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Davila v. Schmaling

United States District Court, E.D. Wisconsin

November 22, 2017




         1. INTRODUCTION

         On December 14, 2016, Plaintiff filed his Complaint in this matter. (Docket #1). Plaintiff alleges that Defendants failed to appropriately address his self-harming activities while he was housed at Racine County Jail (the “Jail”). (Docket #21 at 3-5; Docket #55 at 2). On May 24, 2017, the Court screened Plaintiff's Second Amended Complaint and allowed him to proceed on a number of claims. (Docket #55 at 3-4). On October 6, 2017, Defendants moved for summary judgment on the basis of, inter alia, Plaintiff's failure to exhaust his administrative remedies as required by the Prison Litigation Reform Act (“PLRA”). (Docket #101 and #103). Plaintiff filed nothing in response to the motion, and his time in which to do so has long since expired. Civ. L. R. 7(b). Plaintiff's failure to oppose Defendants' motion in any form, standing alone, warrants granting the motion. Civ. L. R. 7(d). Nevertheless, on the undisputed facts presented, Plaintiff failed to exhaust his administrative remedies.[1]


         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); see 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).

         3. BACKGROUND

         3.1 Plaintiff's Failure to Dispute the Material Facts

         The relevant facts are undisputed because Plaintiff failed to dispute them. In the Court's scheduling order, entered May 11, 2017, Plaintiff was warned about the requirements for opposing a motion for summary judgment. (Docket #51 at 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. In Defendants' motion for summary judgment, they too warned Plaintiff about the requirements for his response as set forth in Federal and Local Rules 56. (Docket #101). He was provided with additional copies of those Rules along with Defendants' motion. Id. at 2-4. In connection with their motion, Defendants filed a supporting statement of material facts that complied with the applicable procedural rules. (Docket #102). 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.

         As noted above, Plaintiff filed absolutely nothing in response to Defendants' motion, much less a response to their statement of facts. Despite being twice warned of the strictures of summary judgment procedure, Plaintiff ignored those rules by failing to properly dispute Defendants' proffered facts with citations to relevant, admissible evidence. Smith v. Lamz, 321 F.3d 680, 683 (7th Cir. 2003). Though the Court is required to liberally construe a pro se plaintiff's filings, it cannot act as his lawyer, and it cannot delve through the record to find favorable evidence for him. Thus, the Court will, unless otherwise stated, deem Defendants' facts undisputed for purposes of deciding their motion for summary judgment. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(e); Civ. L. R. 56(b)(4); Hill v. Thalacker, 210 F. App'x 513, 515 (7th Cir. 2006) (noting that district courts have discretion to enforce procedural rules against pro se litigants).

         3.2 Exhaustion of Prisoner Administrative Remedies

         It is helpful to review how the PLRA's exhaustion requirement plays out in the Jail prior to relating the relevant facts. The 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); Smith v. Zachary, 255 F.3d 446, 452 (7th Cir. 2001); Burrell v. Powers, 431 F.3d 282, 284-85 (7th Cir. 2005). 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). Exhaustion is a precondition to suit; a prisoner cannot file an action prior to exhausting his administrative remedies or in anticipation that they will soon be exhausted. Hernandez v. Dart, 814 F.3d 836, 841-42 (7th Cir. 2016); Ford v. Johnson, 362 F.3d 395, 398 (7th Cir. 2004). A lawsuit must be dismissed even if the prisoner exhausts his administrative remedies during its pendency. Ford, 362 F.3d at 398.

         The Jail provides each inmate with a handbook which explains the grievance procedure.[2] When inmates believe they have a basis for a grievance, and informal resolution of the issue is not possible, they must submit a written complaint. The Jail requires inmates to use the “Inmate Request” form to offer a grievance. The grievance must be legible, include the inmate's housing location, be dated, signed, and submitted within seven days of the complained-of occurrence.

         Once completed, the grievance must be submitted to Jail staff, who conduct an initial review of the request for compliance with Jail rules. If the form is properly filled out, the receiving officer initials the form, writes down their badge number, dates the form, and forwards it on for further review. A Jail sergeant provides a response for each legitimate complaint. If the inmate is not satisfied with the sergeant's response, they may file an appeal with a Jail captain within seven days after the response was received.

         Any grievances that do not follow the above-mentioned rules or that contain threats or profanity will not receive a response. If a grievance is not considered because it was filed improperly, another grievance may be submitted, though the new grievance must comply with all requirements, including the seven-day time limitation. Inmates who need assistance in submitting a grievance or understanding the process can speak to Jail staff. Inmates who are on suicide watch status may submit a grievance by requesting the appropriate form and a pencil during their hour out of their cell. If the severity of the inmate's status is such that he ...

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