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Haskell v. Strelnick

United States District Court, E.D. Wisconsin

March 20, 2018

WAYNE HASKELL, Plaintiff,
v.
KARL STRELNICK and PATRICK MURPHY, Defendants.

          ORDER

          J. P. Stadtmueller U.S. District Judge

         1. INTRODUCTION

         On December 6, 2017, the Court screened Plaintiff's complaint and allowed him to proceed on a claim under the Eighth Amendment for Defendants' deliberate indifference to his serious medical needs. (Docket #13). On February 5, 2018, Defendants moved for summary judgment on the basis of Plaintiff's failure to exhaust his administrative remedies as required by the Prison Litigation Reform Act (“PLRA”). (Docket #22). Plaintiff responded to the motion on February 27, 2018, (Docket #28), and Defendants replied on March 12, 2018, (Docket #30). For the reasons explained below, Defendants' motion must be granted.

         2. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         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).

         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 January 4, 2018, Plaintiff was warned about the requirements for opposing a motion for summary judgment. (Docket #20 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. 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 #22). He was provided with additional copies of those Rules along with Defendants' motion. Id. at 3-13. In connection with their motion, Defendants filed a supporting statement of material facts that complied with the applicable procedural rules. (Docket #24). 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.

         Plaintiff did not file a document titled as a response to Defendants' statement of facts. Instead, he filed a three-page legal brief and a three-page declaration. (Docket #28, #29). Neither complies with the above-mentioned procedural rules; Plaintiff does not attempt to respond to Defendants' proposed facts with citations to evidence. 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).[1]

         3.2 Exhaustion of Prisoner Administrative Remedies

         It will be helpful to review how the PLRA's exhaustion requirement plays out in the Wisconsin prison system 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).

         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, 255 F.3d at 450-51.

         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 Wisconsin Department of Corrections maintains an Inmate Complaint Review System (“ICRS”) to provide a forum for administrative complaints. Wis. Admin. Code § DOC 310.04. There are two steps inmates must take to exhaust their administrative remedies under the ICRS. First, the inmate must file an offender complaint with the Institution Complaint Examiner (“ICE”) within fourteen days of the events giving rise to the complaint. Id. §§ DOC 310.07(1), 310.09(6). The ICE may reject a complaint or, before accepting it, can direct the inmate to “attempt to resolve the issue.” See Id. §§ DOC 310.08, 310.09(4), 310.11(5). If the complaint is rejected, the inmate may appeal the rejection to the appropriate reviewing authority. Id. § DOC 310.11(6).[2] If the complaint is not rejected, the ICE issues a recommendation ...


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