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Jones v. J. Garcia

United States District Court, E.D. California

December 23, 2019

CHARLES B. JONES, Plaintiff,
J. GARCIA, et al., Defendants.



         Defendants Garcia, Ortega, and Sauceda move for summary judgment on the grounds that Plaintiff failed to exhaust administrative remedies prior to filing suit. (Doc. 34.) Plaintiff filed an opposition to Defendants' motion on December 2, 2019, and Defendants filed a reply. (Docs. 44, 45.) For the reasons set forth below, the Court recommends that Defendants' motion be GRANTED and that this action be DISMISSED without prejudice.


         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). The moving party “initially bears the burden of proving the absence of a genuine issue of material fact.” In re Oracle Corp. Sec. Litig., 627 F.3d 376, 387 (9th Cir. 2010) (citing Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986)). The moving party may accomplish this by “citing to particular parts of materials in the record, including depositions, documents, electronically stored information, affidavits or declarations, stipulations …, admissions, interrogatory answers, or other materials, ” or by showing that such materials “do not establish the absence or presence of a genuine dispute, or that an adverse party cannot produce admissible evidence to support the fact.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(1)(A), (B). When the non-moving party bears the burden of proof at trial, “the moving party need only prove that there is an absence of evidence to support the non-moving party's case.” Oracle Corp., 627 F.3d at 387 (citing Celotex, 477 U.S. at 325); see also Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c)(1)(B).

         Summary judgment should be entered against a party who fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case, and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial. See Celotex, 477 U.S. at 322. “[A] complete failure of proof concerning an essential element of the nonmoving party's case necessarily renders all other facts immaterial.” Id. at 322-23. In such a circumstance, summary judgment should be granted, “so long as whatever is before the district court demonstrates that the standard for the entry of summary judgment … is satisfied.” Id. at 323.

         B. Exhaustion of Administrative Remedies

         The Prison Litigation Reform Act of 1995 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 of administrative remedies is mandatory and “unexhausted claims cannot be brought in court.” Jones v. Bock, 549 U.S. 199, 211. Inmates are required to “complete the administrative review process in accordance with the applicable procedural rules, including deadlines, as a precondition to bringing suit in federal court.” Woodford v. Ngo, 548 U.S. 81, 88, 93 (2006). The exhaustion requirement applies to all inmate suits relating to prison life, Porter v. Nussle, 534 U.S. 516, 532 (2002), regardless of the relief sought by the prisoner or offered by the administrative process, Booth v. Churner, 532 U.S. 731, 741 (2001).

         The failure to exhaust administrative remedies is an affirmative defense, which the defendant must plead and prove. Jones, 549 U.S. at 204, 216. The defendant bears the burden of producing evidence that proves a failure to exhaust; and, summary judgment is appropriate only if the undisputed evidence, viewed in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, shows the plaintiff failed to exhaust. Albino v. Baca, 747 F.3d 1162, 1166 (9th Cir. 2014). On a motion for summary judgment, the defendant must prove (1) the existence of an available administrative remedy and (2) that Plaintiff failed to exhaust that remedy. Williams v. Paramo, 775 F.3d 1182, 1191 (9th Cir. 2015) (citations omitted). If the defendant meets this burden, “the burden shifts to the plaintiff, who must show that there is something particular in his case that made the existing and generally available administrative remedies effectively unavailable to him….” Id. If the plaintiff fails to meet this burden, the court should dismiss the unexhausted claims or action without prejudice. See Lira v. Herrera, 427 F.3d 1164, 1175 (9th Cir. 2005).


         A. Plaintiff's Allegations

         Plaintiff Garcia was housed at California State Prison, Corcoran, during all times relevant to this case. (Doc. 34-5, Defendants' Statement of Undisputed Facts, ¶ 2.) Plaintiff alleges that Defendant-Correctional Officers Garcia, Ortega, and Sauceda retaliated against him for filing administrative grievances and court actions. (Doc. 21 at 4-6; see also Doc. 22 at 2.) Specifically, Plaintiff alleges that Defendants destroyed his property and placed him in administrative segregation based on a false claim that he would stab a correctional officer. (Doc. 21 at 5-6, 20-21.) Plaintiff learned of Defendants' actions on August 21, 2017. (Id. at 21.) On that date, when Plaintiff indicated that he was going to file a grievance for Defendants' conduct, Garcia threatened to circulate a false claim that Plaintiff is “a convicted child molester, and serial rapist, and have [him] kicked back to this yard to see how long [he] last[s] until these guys kill [him].” (Id. at 22.) Plaintiff was so scared by the threat that he went on a hunger strike to be placed on suicide watch at “Wasco Mental Health.” (Id. at 22.)

         B. CDCR Grievance Process

         The CDCR has an administrative grievance system for prisoners to appeal a policy, decision, action, condition, or omission by the department or staff if it has an adverse effect on prisoner health, safety, or welfare. Cal. Code Regs., tit. 15, § 3084.1(a). Compliance with 42 U.S.C. section 1997e(a) requires California state prisoners to use CDCR's grievance process to exhaust their claims before filing suit in court. See Sapp v. Kimbrell, 623 F.3d 813, 818 (9th Cir. 2010); see also Woodford, 548 U.S. at 85-86. All administrative appeals are ...

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