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Carthage v. Malcomson

United States District Court, E.D. Wisconsin

October 18, 2017




         Plaintiff Charles E. Carthage, Jr. (“Carthage”), a prisoner, brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Defendants, correctional officers at the Brown County Jail and Brown County sheriff's deputies, alleging inadequate treatment of his medical needs. (Docket #26, #28). Defendants filed a motion for summary judgment on September 1, 2017, arguing in part that Carthage failed to exhaust his administrative remedies before filing suit. (Docket #38). The motion has been fully briefed, and for the reasons stated below, it will be granted.[1]


         1.1 Summary Judgment

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56 provides that the court “shall grant summary judgment 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); Boss v. Castro, 816 F.3d 910, 916 (7th Cir. 2016). A fact is “material” if it “might affect the outcome of the suit” under the applicable substantive law. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). A dispute of fact is “genuine” if “the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party.” Id. The court construes all facts and reasonable inferences in the light most favorable to the non-movant. Bridge v. New Holland Logansport, Inc., 815 F.3d 356, 360 (7th Cir. 2016).

         1.2 Exhaustion of Prisoner Administrative Remedies

         The Prison Litigation Reform Act (“PLRA”) establishes that, prior to filing a lawsuit complaining about prison conditions, a prisoner must exhaust “such administrative remedies as are available[.]” 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(a). To do so, the prisoner must “file complaints and appeals in the place, and at the time, the prison's administrative rules require, ” and he must do so precisely in accordance with those rules; substantial compliance does not satisfy the PLRA. Pozo v. McCaughtry, 286 F.3d 1022, 1025 (7th Cir. 2002); Burrell v. Powers, 431 F.3d 282, 284-85 (7th Cir. 2005). A suit must be dismissed if it was filed before exhaustion was complete, even if exhaustion is achieved before judgment is entered. Perez v. Wis. Dep't of Corr., 182 F.3d 532, 535 (7th Cir. 1999). Several important policy goals animate the exhaustion requirement, including restricting frivolous claims, giving prison officials the opportunity to address situations internally, giving the parties the opportunity to develop the factual record, and reducing the scope of litigation. Smith v. Zachary, 255 F.3d 446, 450-51 (7th Cir. 2001).

         Failure to exhaust administrative remedies is an affirmative defense to be proven by Defendants. Westefer v. Snyder, 422 F.3d 570, 577 (7th Cir. 2005). In early 2013, during the events relevant to this case, the Brown County Jail maintained a policy for inmate grievances. (Docket #41-1). At the Jail, an inmate wishing to air a grievance must file his complaint on an inmate grievance form within forty-eight hours of the incident. Id. at 2, 6-7. Grievances filed beyond the 48-hour time limit may be honored if the inmate can show good cause for the delay. Id. Once the grievance is filed and addressed, the inmate must then appeal any adverse disposition of the grievance to higher level Jail officials in order to achieve exhaustion. See Id. at 4-5.

         2. RELEVANT FACTS

         2.1 Carthage's Failure to Dispute the Material Facts

         The relevant facts are undisputed because Carthage did not properly dispute them. In the Court's scheduling order, issued March 7, 2017, Carthage was warned about the requirements for opposing a motion for summary judgment. (Docket #23 at 2-3). Accompanying that order were copies of Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56 and Civil Local Rule 56, both of which describe in detail the form and contents of a proper summary judgment submission. Most relevant here is Local Rule 56(b)(2), which obligates the non-movant on summary judgment to file “a concise response to the moving party's statement of facts that must contain a reproduction of each numbered paragraph in the moving party's statement of facts followed by a response to each paragraph, including, in the case of any disagreement, specific references to the affidavits, declarations, parts of the record, and other supporting materials relied upon[.]” Civ. L. R. 56(b)(2)(B)(i).

         Next, on September 1, 2017, Defendants filed their motion for summary judgment. (Docket #38). In the motion, Defendants also warned Carthage about the requirements for his response as set forth in Federal and Local Rules 56. Id. at 1. Copies of those Rules were provided in Defendants' motion. See Id. at 2-8. In connection with their motion, Defendants filed a supporting statement of material facts that complied with the applicable procedural rules. (Docket #40). It contained short, numbered paragraphs concisely stating those facts which Defendants proposed to be beyond dispute, with supporting citations to the attached evidentiary materials. See id.

         Despite being twice warned of the strictures of summary judgment procedure, Carthage ignored those rules by failing to dispute Defendants' proffered facts in any coherent fashion. Smith v. Lamz, 321 F.3d 680, 683 (7th Cir. 2003). Instead, Carthage's entire response to Defendants' summary-judgment submission was a six-page affidavit. (Docket #48). Most of Carthage's averments have nothing to do with exhaustion but instead touch upon the merits of his claims. See Id. ¶¶ 1-23. Of course, exhaustion of administrative remedies is not at all dependent on whether the prisoner's claims have merit.

         Moreover, to the extent that Carthage included a few statements concerning his efforts to exhaust his administrative remedies, see Id. ¶ 24, he nevertheless failed to abide by the Court's rules and submit a response to Defendants' statement of material facts accompanied by citations to admissible evidence showing that he in fact complied with the exhaustion requirement, See Civ. L. R. 56(b)(2)(B)(i). Further, his vague assertion that he “filed multiple grievances to virtually every person and possible entity I could think of, ” including Jail officials, Wisconsin senators, the Wisconsin governor, and staff at the Dodge Correctional Institution (to which he was later transferred), (Docket #48 ¶ 24), fails to demonstrate that he filed a timely grievance at the Brown ...

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