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Mathewson v. Core Civic Corp.

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

February 1, 2019

ROBERT J. MATHEWSON, JR., Plaintiff,
v.
CORE CIVIC CORPORATION aka CORRECTIONS CORPORATION OF AMERICA, CHIEF BRENT MADRID, LT. BUSHMAN-WEAVER, and KARI ALSTEAD aka KARI KENYON, Defendants.

          FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS OF UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

          JOHN JOHNSTON, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         Plaintiff Robert Mathewson filed a Complaint alleging Defendants violated his rights under the First Amendment, Fourteenth Amendment (Equal Protection and Due Process), and the corresponding statutory protections under the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act of 2000, 42 U.S.C. § 2000cc-1 (RLUIPA) (Doc. 2). Defendant Kari Alstad filed a motion for summary judgment (Doc. 9) which was joined by the CoreCivic Defendants (Doc. 15) arguing that Mr. Mathewson failed to exhaust his administrative remedies with regard to his claims. Mr. Mathewson filed a response and a cross motion for summary judgment on the same issue. (Docs. 18, 19.)

         Having considered the parties' arguments and submissions, the Court finds that Defendants have not met their burden of demonstrating that Mr. Mathewson failed to properly utilize available administrative remedies. Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. 9) should be denied and Mr. Mathewson's Cross Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. 18) should be granted.

         I. SUMMARY JUDGMENT STANDARD

         The Ninth Circuit in Albino v. Baca, 747 F.3d 1162 (9th Cir. 2014) (en banc), held that the proper procedural device for determining whether administrative remedies have been exhausted is a motion for summary judgment. Id. at 1168. Summary judgment is appropriate if there is no genuine issue of material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). The party moving for summary judgment has the initial burden of showing there is no genuine issue of material fact. Adickes v. S.H. Kress & Co., 398 U.S. 144, 157 (1970). If the moving party makes a prima facie showing that summary judgment is appropriate, the burden shifts to the opposing party to show the existence of a genuine issue of material fact. Id. On summary judgment, all inferences should be drawn in the light most favorable to the party opposing summary judgment. Id. at 159.

         A fact is material if it might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). A dispute about a material fact is genuine “if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party.” Id.

         II. FACTS

         The administrative grievance procedure at Crossroads Correctional Center (CCC) is Montana State Prison Procedure 3.3.3 (MSP Procedure 3.3.3) as mandated by CCA's contract with the State of Montana. MSP Procedure 3.3.3 was in force and effect at all times that Mr. Mathewson was incarcerated at CCC. (Defendants' Statement of Undisputed Facts, Doc. 11 at ¶¶ 2-3.) The issues Mr. Mathewson raises in his Complaint are among the “grievable issues” included in the scope of issues that must be properly grieved prior to filing a court action. (Defendants' Statement of Undisputed Facts, Doc. 11 at ¶ 5.)

         In order to exhaust the grievance process at CCC, an inmate is required to first submit an Inmate/Offender Resolution Form (“Informal”) within five working days of the event complained of. If an inmate is not satisfied with the informal resolution process and wishes to exhaust administrative remedies, he is required to file a formal grievance within five days of the response to his Informal. If the inmate is not satisfied with the response to his formal grievance, in order to exhaust administrative remedies he must appeal the grievance decision first to the Warden by submitting an Inmate/Offender Grievance Appeal to Warden/ Administrator Form within five days of the response to the formal grievance. If the inmate is still unsatisfied at that stage of the process, in order to exhaust administrative remedies, he must appeal the Warden's decision to the MDOC Director by submitting an Inmate/Offender Grievance Appeal to Corrections Director form. The MDOC Director's “response is final, and exhausts all administrative remedies available to the inmate through the inmate grievance program.” (Defendants' Statement of Undisputed Facts, Doc. 11 at ¶¶ 6-9.)

         Mr. Mathewson filed an informal resolution form on September 29, 2017, stating: “On 9-28-17 Shelby Facility Officer Busman threaten me to destroy my Eagle fether [sic] prayer fan that ether I tear apart the feathers or go to the hold RHH and get a major right [sic] up. So I broke the handle and gave it to her.” Mr. Mathewson requested “an investigation.” The Response on the form indicates: The action you request is . . . appropriate because: staff will investigate the grievance and an appropriate action will be conducted.” (September 29, 2017 Informal Resolution Form, Doc. 2-1.)

         On October 5, 2017, Unit Manager B. Johnson wrote an investigation summary memorandum. As part of his investigation, Unit Manager Johnson met with Mr. Mathewson and CCC staff. Unit Manager Johnson concluded at the end of his investigation that “Mathewson was not forced to damage his eagle feather fan, but was given the opportunity to remove the feather and broke the fan in anger therefore damaging it himself.” (Defendants' Statement of Undisputed Facts, Doc. 11 at ¶¶ 14-16; Investigation Summary Memorandum, Doc. 12-3.)

         On October 19, 2017, Unit Manager Johnson signed the September 29, 2017 informal resolution form indicating that the “Requested action is . . . granted in part . . .. You have the right to file a Formal Grievance if this response does not satisfy you.” Unit Manager Johnson did not specify what, if any, part of the request for an investigation was denied. Mr. Mathewson signed the Informal acknowledging that he received the response. (September 29, 2017 Informal Resolution Form, Doc. 2-1.)

         Mr. Mathewson was not aware of the results of the investigation and was not provided with a copy of the Investigation Summary Memorandum until June II, 2018. (Plaintiff's Statement of Undisputed Facts, Doc. 20 at ¶ 18.)

         III. ...


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