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Walker v. Mason

United States District Court, W.D. Wisconsin

November 17, 2017

LA'MONT WALKER, Plaintiff,
v.
SARA MASON, TIMOTHY HAINES, GARY BOUGHTON, LEBBEUS BROWN, and JERRY SWEENEY, Defendants.[1]

          OPINION & ORDER

          JAMES D. PETERSON, DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Plaintiff La'Mont Walker is a prisoner currently housed at the Wisconsin Secure Program Facility (WSPF). Walker alleges that prison officials wrongfully designated him as a gang member and placed him in administrative confinement there for more than three years. Defendants have filed a motion for summary judgment based on Walker's failure to exhaust his administrative remedies regarding these claims. I will grant that motion in part, dismissing Walker's claims regarding his initial placement in administrative confinement, but allowing him to continue with claims about the periodic reviews of his placement over the next few years. Walker has also filed a motion for leave to amend his complaint and a motion regarding tampering or withholding of documents. I will deny both of those motions.[2]

         A. Exhaustion

         1. Undisputed facts

         Pro se plaintiff La'Mont Walker has been confined at WSPF from December 2010 to the present. In December 2011, Walker was recommended for placement into administrative confinement on the ground that he presented a substantial risk of serious physical harm to other inmates and staff. Walker had a large number of disciplinary infractions over the preceding 18 months. Walker believes this was in part due to an erroneous determination that he was involved in gang-related activity.

         On December 23, 2011, The Administrative Confinement Review Committee (ACRC) reviewed the records and recommended that Walker be placed in administrative confinement. Under Wisconsin Administrative Code § DOC 308.04(9), an inmate may appeal the ACRC decision to the warden and then to an “administrator.” Walker did not appeal this decision. After an inmate exhausts this process, the Wisconsin Administrative Code also allows inmates to use Inmate Complaint Review System (ICRS) grievances to challenge the procedure used in the administrative confinement review process. Wis. Admin. Code § DOC 310.08(3).

         An inmate's status in administrative confinement is reviewed at least every six months by the ACRC. Wis. Admin. Code § DOC 308.04(10). After an inmate has been in administrative confinement for 12 months or longer, the ACRC's decisions are automatically reviewed by the warden and administrator. Wis. Admin. Code § DOC 308.04(11). An inmate may also file a procedure-based grievance through the ICRS. Id. Walker filed a series of ICRS grievances in the months and years following his initial confinement, none of which were successful. Walker served a total of about three and one-half years in administrative confinement.

         2. Analysis

         Defendants have filed a motion for summary judgment on the ground that Walker failed to exhaust his administrative remedies on his due process claims.

         Under the Prison Litigation Reform Act, “[n]o action shall be brought with respect to prison conditions . . . until such administrative remedies are exhausted.” 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(a). The exhaustion requirement is mandatory and “applies to all inmate suits.” Woodford v. Ngo, 548 U.S. 81 (2006); Porter v. Nussle, 534 U.S. 516, 524 (2002). The exhaustion requirement's primary purpose is to “alert[ ] the state” to the problem “and invit[e] corrective action.” Riccardo v. Rausch, 375 F.3d 521, 524 (7th Cir. 2004).

         Section 1997e(a) requires “proper exhaustion, ” Woodford, 548 U.S. at 93; Pozo v. McCaughtry, 286 F.3d 1022, 1025 (7th Cir. 2002), which means that the prisoner must follow prison rules when filing the initial grievance and all necessary appeals, “in the place, and at the time, the prison's administrative rules require.” Burrell v. Powers, 431 F.3d 282, 284-85 (7th Cir. 2005). “[A] prisoner who does not properly take each step within the administrative process has failed to exhaust state remedies.” Pozo, 286 F.3d at 1024.

         Because exhaustion is an affirmative defense, defendants bear the burden of establishing that Walker failed to exhaust his available remedies. Jones v. Bock, 549 U.S. 199, 216 (2007). At the summary judgment stage, they must show that there is no genuine dispute of material fact and that they are entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c); Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986).

         The state contends that Walker has failed to exhaust all of his claims because he failed to appeal his initial placement in administrative confinement. Walker concedes that he did not appeal the initial ACRC decision. I agree with the state that Walker's failure to appeal his initial placement means that he has failed to exhaust his administrative remedies with regard to the initial placement, because he failed to pursue the administrative remedies afforded to him by the state.

         But this case is not just about Walker's initial placement in administrative confinement. It is about his continued, three-and-one-half-year placement. See Hewitt v. Helms,459 U.S. 460, 477 n.9 (1983) (inmates have due process right to periodic review of administrative segregation placement), abrogated in part on other grounds by Sandin v. Conner,515 U.S. 472 (1995). In particular, Walker brings claims that defendants continued to keep him in administrative confinement as a “gang member” even though he was ...


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