April 29, 2013
THOMAS GOODSON, Plaintiff,
JOHN PROVOSK, JOHN RIO, L. LAVALLEY, Defendants.
THOMAS GOODSON, 90-T-1254 Attica, New York, Plaintiff pro se.
HON. ERIC T. SCHNEIDERMAN, CHRISTOPHER W. HALL, ESQ. Attorney General for the State of New York Albany, New York, Counsel for Defendants.
THÉRÈSE WILEY DANCKS, Magistrate Judge.
This pro se prisoner civil rights action, commenced pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, has been referred to me for Report and Recommendation by the Honorable David N. Hurd, United States District Judge, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b) and Local Rule 72.3(c). Plaintiff Thomas Goodson claims that Defendant Correction Officers John Rio and John Provosk subjected him to excessive force when he was an inmate at Clinton Correctional Facility. (Dkt. No. 20.) Currently pending before the Court is Defendants' motion for summary judgment pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56. (Dkt. No. 30.) For the reasons discussed below, I recommend that the Court grant Defendants' motion.
I. LEGAL STANDARD GOVERNING MOTIONS FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT
Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56, summary judgment is warranted "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). The party moving for summary judgment bears the initial burden of showing, through the production of admissible evidence, that no genuine issue of material fact exists. Salahuddin v. Goord, 467 F.3d 263, 272-73 (2d Cir. 2006). Only after the moving party has met this burden is the nonmoving party required to produce evidence demonstrating that genuine issues of material fact exist. Id. at 273. The nonmoving party must do more than "rest upon the mere allegations... of the [plaintiff's] pleading" or "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 & n.11 (1986). Rather, a dispute regarding a material fact is genuine "if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). In determining whether a genuine issue of material fact exists, the Court must resolve all ambiguities and draw all reasonable inferences against the moving party. Major League Baseball Props., Inc. v. Salvino, Inc., 542 F.3d 290, 309 (2d Cir. 2008).
Defendants argue that they are entitled to summary judgment because Plaintiff failed to exhaust his administrative remedies as required by the Prison Litigation Reform Act ("PLRA"). (Dkt. No. 30-4.) Defendants are correct.
Under the PLRA, "[n]o action shall be brought with respect to prison conditions under section 1983... 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). "[T]he PLRA's exhaustion requirement applies to all inmate suits about prison life, whether they involve general circumstances or particular episodes, and whether they allege excessive force or some other wrong." Porter v. Nussle, 534 U.S. 516, 532 (2002). In order to properly exhaust administrative remedies under the PLRA, inmates are required to complete the administrative review process in accordance with the rules applicable to the particular institution to which they are confined. Jones v. Bock, 549 U.S. 199, 218 (2007) (quoting Woodford v. Ngo, 548 U.S. 81, 88 (2006)). In New York state prisons, the Department of Corrections and Community Supervision ("DOCCS") has a well-established three-step inmate grievance program. N.Y. Comp. Codes R. & Regs. tit. 7, § 701.5 (2013).
Generally, the DOCCS Inmate Grievance Program ("IGP") involves the following procedure for the filing of grievances. First, an inmate must file a complaint with the facility's IGP clerk within twenty-one calendar days of the alleged occurrence. Id. at § 701.5(a) (2010). A representative of the facility's inmate grievance resolution committee ("IGRC") has sixteen calendar days from receipt of the grievance to informally resolve the issue. Id. at 701.5(b)(1). If there is no such informal resolution, then the full IGRC conducts a hearing within sixteen calendar days of receipt of the grievance ( Id. at § 701.5(b)(2)), and issues a written decision within two working days of the conclusion of the hearing. Id. at § 701.5(b)(3).
Second, a grievant may appeal the IGRC decision to the facility's superintendent within seven calendar days of receipt of the IGRC's written decision. Id. at 701.5(c)(1). If the grievance involves an institutional issue (as opposed to a DOCCS-wide policy issue), the superintendent must issue a written decision within twenty calendar days of receipt of the grievant's appeal. Id. at § 701.5(c)(3)(ii). Grievances regarding DOCCS-wide policy issues are forwarded directly to the central office review committee ("CORC") for a decision under the process applicable to the third step. Id. at 701.5(c)(3)(i).
Third, a grievant may appeal to CORC within seven working days of receipt of the superintendent's written decision. Id. at 701.5(d)(1)(i). CORC is to render a written decision within thirty calendar days of receipt of the appeal. Id. at 701.5(d)(3)(ii).
An inmate may seek an extension of the time limits in writing at any of the steps, but such a request must be made within forty-five days of the incident being grieved or the decision being appealed. N.Y. Comp. Codes R. & Regs. tit. 7, § 701.6(g) (2013). If an inmate believes that an extension was wrongly denied, he may file a separate grievance protesting the denial. Id.
If a prisoner has failed to properly follow each of the applicable steps prior to commencing litigation, he has failed to exhaust his administrative remedies. Woodford, 548 U.S. at 93.
Here, the undisputed evidence shows that Plaintiff did not exhaust his administrative remedies. Karen Bellamy, the Director of the IGP, declares that Plaintiff never filed any appeal with CORC regarding the alleged use of force. (Dkt. No. 30-3 ¶¶ 5-11.) Ms. Bellamy further declares that on February 1, 2008, she wrote a letter to Plaintiff informing him that there was no record of him filing any such appeal and that he should follow up with the IGP supervisor at his facility. Id. ¶¶ 12-13. There is no evidence that Plaintiff did so. Therefore, Plaintiff did not receive a decision from CORC and, accordingly, did not properly exhaust his administrative remedies.
Plaintiff's failure to exhaust, however, does not end the inquiry. The Second Circuit has held that a three-part inquiry is appropriate where a prisoner has failed to exhaust his available administrative remedies. Hemphill v. New York, 380 F.3d 680, 686, 691 (2d Cir. 2004).
First, "the court must ask whether [the] administrative remedies [not pursued by the prisoner] were in fact available' to the prisoner." Hemphill, 380 F.3d at 686 (citation omitted). Second, if those remedies were available, "the court should... inquire as to whether [some or all of] the defendants may have forfeited the affirmative defense of non-exhaustion by failing to raise or preserve it... or whether the defendants' own actions inhibiting the [prisoner's] exhaustion of remedies may estop one or more of the defendants from raising the plaintiff's failure to exhaust as a defense." Id. (citations omitted). Third, if the remedies were available and some of the defendants did not forfeit, and were not estopped from raising, the non-exhaustion defense, "the court should consider whether special circumstances' have been plausibly alleged that justify the prisoner's failure to comply with the administrative procedural requirements." Id. (citations and internal quotations omitted).
Here, Plaintiff has not provided any evidence suggesting that the Court should excuse his failure to properly exhaust his administrative remedies. Plaintiff has not opposed the motion for summary judgment, despite being warned of the consequences of failing to respond (Dkt. No. 32) and being granted an extension of time in which to do so (Text Order Oct. 23, 2012). An independent review of the record reveals no evidence suggesting that Plaintiff's failure to exhaust should be excused. Therefore, this action should be dismissed because Plaintiff failed to exhaust his administrative remedies.
ACCORDINGLY, it is
RECOMMENDED that Defendants' motion for summary judgment (Dkt. No. 30) be GRANTED.
Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1), the parties have fourteen days within which to file written objections to the foregoing report. Such objections shall be filed with the Clerk of the Court. FAILURE TO OBJECT TO THIS REPORT WITHIN FOURTEEN DAYS WILL PRECLUDE APPELLATE REVIEW. Roldan v. Racette, 984 F.2d 85 (2d Cir. 1993) (citing Small v. Sec'y of Health and Human Servs., 892 F.2d 15 (2d Cir. 1989) (per curiam)); 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1); Fed.R.Civ.P. 72, 6(a).