Schrock v. Aramark LLC et al
OPINION AND ORDER GRANTING 37 Motion for Summary Judgment; DISMISSING AS MOOT Plaintiff's claim or injunctive relief against the Warden and DISMISSING WITHOUT PREJUDICE his remaining claims for failure to exhaust administrative remedies in accordance with 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(a). The clerk is DIRECTED to close this case. Signed by Chief Judge Jon E DeGuilio on 4/27/2021. (Copy mailed to pro se party)(bas)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
NORTHERN DISTRICT OF INDIANA
SOUTH BEND DIVISION
MATTHEW ALAN SCHROCK, JR.,
CAUSE NO. 3:19-CV-510-JD-MGG
GALIPEAU, et al.,
OPINION AND ORDER
Matthew Alan Schrock, Jr., a prisoner without a lawyer, filed this action under 42
U.S.C. § 1983. He alleges that during 2018 and 2019, he was served Kosher meals at
Westville Correctional Facility (“Westville”) that were spoiled, missing items, and in
some instances contained foreign objects, which inhibited his ability to practice his
Messianic Hebrew Israelite religion and left him feeling hungry. He was granted leave
to proceed on claims against Warden John Galipeau, Captain Jason Smiley, and Captain
Gary Lewis under the First Amendment, the Eighth Amendment, and the Religious
Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (“RLUIPA”), 42 U.S.C. § 2000cc-1(a), for
monetary damages and injunctive relief. (ECF 21.)
Defendants now move for summary judgment. (ECF 37.) Warden Galipeau
argues that Mr. Schrock’s claim against him for injunctive relief is moot now that he has
been transferred to New Castle Correctional Facility. The remaining defendants argue
that Mr. Schrock did not exhaust his available administrative remedies before filing suit
as required by the Prison Litigation Reform Act (“PLRA”), 42 U.S.C. § 1997e.
Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56, the court “shall grant summary
judgment if the movant shows 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). In
deciding whether a genuine dispute of material fact exists, the court must “consider all
of the evidence in the record in the light most favorable to the non-moving party,
and . . . draw all reasonable inferences from that evidence” in that party’s favor. Dunn v.
Menard, Inc., 880 F.3d 899, 905 (7th Cir. 2018) (citation omitted).
Mr. Schrock was notified of the Defendants’ motion for summary judgment and
granted an extension of time to respond to it. 1 (ECF 40.) His response was due February
8, 2021, but that deadline has passed and no response has been filed. Pursuant to N.D.
Ind. Local Rule 7-1(d)(5), the court may rule summarily if a party fails to timely respond
to a motion. Nevertheless, “[s]trict enforcement of [local rules] does not mean that a
party’s failure to submit a timely filing automatically results in summary judgment for
the opposing party.” Wienco, Inc. v. Katahn Assoc., Inc., 965 F.2d 565, 568 (7th Cir. 1992).
Rather, that failure “causes all factual assertions alleged by the opposing party to be
deemed admitted.” Id.; see also Marcure v. Lynn, 992 F.3d 625, 631 (7th Cir. 2021) (“Rule
56 imposes an affirmative obligation on a movant that we cannot ignore merely because
a nonmovant provides no responsive arguments.”).
1 Defendants mailed Mr. Schrock a copy of their summary judgment filings along with the notice
required by N.D. Ind. L.R. 56-l(f) in early December 2020. (See ECF 37-39.) Because Mr. Schrock was
moved to another correctional facility around that same time, out of an abundance of caution, the court
had all the summary judgment filings resent to him by the clerk at his new facility. (ECF 40.) There is
nothing on the docket to reflect that these filings did not reach him.
The court turns first to Warden Galipeau’s argument. In the screening order, Mr.
Schrock was permitted to proceed against the Warden “in his official capacity for
injunctive relief related to the provision of adequate Kosher meals as required by
RLUIPA.” (ECF 23 at 5.) However, Mr. Schrock has since been transferred to New
Castle Correctional Facility, and there is no indication he is likely to return to Westville
any time in the near future. (See ECF 36.) Accordingly, Mr. Schrock’s claim for
injunctive relief against Warden Galipeau has become moot. See Higgason v. Farley, 83
F.3d 807, 811 (7th Cir. 1996).
Turning to the exhaustion issue, the PLRA provides that “[n]o action shall be
brought with respect to prison conditions under section 1983 of this title, or any other
Federal law, by a prisoner. . . until such administrative remedies as are available are
exhausted.” 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(a). Failure to exhaust is an affirmative defense that the
defendant has the burden of proving. Jones v. Bock, 549 U.S. 199, 216 (2007). The purpose
of the exhaustion requirement is “to give the prison an opportunity to address the
problem before burdensome litigation is filed.” Chambers v. Sood, 956 F.3d 979, 983 (7th
Cir. 2020) (citing Woodford v. Ngo, 548 U.S. 81 (2006)). The Seventh Circuit has taken a
“strict compliance approach to exhaustion.” Dole v. Chandler, 438 F.3d 804, 809 (7th Cir.
2006). Thus, “[t]o exhaust remedies, a prisoner must file complaints and appeals in the
place, and at the time, the prison’s administrative rules require.” Pozo v. McCaughtry,
286 F.3d 1022, 1025 (7th Cir. 2002). “[A] prisoner who does not properly take each step
within the administrative process has failed to exhaust state remedies.” Id. at 1024.
Nevertheless, inmates are only required to exhaust administrative remedies that
are actually available. Woodford, 548 U.S. at 102. The availability of a remedy is not a
matter of what appears on paper, but rather, whether the process was in actuality
available for the prisoner to pursue. Kaba v. Stepp, 458 F.3d 678, 684 (7th Cir. 2006). Thus,
when prison staff hinder an inmate’s ability to use the administrative process, such as
by failing to provide him with the necessary forms, administrative remedies are not
considered “available.” Id. In essence, “[p]rison officials may not take unfair advantage
of the exhaustion requirement . . . and a remedy becomes ‘unavailable’ if prison
employees do not respond to a properly filed grievance or otherwise use affirmative
misconduct to prevent a prisoner from exhausting.” Dole, 438 F.3d at 809.
At all relevant times, Westville had a grievance process in place consisting of
three steps: (1) a formal grievance following attempts at informal resolution of the
problem (whether by speaking with the staff member involved, letter-writing, or similar
means); (2) a written appeal to the Warden or his designee; and (3) a written appeal to
the Indiana Department of Correction Grievance Manager. (ECF 37-2 at 3, 8-9.) Inmates
are made aware of the policy upon their arrival at Westville, and the policy is also
available in the prison law library and by request from each inmate’s unit team
manager. (ECF 37-4 ¶¶ 6-7.)
Official grievance records submitted by Defendants reflect that Mr. Schrock filed
a grievance in May 2017 complaining that he did not receive a Kosher meal on Passover.
(ECF 37-3 at 1-2.) The grievance was denied because Mr. Schrock had not formally
requested a Kosher diet. (Id. at 1.) He appealed, but the appeal was also denied. (Id.)
This grievance made no mention that Mr. Schrock was being served Kosher meals that
were spoiled, missing items, or contained foreign objects. It was also filed long before
the events giving rise to this suit and at a different correctional facility. Defendants
argue, and the court agrees, that this grievance did not satisfy the exhaustion
requirement as to the claims raised in this lawsuit. See Maddox v. Love, 655 F.3d 709, 722
(7th Cir. 2011) (observing that the purpose of the grievance process is to alert officials to
a problem so that corrective action can be taken); Strong v. David, 297 F.3d 646, 650 (7th
Cir. 2002) (observing that “a grievance suffices if it alerts the prison to the nature of the
wrong for which redress is sought”).
For completeness, the court notes that there is another grievance included in the
record aside from the one submitted by Defendants. Even though Mr. Schrock did not
respond to the summary judgment motion, he attached a grievance dated November 28,
2018, to his original complaint, in which he complains about inadequate portions,
spoiled foods, and finding a live insect in one of his Kosher meals during early
November 2018. 2 (ECF 1-1 at 8.) This grievance appears to encompass at least some of
the claims raised in this lawsuit. However, the grievance was not accepted for filing.
Mr. Schrock also attaches documentation showing that the grievance was returned to
The grievance bears a “received” file stamp by the Westville grievance office, and it is unclear
why this document was not submitted by Defendants as part of the official grievance record. (ECF 1-1 at
8.) It appears, perhaps, that the grievance may have been lost after it was returned to Mr. Schrock unfiled
rather than assigned a log number. The grievance specialist attests that he searched for records of
grievances that were returned to Mr. Schrock unfiled but was unable to locate any such records, and the
court has no reason to disbelieve him. (See ECF 38 ¶ 28.) Any omission by Defendants was harmless in
this instance, but the court trusts that Defendants will ensure the accuracy of grievance records submitted
to the court in the future.
him unfiled on December 7, 2018, with the notation that he did not provide information
showing that he had tried to informally resolve the problem with his food before filing
a formal grievance. (Id. at 7.) He was told that if he had made efforts to informally
resolve the issue, he should resubmit the grievance and include this information. (Id.)
Alternatively, he was told that if he had not yet tried to informally resolve the problem,
he was required to do so before filing a formal grievance. (Id.) Under the grievance
policy, it was his responsibility to make any needed revisions and resubmit the
grievance within five business days. (ECF 37-2 at 10.) There is no indication from either
official grievance records or Mr. Schrock’s own filings that he did so.
Mr. Schrock alleges in his amended complaint that the grievance process was
made unavailable to him. (ECF 23 at 6.) However, it is incumbent upon him to provide
specifics about how he was prevented from exhausting in order to defeat summary
judgment. See Schultz v. Pugh, 728 F.3d 619, 620 (7th Cir. 2013) (because the plaintiff
failed to provide specifics about how he was prevented from exhausting, summary
judgment for the defendants was proper). As stated above, he did not file any response
to the motion for summary judgment, and his amended complaint asserts only
generally that he was prevented from exhausting because Westville grievance specialist
Joshua Harvil “refused to assist the plaintiff in the resolution of these issues.” (ECF 23 at
6.) It is unclear precisely what he means by this, but there is nothing in the record to
suggest that prison staff used “affirmative misconduct” to prevent him from
exhausting. Dole, 438 F.3d at 809. Rather, it appears he simply did not pursue his
remedies further after the November 2018 grievance was returned to him for additional
information. However, even if the court were to presume that he resubmitted this
grievance and that it was ignored or lost, he had another remedy available: If he did not
receive a response to his grievance within 20 business days, the grievance policy
permitted him to proceed to the next step “as though the grievance had been denied.”
(ECF 37-2 at 11.) Mr. Schrock does not claim, and official grievance records do not
show, that he ever took this step. Prior grievance records reflect that Mr. Schrock was
aware of the grievance policy and how to use it. (See ECF 37-3 at 1-2.) Therefore, the
record shows that he did not exhaust his available administrative remedies before filing
For these reasons, the motion for summary judgment (ECF 37) is GRANTED. The
plaintiff’s claim for injunctive relief against the Warden is DISMISSED as moot. His
remaining claims are DISMISSED WITHOUT PREJUDICE for failure to exhaust
administrative remedies in accordance with 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(a). The clerk is
DIRECTED to close this case.
SO ORDERED on April 27, 2021
/s/JON E. DEGUILIO
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
Disclaimer: Justia Dockets & Filings provides public litigation records from the federal appellate and district courts. These filings and docket sheets should not be considered findings of fact or liability, nor do they necessarily reflect the view of Justia.
Why Is My Information Online?