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Woods v. Crossroads Correctional Center

United States District Court, D. Montana, Great Falls Division

November 4, 2014

JEREMY C. WOODS, Plaintiff,
v.
CROSSROADS CORRECTIONAL CENTER, et al., Defendants.

ORDER

DONALD W. MOLLOY, District Judge.

Plaintiff Jeremy Woods, appearing pro se, alleges Defendants failed to protect him from an assault by another inmate in violation of the Eighth Amendment. (Complaint, Doc. 6.) Magistrate Judge Keith Strong ordered Defendants to respond to the Complaint. (Doc. 19.) Defendants moved to dismiss the case pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b) and 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(a) for failure to exhaust administrative remedies. (Doc. 21.) After the Ninth Circuit's decision in Albino v. Baca, 747 F.3d 1162 (9th Cir. 2014), the motion was construed as a motion for summary judgment. (Doc. 26.) Judge Strong entered Findings and Recommendations recommending the motion be denied. (Doc. 46.) Neither party has filed objections to Judge Strong's Findings and Recommendations.

The court reviews findings and recommendations on nondispositive motions for clear error. 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(A); McDonnell Douglas Corp. v. Commodore Bus. Mach., Inc., 656 F.2d 1309, 1313 (9th Cir. 1981). On dispositive motions, the parties are entitled to de novo review of the specified findings or recommendations to which they object, 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1); McDonnell Douglas Corp., 656 F.2d at 1313, and where there are no objections, the court is to give the level of consideration it deems appropriate, Thomas v. Arn, 474 U.S. 140, 150 (1985) ("It does not appear that Congress intended to require district court review of a magistrate's factual or legal conclusions, under a de novo or any other standard, when neither party objects to those findings."). This Court reviews for clear error. Clear error exists ifthe court is left with a "definite and firm conviction that a mistake has been committed." United States v. Syrax, 235 F.3d 422, 427 (9th Cir. 2000).

The Court finds no clear error with Judge Strong's determination that Woods sufficiently satisfied all exhaustion requirements, and the Findings and Recommendations are adopted in full. As the parties are familiar with the factual and procedural background, it will not be restated here.

I. Summary Judgment Standard

A party is entitled to summary judgment if it can demonstrate 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). Summary judgment is warranted where the documentary evidence produced by the parties permits only one conclusion. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 251 (1986). Once the moving party has satisfied its initial burden with a properly supported motion, summary judgment is appropriate unless the non-moving party designates by affidavits, depositions, answers to interrogatories or admissions on file "specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial." Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 324 (1986). The Court must view the evidence in the light most favorable to the non-moving party and draw all justifiable inferences in the non-moving party' s favor. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 255. Filings by pro se litigants are entitled to special deference and are not held to the standards offilings of attorneys. Eldridge v. Block, 832 F.2d 1132, 1137 (9th Cir. 1987).

II. Prison Litigation Reform Act Exhaustion Requirement

The Prison Litigation Reform Act's exhaustion requirement states:

No action shall be brought with respect to prison conditions under section 1983 of this title, or any other Federal law, by a prisoner confined in any jail, prison, or other correctional facility until such administrative remedies as are available are exhausted.

42 U.S.C. § 1997e(a); see also Porter v. Nussle, 534 U.S. 516, 524-25 (2002). This means a prisoner must "compl[y] with an agency's deadlines and other critical procedural rules" before bringing suit in federal court. Woodford v. Ngo, 548 U.S. 81, 90 (2006). Exhaustion is mandatory. Porter, 534 U.S. at 524.

III. Exhaustion Procedure at Crossroads Correctional Center

The administrative exhaustion procedure at Crossroads Correctional Center is Montana State Prison Procedure 3.3.3, which covers the four-step grievance process. (Crossroads's SUF, Doc. 36 at ¶ 4.) First, in order to exhaust the grievance process, an inmate must submit an Inmate/Offender Informal Resolution form within five working days of the event complained of. (Doc. 36 at ¶ 9; Procedure 3.3.3, Doc. 23-1 at 2.) Second, ifthe inmate is not satisfied with the informal resolution process, he must then file an Inmate/Offender Grievance form within five working days of receipt of the response to his informal resolution attempt. (Doc. 36 at ¶ 10; Doc. 23-1 at 3.) Third, ifthe inmate is not satisfied with the response to the formal grievance, he must then appeal to the Warden by submitting an Inmate/Offender Grievance Appeal to Warden/Administrator form within five working days ofreceipt of the response to the formal grievance. (Doc. 36 at ¶ 11; Doc. 23-1 at 4.) Finally, ifthe inmate is not satisfied with the appeal decision, he must then appeal to the Director of the Montana Department of Corrections by submitting an Inmate/Offender Grievance Appeal to Corrections Director form within five working days ofreceipt of the Warden's appeal decision. (Doc. 36 at ¶ 11; Doc. 23-1 at 6.) The Procedure further provides, "If an inmate fails to receive a timely response from a staff member as set forth in this operational procedure, the inmate may file the appropriate forms to advance to the next level of the grievance program." (Doc. 23-1 at 2.)

IV. Discussion

Defendants argue Woods failed to properly exhaust his administrative remedies because he did not timely complete the first and ...


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