United States District Court, D. Montana, Helena Division
L. Christensen, Chief Judge
States Magistrate Judge John Johnston entered his Order,
Findings and Recommendations in this matter on October 5,
2016, recommending that Defendants' motion for summary
judgment be denied. Defendants timely filed objections and
are therefore entitled to de novo review of those Findings
and Recommendations to which they specifically object. 28
U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(C). This Court reviews for clear
error those findings and recommendations to which no party
objects. See McDonnell Douglas Corp. v. Commodore Bus.
Mack, Inc., 656 F.2d 1309, 1313 (9th Cir. 1981);
Thomas v. Am, 474 U.S. 140, 149 (1985). "Clear
error exists if the 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 parties are familiar with the facts of this case
and they will not be repeated here.
to the objections, Defendants contend that Judge Johnston
erred by concluding that Plaintiff Andrew David Conner
("Conner") provided enough information in his
grievances to allow Montana State Prison officials to respond
to the actions of the Inner-Perimeter Security
("IPS") Team. Under this general objection,
Defendants argue three specific objections where they contend
Judge Johnston erred. First, Defendants contend that Judge
Johnston erred by relying on Reyes v. Smith, 810
F.3d 654 (9th Cir. 2016), instead of Griffin v.
Arpaio, 557 F.3d 1117 (9th Cir. 2009). Second,
Defendants take issue with Judge Johnston's statement
that, "Mr. Conner clearly indicated that he felt the IPS
Team had acted inappropriately in his grievance." (Doc.
40 at 4 (citing Doc. 35 at 12).) Third, Defendants dispute
Judge Johnston's conclusion that Conner's grievance
alerted prison officials to the nature of his complaint and
allowed them to take appropriate responsive actions.
these specific objections de novo, the Court finds that they
all attempt to undercut Judge Johnston's ultimate
conclusion that prison officials had enough information to
understand that Conner was grieving the actions of the IPS
team, and not just their supervisors. The Court agrees with
Judge Johnston that Conner's grievance was sufficient.
discussed by Judge Johnston, under the Prison Litigation
Reform Act (the "PLRA"), a prisoner's grievance
need only "alert[ ] the prison to the nature of the
wrong for which redress is sought" and "provide
enough information ... to allow prison officials to take
appropriate responsive measures." Griffin, 557
F.3d at 1120-1121 (citation and internal quotation marks
omitted). This is because "[t]he primary purpose of a
grievance is to alert the prison to a problem and facilitate
its resolution, not to lay groundwork for litigation."
Id. at 1120.
Conner's first grievance clearly indicated his problem:
he was sprayed in the face with OC spray by the IPS Team
despite the fact that he has asthma. (See Doc. 28-1
at 27 (stating that prison "staff ignored the fact that
I have asthma when they insisted on spraying me in the
face").) Conner's grievance should have alerted
prison officials that he was grieving the actions of the IPS
Team, as well as the actions of their supervisors. Defendants
arguments attempt to hold Conner to a standard of clarity
that does not exist under the law. Further, Defendants'
argument that Conner's grievance was not clear enough to
alert them that he was grieving the actions of the IPS Team
is undercut by the fact that their response to his grievance
argues that the actions of the IPS Team were reasonable.
(See Id. ("[Inmate] Conner you had multiple
chances to avoid being extracted but you refused multiple
reasonable direst orders to cuff up.... In the future do not
put yourself in this type of situation.").)
Additionally, this response appeared to be authored by the
IPS Team members. (Id.) Defendants' objections
Conner objects to Judge Johnston's denial of his motion
for the appointment of counsel. Because this is a
nondispositive Order, it will be reviewed for clear error.
See 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(A). Upon clear error
review, the Court agrees with Judge Johnston that
Conner's motion should be denied because he has failed to
show exceptional circumstances justifying the appointment of
counsel. Terrell v. Brewer, 935 F.2d 1015, 1017 (9th
Cir. 1991) ("The court may appoint counsel under section
1915 only under exceptional circumstances.").
Conner's objection is overruled.
the Court reviews the remainder of Judge Johnston's
Findings and Recommendations for clear error and, finding
none, IT IS ORDERED that:
Judge Johnston's Findings and Recommendations (Doc. ...