id. at 1166. Under such circumstances, a defendant may move to dismiss a prisoner civil rights complaint pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6), Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Id. (citing Jones v. Bock, 549 U.S. 199, 215 (2007) (dismissal appropriate when affirmative defense appears on the face of the complaint)). “Otherwise, defendants must produce evidence proving failure to exhaust in order to carry their burden” pursuant to a motion for summary judgment. Albino, 747 F.3d at 1166.

         THE FAC, DEFENDANT'S MOTION & THE ...


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