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CASTILLO v. BUDAY

March 1, 2000

JOSE CASTILLO, PLAINTIFF,
V.
CHARLES BUDAY, W. GLASSER, J. PERYEA, AND C. GRIMA, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Sprizzo, District Judge.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Plaintiff pro se brings this action against Charles Buday, W. Glasser, J. Peryea, and C. Grima, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 alleging that defendants violated his Eight Amendment rights. Defendants move to dismiss this action pursuant to Rule 12(b) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure on the ground that plaintiff has failed to exhaust his administrative remedies as required by the Prison Litigation Reform Act of 1996 ("PLRA"). For the reasons stated below, defendants' motion to dismiss is granted.

BACKGROUND

The following facts, taken from plaintiff's complaint, are, of course, assumed to be true. On October 4, 1997, plaintiff, an inmate at Green Haven Correctional Facility ("Green Haven"), alleges that defendants pushed him without provocation, and that defendants subsequently beat him, inflicting serious physical injuries, including lacerations to his face and body.

While plaintiff acknowledges that there is a grievance procedure in place at Green Haven, plaintiff readily admits that he did not present the facts of this case to the grievance committee because "[a]ll inmate complaints of assault by staff are routinely denied, and they are found to be without merit by the N.Y.S. Department of Correctional Services." Complaint at ¶ II(D).

DISCUSSION

Defendants move to dismiss plaintiff's complaint for failure to exhaust administrative remedies as required by the PLRA. The PLRA amended 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(a) and 18 U.S.C. § 3626 to require that "no action shall be brought with respect to prison conditions under section 1983 or any other federal law . . . until such administrative remedies as are available are exhausted." 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(a) (West Supp. 1998). Here, plaintiff seeks monetary damages resulting from defendants' use of excessive force and it is beyond dispute that plaintiff has failed to exhaust his administrative remedies.*fn1 Thus, the Court must first determine whether the PLRA's administrative exhaustion requirement bars plaintiff from proceeding in this forum.

Some courts that have addressed the applicability of the PLRA's administrative exhaustion requirement in actions for excessive force have questioned whether such claims are actions "with respect to prison conditions," within the meaning of § 1997e(a). Compare Baskerville v. Goord, No. 97 Civ. 6413, 1998 WL 778396, at *3-*5 (S.D.N.Y. Nov. 5, 1998); Wright v. Dee, 54 F. Supp.2d 199, 204 (S.D.N.Y. 1999); Carter v. Kiernan, 98 Civ. 2664, 1999 WL 14014, at *2 (January 14, 1999); White v. Fauver, 19 F. Supp.2d 305, 312-15 (D.N.J. 1998); Rodriguez v. Berbary, 992 F. Supp. 592, 593 (W.D.N.Y. 1998); Johnson v. O'Malley, No. 96 C. 6598, 1998 WL 292421, at *3 (N.D.Ill. May 19, 1998); with Freeman v. Francis, 196 F.3d 641, 643-44 (6th Cir. 1999) (holding that excessive force claims are subject to the PLRA's administrative exhaustion requirement); Diezcabeza v. Lynch, 75 F. Supp.2d 250, 255 (S.D.N.Y. 1999) (same); Beeson v. Fishkill Correctional Facility, 28 F. Supp.2d 884, 888 (S.D.N.Y. 1998) (same); Johnson v. Garraghty, 57 F. Supp.2d 321, 322-323 (E.D.Va. 1999) (same); Moore v. Smith, 18 F. Supp.2d 1360, 1362-63 (N.D.Ga. 1998) (same); Morgan v. Arizona Dep't of Corrections, 976 F. Supp. 892, 896 (D.Ariz. 1997) (same).

The phrase "with respect to prison conditions" is not defined anywhere in 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(a). The phrase, however, is defined in 18 U.S.C. § 3626 which was adopted as part of the PLRA. Section 3626(g)(2) states, in part, that

the term "civil action with respect to prison conditions" means any civil proceedings arising under Federal law with respect to the conditions of confinement or the effects of actions by government officials on the lives of persons confined in prison, but does not include habeas corpus proceedings challenging the fact or duration of confinement in prison.

18 U.S.C. § 3626(g)(2) (West Supp. 1998).

In analyzing the phrase "with respect to prison conditions" in § 1997e(a), the Court should rely upon the same language defining the phrase in § 3626(g)(2), since the same or similar language used in different parts of a statute should be interpreted as having the same or similar meaning. See Mertens v. Hewitt Associates, 508 U.S. 248, 260, 113 S.Ct. 2063, 124 L.Ed.2d 161 (1993) ("[L]anguage used in one portion of a statute [] should be deemed to have the same meaning as the same language used elsewhere in the statute."). Thus, this Court joins with those courts that have found the phrase "with respect to prison conditions" to encompass the definition found in § 3626(g)(2). See Diezcabeza, 75 F. Supp.2d at 253; Beeson, 28 F. Supp.2d at 888-89. Accordingly, the Court is constrained to conclude that plaintiff's excessive force claims fall within the plain language of § 3626(g)(2) that defines "action with respect to prison conditions" to include any civil proceeding with respect to "the effects of actions by government officials on the lives of persons in prison." 18 U.S.C. § 3626(g)(2). Thus, plaintiff's admission that he did not exhaust the administrative remedies available to him at the prison mandates dismissal of the instant suit.

As noted above, several courts have held that an "action . . . with respect to prison conditions" does not include those suits alleging excessive force by corrections officials. To the extent those cases rely upon the fact that an amendment of § 1997e(a) in 1996 limited the scope of the prior version of the statute to claims brought "with respect to prison conditions," the Court does not find them persuasive. Rather than narrowing the scope of the prior version of the statute, the 1996 amendment actually broadened the scope of the administrative exhaustion requirement to include all civil claims under federal law, not just those brought pursuant to § 1983 (as did the prior version of § 1997e(a)). Moreover, nowhere in the 1996 amendment is there even a suggestion that the phrase "prison conditions" should be defined differently from the definition provided for by Congress in 18 U.S.C. § 3626, which was enacted as part of the PLRA. It follows that excessive force claims are subject to the statutory exhaustion requirement as acts of government officials having an effect on the lives of those in prison.*fn2

The Court is likewise not persuaded by the argument relied upon by some courts that two U.S. Supreme Court decisions, Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 114 S.Ct. 1970, 128 L.Ed.2d 811 (1994) and Hudson v. McMillian, 503 U.S. 1, 112 S.Ct. 995, 117 L.Ed.2d 156 (1992), support the position that excessive force claims are different from typical conditions-of-confinement claims, and hence not subject to exhaustion.*fn3 See Baskerville, 1998 WL 778396, at *3-*4; White, 19 F. Supp.2d at 314-15; Rodriguez, 992 F. Supp. at 593; Johnson, 1998 WL 292421, at *3. As Judge Mukasey noted in Beeson, the Court's responsibility in interpreting ยง 1997e(a) is to determine the intent of Congress, not the Supreme Court, see Beeson, 28 F. Supp.2d at 890, and there is no indication that Congress intended to adopt the distinction regarding conditions-of-confinement claims and excessive ...


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