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Lindsey v. Tait

United States District Court, E.D. California

July 2, 2019

TAIT, Defendant.



         I. Background

         Plaintiff Arthur L. Lindsey is a state prisoner proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis in this civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. This case proceeds on Plaintiff's complaint for excessive force in violation of the Eighth Amendment against Defendant Sergeant Tait in his individual capacity.

         On October 25, 2018, Defendant filed a motion for summary judgment pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56, on the ground that Plaintiff failed to exhaust his administrative remedies before filing suit as required by 42 U.S.C. § 1997e.[1] Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c), Albino v. Baca, 747 F.3d 1162, 1166 (9th Cir. 2014) (en banc), cert. denied, 135 S.Ct. 403 (2014). (ECF No. 17.) On December 17, 2018, Plaintiff filed his opposition to Defendant's motion for summary judgment. (ECF No. 22.) Defendant filed a reply on December 21, 2018. (ECF No. 24.) The motion is deemed submitted. Local Rule 230(1).

         II. Legal Standard

         A. Statutory Exhaustion Requirement

         Section 1997e(a) of the Prison Litigation Reform Act of 1995 (“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). 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 (2001), and the exhaustion requirement applies to all prisoner suits relating to prison life, Porter v. Nussle, 534 U.S. 516, 532 (2002).

         Section 1997e(a) also requires “proper exhaustion of administrative remedies, which ‘means using all steps that the agency holds out, and doing so properly (so that the agency addresses the issues on the merits.'” Woodford v. Ngo, 548 U.S. 81, 90, 93 (2006) (citation omitted). “Proper exhaustion demands compliance with an agency's deadlines and other critical procedural rules because no adjudicative system can function effective without imposing some orderly structure on the course of its proceedings.” Id. “[I]t is the prison's requirements, and not the PLRA, that define the boundaries of proper exhaustion.” Jones v. Bock, 549 U.S. 199, 218 (2007).

         The failure to exhaust is an affirmative defense, and the defendants bear the burden of raising and proving the absence of exhaustion. Id. at 216; Albino, 747 F.3d at 1166. “In the rare event that a failure to exhaust is clear on the face of the complaint, a defendant may move for dismissal under Rule 12(b)(6).” Albino, 747 F.3d at 1166. Otherwise, the defendants must produce evidence proving the failure to exhaust, and they are entitled to summary judgment under Rule 56 only if the undisputed evidence, viewed in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, shows he failed to exhaust. Id.

         B. Summary Judgment Standard

         Any party may move for summary judgment, and the Court shall grant summary judgment if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a) (quotation marks omitted); Albino, 747 F.3d at 1166; Wash. Mut. Inc. v. United States, 636 F.3d 1207, 1216 (9th Cir. 2011). Each party's position, whether it be that a fact is disputed or undisputed, must be supported by (1) citing to particular parts of materials in the record, including but not limited to depositions, documents, declarations, or discovery; or (2) showing that the materials cited do not establish the presence or absence of a genuine dispute or that the opposing party cannot produce admissible evidence to support the fact. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(1) (quotation marks omitted). The Court may consider other materials in the record not cited to by the parties, although it is not required to do so. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(3); Carmen v. S.F. Unified Sch. Dist., 237 F.3d 1026, 1031 (9th Cir. 2001); accord Simmons v. Navajo Cnty., Ariz., 609 F.3d 1011, 1017 (9th Cir. 2010). “The evidence must be viewed in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party.” Williams v. Paramo, 775 F.3d 1182, 1191 (9th Cir. 2014).

         Initially, “the defendant's burden is to prove that there was an available administrative remedy, and that the prisoner did not exhaust that available remedy.” Albino, 747 F.3d at 1172. If the defendant meets that burden, the burden of production then shifts to the plaintiff 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.” Id. However, the ultimate burden of proof on the issue of administrative exhaustion remains with the defendant. Id. “If undisputed evidence viewed in the light most favorable to the prisoner shows a failure to exhaust, a defendant is entitled to summary judgment under Rule 56.” Id. at 1166. However, “[i]f material facts are disputed, summary judgment should be denied, and the district judge rather than a jury should determine the facts.” Id.

         III. Discussion

         A. Summary of CDCR's Administrative Appeal Process

         A prisoner in the custody of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (“CDCR”) satisfies the administrative exhaustion requirement for a non-health care grievance by following the procedures set forth in California Code of Regulations, title 15, §§ 3084-3084.9.

         California Code of Regulations, title 15, § 3084.1(a) provides that “[a]ny inmate … under [CDCR's] jurisdiction may appeal any policy, decision, action, condition, or omission by the department or its staff that the inmate … can demonstrate as having a material adverse effect upon his or her health, safety, or welfare.” An inmate is required to use a CDCR Form 602 to “describe the specific issue under appeal and the relief requested.” Cal. Code Regs. tit. 15, § 3084.2(a). An inmate is limited to one issue, or related set of issues, per each CDCR Form 602 and the inmate “shall state all facts known and available to [them] regarding the issue being appealed at the time of submitting” the CDCR Form 602. Cal. Code Regs. tit. 15, § 3084.2(a)(1) & (a)(4). Further, the inmate “shall list all staff member(s) involved and … describe their involvement in the issue.” Cal. Code Regs. tit. 15, § 3084.2(a)(3). If known, the inmate must include the staff member's last name, first initial, title or position, and the dates of the staff member's involvement in the issue being appealed. Id. If the inmate does not know the staff member's identifying information, the inmate is required to “provide any other available information that would assist the appeals coordinator in making a reasonable attempt to identify the staff member(s) in question.” Id.

         Unless the inmate grievance falls within one of the exceptions stated in California Code of Regulations, title 15, §§ 3084.7(b)(1)-(2) and 3084.9, all inmate grievances are subject to a three-step administrative review process: (1) the first level of review; (2) the second level appeal to the Warden of the prison or their designee; and (3) the third level appeal to the Secretary of CDCR, which is conducted by the Secretary's designated representative under the supervision of the third level Appeals Chief. Cal. Code Regs. tit. 15, §§ 3084.1(b), 3084.7(a)-(d). Unless the inmate grievance deals with allegations of sexual violence or staff sexual misconduct, an inmate must submit the CDCR Form 602 and all supporting documentation to each the three levels of review within 30 calendar days of the occurrence of the event or decision being appealed, of the inmate first discovering the action or decision being appealed, or of the inmate receiving an unsatisfactory departmental response to a submitted administrative appeal. Cal. Code Regs. tit. 15, §§ 3084.2(b)-(e), 3084.3, 3084.6(a)(2), 3084.8(b). When an inmate submits an administrative appeal at any of the three levels of review, the reviewer is required to reject the appeal, cancel the appeal, or issue a decision on the merits of the appeal within the applicable time limits. Cal. Code Regs. tit. 15, §§ 3084.6(a)-(c), 3084.8(c)-(e). If an ...

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