COTTON v. WABASH VALLEY CORRECTIONAL FACILITY
Entry Granting Motion for Partial Summary Judgment, Dismissing State Law Claim and Directing Entry of Final Judgment - The defendants' motion for partial summary judgment, dkt. 19 , is granted and the remaining state law claim is dismissed for lack of jurisdiction. Final judgment in accordance with this Entry shall issue at this time (SEE ENTRY FOR ADDITIONAL INFORMATION). Signed by Judge Jane Magnus-Stinson on 11/22/2017. (DW)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF INDIANA
TERRE HAUTE DIVISION
Entry Granting Motion for Partial Summary Judgment,
Dismissing State Law Claim and Directing Entry of Final Judgment
Veltor Cotton filed this action on June 16, 2017, contending that his civil rights were
violated while he was incarcerated in the Indiana Department of Correction (“IDOC”). Mr. Cotton
claims that the imposition of a restitution order in a 2015 disciplinary conviction with no set amount,
no end date, and without taking into account the payment by medical insurance, violated his due
process rights. The defendants moved for summary judgment arguing that Mr. Cotton failed to
exhaust his available administrative remedies as required by the Prison Litigation Reform Act
(“PLRA”), 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(a), before filing this lawsuit.
Summary Judgment Standard
Summary judgment should be granted “if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute
as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law.” Fed. R. Civ.
P. 56(a). The party seeking summary judgment “bears the initial responsibility of informing the
district court of the basis for its motion, and identifying” designated evidence which
“demonstrate[s] the absence of a genuine issue of material fact.” Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S.
317, 323 (1986).
Once the moving party has met its burden, the non-movant may not rest upon mere
allegations. Instead, “[t]o successfully oppose a motion for summary judgment, the nonmoving
party must come forward with specific facts demonstrating that there is a genuine issue for trial.”
Trask–Morton v. Motel 6 Operating L.P., 534 F.3d 672, 677 (7th Cir. 2008). “The non-movant
will successfully oppose summary judgment only when it presents definite, competent evidence to
rebut the motion.” Vukadinovich v. Bd. of Sch. Trs., 278 F.3d 693, 699 (7th Cir. 2002) (internal
quotation and citation omitted).
At all times relevant to his Complaint, Mr. Cotton was confined by the IDOC at Wabash
Valley Correctional Facility (“Wabash Valley”). The IDOC has an Offender Grievance Process
which is intended to permit inmates to resolve concerns and complaints relating to their conditions
of confinement prior to filing suit in court. As an inmate at Wabash Valley, Mr. Cotton had access
to the offender grievance process. All offenders are made aware of the offender grievance process
during orientation and a copy of the grievance process is available in various locations within the
The grievance process consists of three steps. It begins with the offender contacting staff
to discuss the matter or incident subject to the grievance and seeking informal resolution. If the
offender is unable to obtain a resolution of the grievance informally, he may submit a formal
grievance to the grievance officer of the facility where the incident occurred. If the formal written
grievance is not resolved in a manner that satisfies the offender, he may submit an appeal.
Exhaustion of the grievance procedure requires pursuing a grievance to the final step. A grievance
must be filed within twenty (20) working days from the date of the alleged incident.
The IDOC’s grievance records for Mr. Cotton reflect that he filed three grievances related
to the restitution order. However, none of those grievances were appealed.
The defendants argue that Mr. Cotton failed to exhaust his available administrative
remedies as required by the PLRA with respect to his claims against them.
The PLRA requires that a prisoner exhaust his available administrative remedies before
bringing a suit concerning prison conditions. 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(a); Porter v. Nussle, 534 U.S. 516,
524-25 (2002). “Proper exhaustion demands compliance with an agency’s deadlines and other
critical procedural rules because no adjudicative system can function effectively without imposing
some orderly structure on the course of its proceedings.” Woodford v. Ngo, 548 U.S. 81, 90-91
(2006) (footnote omitted); see also Dale v. Lappin, 376 F.3d 652, 655 (7th Cir. 2004) (“In order
to properly exhaust, a prisoner must submit inmate complaints and appeals ‘in the place, and at the
time, the prison’s administrative rules require.’”) (quoting Pozo v. McCaughtry, 286 F.3d 1022,
1025 (7th Cir. 2002)). Strict compliance is required with respect to exhaustion, and a prisoner must
properly follow the prescribed administrative procedures in order to exhaust his remedies. Dole v.
Chandler, 438 F.3d 804, 809 (7th Cir. 2006). The PLRA’s exhaustion requirement is not subject
to either waiver by a court or futility or inadequacy exceptions. Booth v. Churner, 532 U.S. 731,
741, n.6 (2001); McCarthy v. Madigan, 503 U.S. 140, 112 S. Ct. 1081 (1992) (“Where Congress
specifically mandates, exhaustion is required.”).
The defendants have shown that Mr. Cotton failed to avail himself of all administrative
remedies before filing this civil action. Mr. Cotton does not directly dispute that he did not appeal
his grievances related to his restitution order. Instead, Mr. Cotton states that he attempted to
exhaust his remedies many times. As evidence of these attempts, Mr. Cotton attaches one response
to his grievance and several requests for interviews. Dkt. 25-1. But filing multiple grievances on
the same issue without filing any grievance appeals, or requesting multiple times to discuss the
issue with an administrator does not comply with the institution’s policy for exhausting
administrative remedies. The defendants assert, and Mr. Cotton does not dispute, that he was given
a copy of the disciplinary policy when he arrived at Wabash Valley. Mr. Cotton does not allege
that administrative remedies were unavailable to him. It is therefore undisputed that Mr. Cotton
failed to exhaust his available administrative remedies as required by the PLRA before filing this
The consequence of these circumstances, in light of 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(a), is that Mr.
Cotton’s action should not have been brought and must now be dismissed without prejudice. See
Ford v. Johnson, 362 F.3d 395, 401 (7th Cir. 2004) (holding that “all dismissals under § 1997e(a)
should be without prejudice.”).
State Law Claim
Now that the plaintiff’s federal claims have been dismissed, the Court must decide whether
it should exercise supplemental jurisdiction over the plaintiff’s state-law claim. The Court
ultimately has discretion whether to exercise supplemental jurisdiction. Carlsbad Tech., Inc. v.
HIF BIO, Inc., 556 U.S. 635, 639 (2009); see 28 U.S.C. § 1367(c) (“The district courts may decline
to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over a claim . . . if . . . the district court has dismissed all
claims over which it has original jurisdiction . . . .”). When deciding whether to exercise
supplemental jurisdiction, “‘a federal court should consider and weigh in each case, and at every
stage of the litigation, the values of judicial economy, convenience, fairness, and comity.’” City
of Chicago v. Int’l Coll. of Surgeons, 522 U.S. 156, 173 (1997) (quoting Carnegie-Mellon Univ.
v. Cohill, 484 U.S. 343, 350 n.7 (1988)). “When all federal claims in a suit in federal court are
dismissed before trial, the presumption is that the court will relinquish federal jurisdiction over
any supplemental state-law claims.” Al’s Serv. Ctr. v. BP Prods. N. Am., Inc., 599 F.3d 720, 727
(7th Cir. 2010). This presumption applies here, as not only are all the federal claims decided before
trial, but they are dismissed prior to the commencement of discovery. Accordingly, the Court
relinquishes supplemental jurisdiction over Mr. Cotton’s state-law claims, which are now
dismissed for lack of jurisdiction.
The defendants’ motion for partial summary judgment, dkt. , is granted and the
remaining state law claim is dismissed for lack of jurisdiction. Final judgment in accordance
with this Entry shall issue at this time.
IT IS SO ORDERED.
WABASH VALLEY - CF
WABASH VALLEY CORRECTIONAL FACILITY - Inmate Mail/Parcels
Electronic Service Participant – Court Only
Benjamin Myron Lane Jones
INDIANA ATTORNEY GENERAL
Kelly Suzanne Witte
INDIANA ATTORNEY GENERAL
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?