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Mosley v. Beard

United States District Court, E.D. California

October 9, 2019

JEFFREY BEARD, et al., Defendants.



         Plaintiff, a state prisoner proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis, seeks relief under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. The matter was referred to this court pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B) and Local Rule 302. Defendants have moved for summary judgment. See ECF No. 33. For the reasons stated below, the undersigned will recommend that the motion be granted.


         The case proceeds on claims that CSP-SAC mental health clinician Blaikie and correctional officer Jones used excessive force against plaintiff in violation of his Eighth Amendment rights, and that CSP-SAC Warden Macomber failed to train prison staff to handle mentally ill inmates without resorting to force. ECF Nos. 26 (screening order); 24 (second amended complaint). Plaintiff alleges that on April 28, 2015, he was in the prison treatment center when he experienced “a severe trauma episode.” Plaintiff lay on the floor “in an attempt to reduce the sensation of claustrophobia.” ECF No. 24 at 4. Blaikie then activated an alarm that brought custodial staff to the scene. Plaintiff alleges that Blaikie falsely told the officers that plaintiff had been agitated and called her a “bitch.” Plaintiff was handcuffed and ordered to stand up. When he was unable to do so because of the trauma he was experiencing, Blaikie and Jones (and others) roughly hauled plaintiff up off the floor, injuring him. Plaintiff was falsely charged with a rules violation. ECF No. 24.

         In the instant motion, defendants contend that plaintiff's claims are administratively unexhausted. ECF No. 33. The motion is fully briefed. ECF Nos. 41 (opposition); 44 (reply).


         A. Summary Judgment

         Summary judgment is appropriate when the moving party “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). Under summary judgment practice, the moving party “initially bears the burden of proving the absence of a genuine issue of material fact.” In re Oracle Corp. Securities Litigation, 627 F.3d 376, 387 (9th Cir. 2010) (citing Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986)).

         If the moving party meets its initial responsibility, the burden then shifts to the opposing party to establish that a genuine issue as to any material fact actually does exist. See Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986). “In evaluating the evidence to determine whether there is a genuine issue of fact, ” the court draws “all reasonable inferences supported by the evidence in favor of the non-moving party.” Walls v. Central Costa County Transit Authority, 653 F.3d 963, 966 (9th Cir. 2011).

         B. Legal Standards for Exhaustion

         1. Prison Litigation Reform Act

         Because plaintiff is a prisoner challenging the conditions of his confinement, his claims are subject to the Prison Litigation Reform Act (“PLRA”), 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(a). The PLRA requires prisoners to exhaust available administrative remedies before bringing an action challenging prison conditions under § 1983. 42 U.S.C. 1997e(a). “The PLRA mandates that inmates exhaust all available administrative remedies before filing ‘any suit challenging prison conditions,' including, but not limited to, suits under § 1983.” Albino v. Baca, 747 F.3d 1162, 1171 (9th Cir. 2014) (quoting Woodford v. Ngo, 548 U.S. 81, 85 (2006)). “[F]ailure to exhaust is an affirmative defense under the PLRA.” Jones v. Bock, 549 U.S. 199, 216 (2007). It is the defendant's burden “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 (citing Hilao v. Estate of Marcos, 103 F.3d 767, 778 n.5 (9th Cir. 1996)). The burden then “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 unavailable to him.” Id.

         “Under § 1997e(a), the exhaustion requirement hinges on the ‘availab[ility]' of administrative remedies: An inmate . . . must exhaust available remedies, but need not exhaust unavailable ones.” Ross v. Blake, 136 S.Ct. 1850, 1858 (2016) (brackets in original). In discussing availability in Ross, the Supreme Court identified three circumstances in which administrative remedies were unavailable: (1) where an administrative remedy “operates as a simple dead end” in which officers are “unable or consistently unwilling to provide any relief to aggrieved inmates;” (2) where an administrative scheme is “incapable of use” because “no ordinary prisoner can discern or navigate it, ” and (3) where “prison administrators thwart inmates from taking advantage of a grievance process through machination, misrepresentation, or intimidation.” Ross, 136 S.Ct. at 1859-60. “[A]side from [the unavailability] exception, the PLRA's text suggests no limits on an inmate's obligation to exhaust - irrespective of any ‘special circumstances.' ” Id. at 1856. “[M]andatory exhaustion statutes like the PLRA establish mandatory exhaustion regimes, foreclosing judicial discretion.” Id. at 1857.

         Satisfaction of the exhaustion requirement is a prerequisite to filing in federal court. Absent pre-suit exhaustion, a complaint must be dismissed without prejudice. McKinney v. Carey, 311 F.3d 1198, 1200-01 (9th Cir. 2002) (per curiam).

The bottom line is that a prisoner must pursue the prison administrative process as the first and primary forum for redress of grievances. He may initiate litigation in federal court only after the administrative process ends and leaves his grievances unredressed. It would be inconsistent with the objectives of the statute to let him submit his complaint any earlier than that.

Vaden v. Summerhill, 449 F.3d 1047, 1051 (9th Cir. 2006). Accordingly, the exhaustion requirement is not satisfied or excused by exhausting available remedies during the course of the litigation. McKinney, 311 F.3d at 1199.

         2. California Regulations Governing Exhaustion of Administrative Remedies

         “The California prison system's requirements ‘define the boundaries of proper exhaustion.'” Marella v. Terhune, 568 F.3d 1024, 1027 (9th Cir. 2009) (quoting Jones, 549 U.S. at 218). In order to exhaust, the prisoner is required to complete the administrative review process in accordance with all applicable procedural rules. Woodford, 548 U.S. at 90. California regulations allow a prisoner to “appeal” any action or inaction by prison staff that has “a material adverse effect upon his or her health, safety, or welfare.” Cal. Code Regs. tit. 15, § 3084.1(a) (2017).[1] The appeal process is initiated by the inmate's filing a “Form 602” the “Inmate/Parolee Appeal Form, ” “to describe the specific issue under appeal and the relief requested.” Id, § 3084.2(a). “The California prison grievance system has three levels of review: an inmate exhausts administrative remedies by obtaining a decision at each level.” Reyes v. Smith, 810 F.3d 654, 657 (9th Cir. 2016) (citing Cal. Code Regs. tit. 15, § 3084.1(b) (2011); Harvey v. Jordan, 605 F.3d 681, 683 (9th Cir. 2010)).

         III. UND ...

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