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Cole v. McCroskey

United States District Court, S.D. Ohio, Western Division

August 1, 2019

TYRONE JEROD COLE, JR., Plaintiff,
v.
DAVID MCCROSKEY, et al., Defendants.

          Barrett, J.

          REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

          KAREN L. LITKOVITZ UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         Plaintiff, an inmate at the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility ("SOCF") proceeding pro se, brings this prisoner civil rights action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 alleging violations of his constitutional rights by prison employees. This matter is before the Court on defendant Broughton's initial motion for summary judgment addressing plaintiffs failure to exhaust his administrative remedies under the Prison Litigation Reform Act ("PLRA") (Doc. 23) and plaintiffs response in opposition (Doc. 28).

         I. Background

         Plaintiff was granted leave to proceed in forma pauperis and filed his complaint on June 18, 2018. That same day, this Court conducted a sua sponte review under 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii) and 1915A(b)(1) and concluded by Report and Recommendation that plaintiff could proceed with his Eighth Amendment claim against defendant Borough, based on his allegations that Borough[1] used excessive force against him on February 9, 2018. (Doc. 5 at 7). The Court determined that plaintiffs remaining claims should be dismissed. (Id.), On August 14, 2018, the District Judge adopted the Report and Recommendation, dismissing plaintiffs complaint with the exception of his use of force claim against defendant Broughton. (Doc. 14). On January 25, 2019, defendant Broughton filed the present motion for summary judgment. After plaintiff failed to file a response within 21 days, on May 31, 2019, the Court ordered plaintiff to show cause in writing, within twenty days, why the Court should not dismiss this case against defendant Broughton. (Doc. 25). The Court then granted plaintiff an extension of time until July 28, 2019 to file a response in opposition to defendant Broughton's motion for summary judgment. (Doc. 27). On July 31, 2019, the Court received plaintiffs response brief, which was dated July 17, 2019. (Doc. 28).

         II. Summary Judgment Standard

         A motion for summary judgment should be granted if the evidence submitted to the Court demonstrates that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact, and that the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c). See Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986); Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 247 (1986). A grant of summary judgment is proper if "the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue of material fact and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Satterfield v. Tennessee, 295 F.3d 611, 615 (6th Cir. 2002). The Court must evaluate the evidence, and all inferences drawn therefrom, in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. Satterfield, 295 F.3d at 615; Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co., Ltd. v. Zenith Radio, 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986); Little Caesar Enters., Inc. v. OPPC, LLC, 219 F.3d 547, 551 (6th Cir. 2000).

         The trial judge's function is not to weigh the evidence and determine the truth of the matter, but to determine whether there is a genuine factual issue for trial. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 249. The trial court need not search the entire record for material issues of fact, Street v. J.C. Bradford & Co., 886 F.2d 1472, 1479-80 (6th Cir. 1989), but must determine "whether the evidence presents a sufficient disagreement to require submission to a jury or whether it is so one-sided that one party must prevail as a matter of law.'" Anderson, 477 U.S. at 251-52. "Where the record taken as a whole could not lead a rational trier of fact to find for the non-moving party, there is no 'genuine issue for trial.'" Matsushita, 475 U.S. at 587. "In response to a properly supported summary judgment motion, the non-moving party 'is required to present some significant probative evidence which makes it necessary to resolve the parties' differing versions of the dispute at trial."' Maston v. Montgomery Cty. Jail Med. Staff Pers., 832 F.Supp.2d 846, 849 (S.D. Ohio 2011) (quoting Sixty Ivy St, Corp. v. Alexander, 822 F.2d 1432, 1435 (6th Cir. 1987)).

         Because plaintiff is a pro se litigant, his filings are liberally construed. Spotts v. United States, 429 F.3d 248, 250 (6th Cir. 2005) (citingHaines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520 (1972) (stating that the Court holds pleadings of pro se litigants to less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers)); Boswell v. Mayer, 169 F.3d 384, 387 (6th Cir. 1999) (pro se plaintiffs enjoy the benefit of a liberal construction of their pleadings and filings). However, a party's status as a pro se litigant does not alter his duty to support his factual assertions with admissible evidence. Maston, 832 F.Supp.2d at 851-52 (citing Viergutz v. Lucent Techs., Inc., 375 F, App'x 482, 485 (6th Cir. 2010)). When opposing a motion for summary judgment, a pro se party cannot rely on allegations or denials in unsworn filings. Id. (citing Viergutz, 375 Fed.Appx. at 485).

         III. Exhaustion of Administrative Remedies

         A. Legal Standard

         Exhaustion of administrative remedies "is mandatory under the [Prison Litigation Reform Act ("PLRA")] and .. . unexhausted claims cannot be brought in court." Jones v. Bock, 549 U.S. 199, 21 ] (2007) (citing Porter v. Nussle, 534 U.S. 516, 524 (2002)). "[A] prisoner confined in any jail, prison, or other correctional facility" is barred from filing a lawsuit alleging constitutional violations under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 ''or any other Federal law . . . until such administrative remedies as are available are exhausted." 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(a). "[T]he PLRA's exhaustion requirement applies to all inmate suits about prison life, whether they involve general circumstances or particular episodes, and whether they allege excessive force or some other wrong." Porter, 534 U.S. at 532.

         "A prisoner's failure to exhaust his intra-prison administrative remedies prior to filing suit 'is an affirmative defense under the PLRA.'" Surles v. Andison, 678 F.3d 452, 455 (6th Cir. 2012) (quoting Jones, 549 U.S. at 216). "[T]he failure to exhaust 'must be established by the defendants.'" Id. (quoting Napier v. Laurel Cty., Ky., 636 F.3d 218, 225 (6th Cir. 2011)). Thus, defendants bear the burden of proof on exhaustion. Id. Because defendants bear the burden of persuasion on exhaustion, their "initial summary judgement burden is 'higher in that [they] must show that the record contains evidence satisfying the burden of persuasion and that the evidence is so powerful that no reasonable jury would be free to disbelieve it.'" Id. at 455-56 (quoting Cockrel v. Shelby Cty. Sch. DisL, 270 F.3d 1036, 1056 (6th Cir. 2001) (in turn quoting 11 James William Moore et al., Moore's Federal Practice § 56.13[1], at 56-138 (3d ed. 2000))).

         The PLRA exhaustion requirement means prisoners must carry out "proper exhaustion" of a grievance. Woodford v. Ngo,548 U.S. 81, 90 (2006). "To properly exhaust a claim, prisoners must tak[e] advantage of each step the prison holds out for resolving the claim internally and by following the 'critical procedural rules' of the prison's grievance process to permit prison officials to review and, if necessary, correct the grievance 'on the merits' in the first instance." Reed-Bey v. Pramstaller,603 F.3d 322, 324 (6th Cir. 2010) (quoting Woodford, 548 U.S. at 90). "Proper exhaustion [further] demands compliance with an agency's deadlines... ." Woodford, 548 U.S. at 90. Proper exhaustion serves the necessary interest of providing "fair notice of the alleged mistreatment or misconduct that forms the basis of the constitutional or ...


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