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Walker-Hall v. Syed

United States District Court, E.D. Wisconsin

April 26, 2018



          J.P. Stadtmueller U.S. District Judge

         1. INTRODUCTION

         Plaintiff Donovan Walker-Hall (“Walker-Hall”), a prisoner who is representing himself, brought this action alleging that the defendants were deliberately indifferent to his serious medical condition, in violation of the Eighth Amendment. Specifically, Walker-Hall alleges that beginning in August 2016, while he was incarcerated at Waupun Correctional Institution (“WCI”), defendants Dr. Salem Syed (“Dr. Syed”) and Emily Stadtmueller (“Stadtmueller”) withheld his pain medication as a way to coerce him to take medication for his sickle cell anemia, despite Walker-Hall's stated concerns about the stroke risk associated with that medication. Walker-Hall also alleges that defendant Ann York (“York”), RN Gela (“Gela”), and Jane Doe failed to address his complaints of pain after he informed them that the treatment they were offering him was ineffective. Finally, Walker-Hall alleges that Dr. John Doe failed to treat his pain when Walker-Hall was hospitalized at Waupun Memorial Hospital.[1]

         On March 9, 2018, the defendants filed a motion for partial summary judgment as to Walker-Hall's claims against Stadtmueller and York on the ground that Walker-Hall did not properly exhaust his administrative remedies as to those claims. (Docket #20). That motion is now fully briefed. (Docket #20-#23 and #25-31). For the reasons explained below, it will be granted.[2]


         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56 provides the mechanism for seeking summary judgment. Rule 56 states 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 “genuine” dispute of material fact is created when “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). The Court construes all facts and reasonable inferences in a light most favorable to the non-movant. Bridge v. New Holland Logansport, Inc., 815 F.3d 356, 360 (7th Cir. 2016).

         3. BACKGROUND

         The Court begins here with a primer on the law related to the requirement that a prisoner exhaust available administrative remedies before filing suit in federal court. This will place in proper context the facts relevant to the pending motion.

         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).

         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.[3] There are two steps an inmate 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).[4] If the complaint is not rejected, the ICE issues a recommendation for disposing of the complaint, either dismissal or affirmance, to the reviewing authority. Id. §§ DOC 310.07(2), 310.11. The reviewing authority may accept or reject the ICE's recommendation. Id. § DOC 310.07(3).

         Second, if the ICE recommends dismissal and the reviewing authority accepts it, the inmate may appeal the decision to the Corrections Complaint Examiner (“CCE”). Id. §§ DOC 310.07(6), 310.13. The CCE issues a recommendation to the Secretary of the Department of Corrections who may accept or reject it. Id. §§ DOC 310.07(7), 310.13, 310.14. Upon receiving the Secretary's decision, or after forty-five days from the date the Secretary received the recommendation, the inmate's administrative remedies are exhausted. Id. §§ DOC 310.07(7), 310.14.

         4. RELEVANT FACTS

         At all times relevant, Walker-Hall was an inmate at housed at WCI. Stadtmueller and York were nurses at WCI. Stadtmueller informed Walker-Hall by memorandum dated August 24, 2016 that he would not be given narcotic pain medication if he refused to take medication for his sickle cell anemia. (Docket #22-2 at 10). Walker-Hall alleges that York then refused to give him ...

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