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United States District Court, Southern District of New York

March 16, 2000


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



Thomas A. Beatty ("Beatty" or "Plaintiff"), an inmate at Sing Sing Correctional Facility ("Sing Sing"), filed this action on or about March 24, 1998, against Glenn Goord, Commissioner of the New York State Department of Correctional Services ("DOCS"); Dr. Lester Wright, Associate Commissioner/Chief Medical Officer of DOCS; Dr. Satish Kapoor, former Medical Director at Sing Sing, Dr. Ernest Lofton, current Medical Director at Sing Sing, and Dr. Tint Maw, who was employed on the medical staff at Sing Sing (collectively, "Defendants"), pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983.*fn1 Plaintiff contends that Defendants have been deliberately indifferent to his need for urological treatment and, therefore, have violated the Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution.*fn2 Plaintiff seeks, inter alia, "actual and punitive damages against defendants Kapoor, Maw and Wright" and an "Order from the Court requiring defendants Goord and Lofton to ensure that plaintiff continues to receive all urological treatment as ordered by his physicians . . ." (Complaint at 11).

Defendants now move for summary judgment pursuant to Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure ("Fed.R. Civ.P."), asserting, among other things, that Plaintiff has failed to exhaust available administrative remedies as required under the Prison Litigation Reform Act ("PLRA"), 42 U.S.C. § 1997e et seq. For the reasons set forth below, Defendants' motion for summary judgment is granted.

Summary Judgment Standard

Summary judgment may be granted only when there are no genuine issues of material fact in dispute and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. See Fran Corp. v. United States, 164 F.3d 814, 816 (2d Cir. 1999). See also Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 247-48, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986). In assessing whether summary judgment is appropriate, the Court must "`resolve all ambiguities and draw all reasonable inferences against the moving party.'" See Fran Corp., 164 F.3d at 816 (citation omitted). However, Fed.R.Civ.P. 56 jurisprudence is clear "that the mere existence of some alleged factual dispute between the parties will not defeat an otherwise properly supported motion for summary judgment; the requirement is that there be no genuine issue of material fact." Anderson, 477 U.S. at 247-48, 106 S.Ct. 2505. The non-moving party "must do more than simply show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts." Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586, 106 S.Ct. 1348, 89 L.Ed.2d 538 (1986).


Defendants argue here that Plaintiff's (acknowledged) failure to exhaust available administrative remedies, as required under the PLRA, mandates dismissal of this action.*fn3 (Defendants' ("Def.") Moving Br. at 4-6). Plaintiff counters that the PLRA exhaustion requirement is not applicable because: (i) Plaintiff had sought to incorporate the substance of the instant action in his prior action (Beatty I) which was filed prior to enactment of the PLRA and was told by the Court (Cote, J.) that he could commence this action separately without any reference to (exhaustion) preconditions; (ii) there are no administrative remedies available to Plaintiff; and (iii) Plaintiff made every reasonable effort to resolve his complaints internally at Sing Sing. (Pl. Opp; Br. at 13-15). Plaintiff also argues that dismissing the instant complaint for failure to exhaust available administrative remedies would serve no useful purpose.*fn4


The PLRA requires, in relevant part, that "[n]o action shall be brought with respect to prison conditions under section 1983 of this title, 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).*fn5 "Congress enacted this mandatory exhaustion requirement in section 1997e(a) as part of the PLRA's effort to curtail frivolous and abusive prisoner litigation." Alexander v. Hawk, 159 F.3d 1321, 1324 (11th Cir. 1998), rehearing en banc denied by, 172 F.3d 884 (11th Cir. 1999) (citation omitted).*fn6 See also Beeson v. Fishkill Correctional Facility, 28 F. Supp.2d 884, 891 (S.D.N.Y. 1998) ("[t]he co-sponsors of the PLRA . . . offered both the reduction of frivolous lawsuits and the end of judicial micromanagement as dual purposes of the Act") (citation omitted).

PLRA Exhaustion Applies to Cases Filed On or After April 26, 1996

The exhaustion requirement applies to cases, such as this one, "filed on or after the April 26, 1996 effective date of the PLRA." White v. McGinnis, 131 F.3d 593, 595 (6th Cir. 1997). The instant action, as noted, was filed on March 24, 1998, almost two years after the PLRA effective date. Plaintiffs argument that he should be exempt from the PLRA exhaustion requirement because Beatty I was filed before April 26, 1996 is unavailing. (Pl. Opp. Br. at 13). First, Beatty I was a separate action brought against different defendants and involving conduct at a different correctional facility over a different period of time. Second, Judge Cote expressly denied Plaintiffs motion to amend his complaint in Beatty I to incorporate his present claims. See Beatty, 1997 WL 605112 at *7 ("the Court denies leave to amend to add claims for the care received at Sing Sing").*fn7 And, even if Judge Cote had granted Plaintiff leave to amend his complaint in Beatty I, it is not certain that Plaintiff would have been "exempt" from the exhaustion requirement of the PLRA. See Braun v. Stotts, 1997 WL 383034 at *2 (Kan. June 19, 1997), aff'd, 134 F.3d 382 (10th Cir. 1998), cert. denied, 525 U.S. 1025, 119 S.Ct. 558, 142 L.Ed.2d 465 (1998) ("[t]he court finds that section 1997e(a), as amended, applies to Braun's post-PLRA amended complaint and, therefore, requires him to exhaust all available administrative remedies").

"Availability" of Administrative Remedies

Plaintiff also asserts that the PLRA's exhaustion requirement does not apply because there are no administrative remedies available to him. At the time the instant action was commenced, Plaintiff was "only seeking redress in the form of monetary damages . . ." (Pl. Opp. Br. at 14).*fn8 As to the monetary damages portion of Plaintiffs claim, "the clear trend among district courts in the Southern District of New York is to find exhaustion applicable even where the requested relief, money damages, cannot be awarded by the administrative body hearing the complaint." Santiago v. Meinsen, 2000 WL 223830 at *5 (S.D.N.Y. Feb. 25, 2000). See also Perez, 182 F.3d at 537 ("§ 1997e(a) does not require the prison to use the prisoner's preferred remedy"); Alexander, 159 F.3d at 1326 ("the term `available' in section 1997e(a) is used to acknowledge that not all prisons actually have administrative remedy programs").*fn9

The arguments in favor of PLRA exhaustion are, if anything, more compelling here because Plaintiff is also seeking injunctive relief. See Nyhuis v. Reno, 204 F.3d 65, 70 (3d Cir. 2000) ("[n]o court of appeals interpreting the PLRA has recognized a futility exception to [§] 1997e(a)'s exhaustion requirement in a mixed claim case"). Even those courts that have held that the PLRA exhaustion requirement is inapplicable when an inmate is seeking exclusively monetary damages, have held that PLRA exhaustion is required when an inmate seeks both monetary and injunctive relief. See Whitley v. Hunt, 158 F.3d 882, 887 (5th Cir. 1998) ("a state prisoner's mixed petition for both monetary and injunctive relief is subject to § 1997e's exhaustion requirement"). Indeed, Sing Sing's grievance procedures may very well be able to address if not resolve Plaintiff's requests for additional urological care without the need for Federal injunctive remedies.

There are a number of important reasons which support exhaustion of administrative remedies. First, an exhaustion requirement "better serves the policy of granting an agency the `opportunity to correct its own mistakes with respect to the programs it administers before it is haled into federal court.'" Beeson, 28 F. Supp.2d at 895 (citation omitted). Second, an exhaustion requirement "better avoids the possibility that frequent and deliberate flouting of [prison] administrative processes could weaken the effectiveness of [those prisons] by encouraging people to ignore [their] procedures." Id. (citing Kobleur v. Group Hospitalization & Med. Servs., Inc., 954 F.2d 705, 712 (11th Cir. 1992)) (quotations omitted). Third, an exhaustion requirement "promotes judicial efficiency." Beeson, 28 F. Supp.2d at 895. Fourth, even if no relief is granted, "a prisoner's resort to the administrative process is not futile, but allows grievances to be heard and a record to be created for review in any subsequent proceeding." Alexander, 159 F.3d at 1327. See also Beeson, 28 F. Supp.2d at 895 ("[t]he administrative process can serve to focus and clarify the issues for a court . . .").*fn10

Thus, the Court here is persuaded that the PLRA exhaustion requirement applies to Plaintiffs claims — all the more so because of Plaintiffs request for an injunctive remedy. Indeed, "[t]o hold otherwise would frustrate congressional intent as the exhaustion requirement could be easily bypassed by inmates simply by adding a claim for monetary relief." Santiago, 89 F. Supp.2d at 440 (citation omitted). See also Beeson, 28 F. Supp.2d at 893 ("exempting [claims for monetary damages] would enable prisoners to evade the exhaustion requirement easily, merely by including a request for monetary damages in their complaints"); Perez, 182 F.3d at 537 ("[s]ection 1997e would not be worth much if prisoners could evade it simply by asking for relief that the administrative process is unable to provide").*fn11

Plaintiff Must Comply with Formal Grievance Procedures

Plaintiff also claims that, although he elected not to utilize the formal grievance procedures available at Sing Sing, he "effectively grieve[d] his complaints in a timely fashion to the appropriate prison officials" by writing letters to Dr. Kapoor, who was then the Medical Director at Sing Sing; John P. Keane, who was then the Superintendent of Sing Sing; and Phillip Coombe, the Acting Commissioner of DOCS. (Pl. Opp. Br. at 13-14). This was not sufficient to comply with the Inmate Grievance Program. See Santiago, at 439 ("New York State has procedures for filing grievances in each of its correctional facilities"). Under the Inmate Grievance Program, "[a]n inmate must submit a complaint to the Grievance Clerk within 14 calendar days of an alleged occurrence . . ." 7 N.Y.Comp.Codes R. & Regs., tit. 7, § 701.7(a)(1). See also Santiago, at 435 (plaintiff "was required to submit a complaint to the Grievance Clerk within fourteen days of the alleged incident").

Here, it is undisputed that Plaintiff was aware of the formal grievance procedures available at both Sing Sing and Green Haven. Indeed, he had filed grievances at both places in the past. (Defendants' Rule 56.1 Statement at ¶ 14) (Plaintiff's Rule 56.1 Statement at ¶ 14). In his affidavit, Sean Kober, ("Kober"), the current Inmate Grievance Supervisor at Sing Sing, stated that "[p]laintiff filed one grievance at Sing Sing. It did not relate to urology or claimed lack of medical treatment or care by the medical staff." (Kober Aff. at ¶ 5). Plaintiff "has never filed a grievance relating to any events surrounding his urological medical care or treatment, or concerning his urological condition. Further, no grievances have been filed alleging neglect, indifference, or lack of care by Doctors Maw, Kapoor, Wright, or Lofton, nor Commissioner Goord." (Kober Aff. at ¶ 8).

The PLRA exhaustion requirement is useful "because prisoners will be forced to report their complaints to prison officials promptly or risk forfeiture of their claims, strict adherence to the PLRA's exhaustion requirement will likely result in a more efficient grievance procedure and, as a consequence, lead to the improvement of prison conditions." Beeson, 28 F. Supp.2d at 895. Permitting Plaintiff to bypass the Inmate Grievance Program, as he chooses, would undermine the (important) objective of creating an efficient and effective prison grievance mechanism.*fn12 Cf. Santiago, at 435 (finding that plaintiff failed to exhaust administrative remedies because "he did not pursue his claim with the appropriate grievance committee" pursuant to the Inmate Grievance Program); McCoy v. D. Scott, 1997 WL 414185 at *2 (N.D.Cal. July 15, 1997) ("the court finds that [plaintiff] has failed to allege exhaustion of all available administrative remedies; that is, that he pursued his claim all the way through the third level of review" pursuant to the California Code of Regulations).

Accordingly, Plaintiffs complaint is dismissed (without prejudice) for failure to exhaust available administrative remedies pursuant to the PLRA. As a prerequisite to re-filing this case in Federal court, Plaintiff is directed to file and pursue a grievance pursuant to the Inmate Grievance Program. The Court notes that, while an inmate must ordinarily submit a complaint to the Grievance Clerk within fourteen (14) calendar days of an alleged occurrence, "[e]xceptions to this time limit may be approved by the IGP [Inmate Grievance Program] supervisor based on mitigating circumstances (e.g., attempts to resolve informally by the inmate, referrals back to the IGP by the courts, etc.)." N.Y.Comp.Codes R. & Regs. tit. 7, § 701.7(a)(1).


For the foregoing reasons, Defendants' motion for summary judgment [14-1] is granted and Plaintiffs complaint is dismissed without prejudice. The Clerk is respectfully directed to close this case.

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