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Sledge v. Dyson

United States District Court, W.D. Tennessee, Western Division

February 7, 2018




         Before the Court is the Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 22) of Defendants David Dyson and Demetrius Haley (“Defendants”).[1] Plaintiff Cordarlrius Sledge (“Plaintiff”) filed his pro se Complaint (ECF No. 1), alleging Defendants, corrections officers at the facility in which he was imprisoned, violated his civil rights. Defendants now seek the dismissal of all claims brought against them in that Complaint because Plaintiff failed to exhaust his remedies as he was required to do under the Prison Litigation Reform Act, 42 U.S.C. § 1997e (the “PLRA”). Plaintiff has filed no response. For reasons set forth below, the instant Motion is GRANTED. All of Plaintiff's claims against Defendants are hereby DISMISSED. As a result, the Court's prior Reference (ECF No. 29) of Defendants' Motion to Compel (ECF No. 28) to the Magistrate Judge is WITHDRAWN. And the Motion to Compel is DENIED as moot.

         I. BACKGROUND

         A. Procedural Posture

         Plaintiff filed his pro se Complaint (ECF No. 1) on April 19, 2016. The Court is required screen to prisoner complaints, dismissing them or portions thereof if they are frivolous or otherwise fail to state a remediable claim for relief. See 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2)(B), 1915A(b). The Court screened Plaintiff's Complaint in this case, dismissing one defendant in its April 26, 2017 Order (ECF No. 11). And in doing so, the Court also ordered that process be served upon the remaining Defendants. Not long thereafter, Defendants filed an Answer (ECF No. 15) to the pro se Complaint. On October 24, 2017, Defendants filed the present Motion (ECF No. 22). Plaintiff, however, did not file a response. Despite the fact that the period to respond had long since elapsed, the Court gave Plaintiff another chance in its January 3, 2018 Order (ECF No. 30), warning Plaintiff that failure to respond would result in the Court regarding Defendants' Statement of Facts as undisputed in its entirety. Plaintiff still has not responded.

         Defendants also filed a Motion to Compel Discovery on January 3, 2018 (ECF No. 28). On the same day, the Court referred that Motion to the Magistrate Judge (ECF No. 29).

         B. Undisputed Facts

         The following facts are undisputed by the parties.[2] See Def. Dyson and Haley's Statement of Undisputed Material Facts, Oct. 24, 2017, ECF No. 22-2 [hereinafter “Defs.' Statement of Facts”]; Order Directing Pl. to Show Cause, Jan. 3, 2018, ECF No. 30. Plaintiff was an inmate housed by the Shelby County Division of Corrections, 1045 Mullins Station Road, Memphis, TN 38134 (the “DOC”) at the time he filed this lawsuit. Plaintiff alleges that certain officers employed by the DOC, including Defendants, assaulted Plaintiff while he was an inmate. Plaintiff further alleges that this incident occurred on May 16, 2015 (the “Incident”). DOC Policy 323 (“Policy 323”) governs the submission by inmates of complaints or grievances concerning actions by staff that negatively affect inmates. The version of Policy 323 that was in effect at the time of the Incident took effect on April 27, 2015. The rules governing inmate grievances, as explained in Policy 323, are included in the DOC Inmate Handbook. Each inmate receives an Inmate Handbook upon arrival at the DOC. The grievance process is available to every inmate. The grievance process was available to Plaintiff on and after the date of the Incident. Grievance forms and submission boxes for those forms are located throughout the prison and are available to all inmates. The submission boxes are locked so that forms can be inserted into them but cannot be removed from them without a key. DOC mail clerks, but no other individuals, have keys to the submission boxes. Policy 323 covers four types of grievances: (1) line grievances, (2) medical grievances, (3) confidential grievances, and (4) emergency grievances. Plaintiff's allegations constituted a confidential grievance. Policy 323 requires inmates to submit any grievance, including confidential grievances, within thirty days of the alleged incident giving rise to the grievance. An inmate must sign and submit his own grievance form. Inmates may not use disciplinary appeal forms to substitute for, or double as, grievance forms. The DOC Inmate Grievance Department (the “Department”) maintains all grievances submitted by inmates. Tonya Beasley is the supervisor of the Department. The Department maintains Plaintiff's entire grievance file.

         On May 27, 2015, Plaintiff submitted an appeal of discipline against him stemming from the Incident. Plaintiff's submission was an appeal of a decision to administer discipline to Plaintiff. Plaintiff sent a letter dated February 29, 2016, regarding the Incident, which the Department received on or about March 3, 2016. Plaintiff sent a second letter dated March 7, 2016, which the Department received on or about that same day. In addition to Plaintiff's letters, several other inmates sent a letter-dated May 19, 2015-about the Incident to DOC Director William Gupton, attorney Arthur Horne, the DOC's Office of Professional Standards, Fox 13 News, and Mayor Mark Luttrell. Plaintiff did not sign this letter. Plaintiff submitted no other grievance documents regarding the Incident.


         Summary judgment is proper where the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56. When deciding a motion for summary judgment, the Court must review all the evidence, viewing it in a light most favorable to the nonmoving party and also drawing all reasonable inferences in that party's favor. Roell v. Hamilton Cty., 870 F.3d 471, 479 (6th Cir. 2017) (citing Watson v. Cartee, 817 F.3d 299, 302 (6th Cir. 2016)); Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986). The Court “may not make credibility determinations []or weigh the evidence.” Laster v. City of Kalamazoo, 746 F.3d 714, 726 (6th Cir. 2014). “The burden is generally on the moving party to show that no genuine issue of material fact exists, but that burden may be discharged by ‘showing . . . that there is an absence of evidence to support the nonmoving party's case.'” Bennett v. City of Eastpointe, 410 F.3d 810, 817 (6th Cir. 2005) (quoting Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 324 (1986)). When the motion is supported by documentary proof such as depositions and affidavits, the nonmoving party may not rest on his pleadings but instead must present some “specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.” Celotex Corp., 477 U.S. at 324; Eastham v. Chesapeake Appalachia, L.L.C., 754 F.3d 356, 360 (6th Cir. 2014). These facts must be more than a scintilla of evidence and must meet the standard of whether a reasonable juror could find by a preponderance of the evidence that the nonmoving party is entitled to a verdict in his favor. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 252 (1986). The Court must, however, enter summary judgment “against a party who fails to . . . [meet the burden] that party will bear . . . at trial.” Celotex Corp, 477 U.S. at 322.

         III. ANALYSIS

         Plaintiff's pro se Complaint is captioned as a “Complaint for Violation of Civil Rights Under 42 U.S.C. § 1983.” Pro Se Complaint, at 1, Apr. 19, 2016, ECF No. 1. Plaintiff alleges that Defendants entered the area he was located in for a random search because they claimed to have seen smoke. Id. at 2. Plaintiff was then strip-searched by Defendants. Id. Plaintiff says that Defendants claimed Plaintiff tried to flush contraband immediately preceding or during the search. Id. Then, according to the allegations of the pro se Complaint, Defendants Haley and McClain punched Plaintiff in the face. Id. Defendant Dyson picked Plaintiff up and slammed him face first into the sink and then the floor. Id. Plaintiff claims to have then lost consciousness, waking up in the institution's medical center. Id. Plaintiff ultimately seeks to have “Defendants . . . held [accountable] for their actions.” Id. at 3.

         Defendants move for summary judgment solely on the basis that Plaintiff has failed to satisfy the exhaustion requirement set forth in the PLRA. See Mem. in Supp. of Defs. David Dyson and Demetrius Haley's Mot. for Summ. J. Based on Pl.'s Failure to Exhaust Administrative Remedies, at 6-10, Oct. 24, 2017, ECF No. 22-1 [hereinafter “Defs' Mot. for Summ. J.”]. Plaintiff, despite the entry of a Show Cause Order, has failed to respond. Plaintiff's failure is not, however, good grounds for granting the Motion. See W.D. Tenn. R. 7.2(a)(2). Therefore, the Court is given the difficult task of considering Defendants' Motion on the merits without “the crucible of meaningful adversarial testing.” United States v. Cronic, 466 U.S. 648, 656 (1984) (discussing the right to counsel). “The dilemma thereby created for the Court . . . [involves] playing ‘devil's advocate' on behalf of the disinterested [party], while at the same ...

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