HAINES v. BLITON et al
ORDER DENYING MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT AND DIRECTING FURTHER PROCEEDINGS - Mr. Bliton's motion for summary judgment, dkt. 33 , is denied. Mr. Bliton shall have through October 28, 2020, to respond to the Court's proposal and either (a) show cause why summary judgment should not be entered in Mr. Haines' favor, or (b) withdraw the affirmative defense of exhaustion (See Order). Signed by Judge Sarah Evans Barker on 10/16/2020 (Copy mailed per distribution list). (TMC)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF INDIANA
NEW ALBANY DIVISION
JAREL T. HAINES,
ORDER DENYING MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT
AND DIRECTING FURTHER PROCEEDINGS
Jarel Haines is an inmate at Pendleton Correctional Facility. This action is based on
Mr. Haines' allegations that he was denied a kosher diet while incarcerated at the Jennings County
Jail in 2019.
The Defendant, Jason Bliton, seeks summary judgment on grounds that Mr. Haines failed
to exhaust administrative remedies before filing this action. Because Mr. Bliton has not
demonstrated that Mr. Haines failed to pursue administrative remedies that were available to him,
the motion, dkt. , is denied.
I. Legal Standards
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 judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R. Civ. P.
56(a). A "material fact" is one that "might affect the outcome of the suit." Anderson v. Liberty
Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). A dispute is genuine only if a reasonable jury could find
for the non-moving party. Id. If no reasonable jury could find for the non-moving party, then there
is no "genuine" dispute. Scott v. Harris, 550 U.S. 372, 380 (2007). The Court views the facts in
the light most favorable to the non-moving party, and all reasonable inferences are drawn in the
non-movant's favor. Ault v. Speicher, 634 F.3d 942, 945 (7th Cir. 2011).
In accordance with Local Rule 56-1(f), the Court assumes that facts properly supported by
the movant are admitted without controversy unless the nonmovant specifically disputes them.
Likewise, the Court assumes that facts asserted by the non-movant are true so long as they are
supported by admissible evidence. S.D. Ind. L.R. 56-1(f)(2).
On a motion for summary judgment, "[t]he applicable substantive law will dictate which
facts are material." National Soffit & Escutcheons, Inc., v. Superior Sys., Inc., 98 F.3d 262, 265
(7th Cir. 1996) (citing Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248). The substantive law applicable to this motion
for summary judgment is the Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA), which requires that a prisoner
exhaust his available administrative remedies before bringing a suit concerning prison conditions.
42 U.S.C. § 1997e(a); see Porter v. Nussle, 534 U.S. 516, 524-25 (2002). "[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 (citation omitted).
"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)). "In order to exhaust administrative remedies, a prisoner must take all steps
prescribed by the prison's grievance system." Ford v. Johnson, 362 F.3d 395, 397 (7th Cir. 2004).
As the movant, Mr. Bliton bears the burden of establishing that the administrative remedies
upon which he relies were available to Mr. Haines. See Thomas v. Reese, 787 F.3d 845, 847 (7th
Cir. 2015) ("Because exhaustion is an affirmative defense, the defendants must establish that an
administrative remedy was available and that [the plaintiff] failed to pursue it."). "[T]he ordinary
meaning of the word 'available' is 'capable of use for the accomplishment of a purpose,' and that
which 'is accessible or may be obtained.'" Ross v. Blake, 136 S. Ct. 1850, 1858 (2016) (internal
quotation omitted). "[A]n inmate is required to exhaust those, but only those, grievance procedures
that are capable of use to obtain some relief for the action complained of." Id. at 1859 (internal
For purposes of this motion, the Court adopts the statement of material facts Mr. Bliton
asserts in his brief:
Plaintiff was incarcerated in the Jennings County Jail in June 2019. (Affidavit of
Jason Bliton, ¶ 2). Bliton was the Jennings County Jail Commander. (Affidavit of
Jason Bliton, ¶ 1). When Plaintiff was processed into the Jail on June 1, 2019, he
indicated that he had no special dietary restrictions. (Affidavit of Jason Bliton, ¶ 3;
Exhibit A-1). On June 19, Plaintiff requested a kosher diet. (Affidavit of Jason
Bliton, ¶ 4; Exhibit A-2). The jail nurse requested documentation to support the
religious affiliation which would require a kosher diet. (Affidavit of Jason Bliton, ¶
5; Exhibit A-2). Plaintiff did not provide supporting documentation. (Affidavit of
Jason Bliton, ¶ 6). Plaintiff made no further request regarding a kosher diet.
(Affidavit of Jason Bliton, ¶¶ 7, 8). Defendant raised Plaintiff’s failure to exhaust
his administrative remedies as an affirmative defense in his Answer. (Defendant’s
Answer to Plaintiff’s Complaint, Affirmative Defense #5).
Dkt. 34 at 1–2.
The crux of Mr. Bliton's motion for summary judgment is that Mr. Haines requested a
kosher diet and failed to take further action after the nurse requested supporting documentation.
However, Mr. Bliton has not presented any evidence that the Jail offered administrative remedies
in 2019—much less evidence showing what those remedies were or what Mr. Haines was required
to do to exhaust those remedies.
Mr. Haines was only required to exhaust those administrative processes that were available
to him. Ross, 136 S. Ct. at 1858–59. Mr. Bliton has failed to demonstrate that the Jail maintained
an administrative process that required Mr. Haines to do more than request a kosher diet as
described in Mr. Bliton's brief.
IV. Conclusion and Further Proceedings
For the reasons discussed in Part III, Mr. Bliton's motion for summary judgment, dkt. ,
is denied. Indeed, having failed to present any evidence of an administrative remedy program, it
does not appear that Mr. Bliton would be able to prove after an evidentiary hearing that Mr. Haines
failed to take an action required by such a program. Therefore, the Court notifies Mr. Bliton that
it intends to grant summary judgment in Mr. Haines' favor on the exhaustion defense. Mr. Bliton
shall have through October 28, 2020, to respond to the Court's proposal and either (a) show cause
why summary judgment should not be entered in Mr. Haines' favor, or (b) withdraw the affirmative
defense of exhaustion.
IT IS SO ORDERED.
SARAH EVANS BARKER, JUDGE
United States District Court
Southern District of Indiana
JAREL T. HAINES
PENDLETON - CF
PENDLETON CORRECTIONAL FACILITY
4490 West Reformatory Road
PENDLETON, IN 46064
Caren L. Pollack
POLLACK LAW FIRM, P.C.
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