Julius E. Edwards v. D. Thomas et al
MEMORANDUM OPINION re 36 Judgment. Signed by Senior Judge Neal B. Biggers on 6/1/17. (jtm)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE NORTHERN DISTRICT OF MISSISSIPPI
JULIUS E. EDWARDS
CASE MANAGER D. THOMAS
This matter comes before the court on the pro se prisoner complaint of Julius E. Edwards, who
challenges the conditions of his confinement under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. For the purposes of the Prison
Litigation Reform Act, the court notes that the plaintiff was incarcerated when he filed this suit. The
plaintiff has brought the instant case under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, which provides a federal cause of action
against “[e]very person” who under color of state authority causes the “deprivation of any rights,
privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution and laws.” 42 U.S.C. § 1983. The plaintiff
alleges that the defendants denied him access to the California Supreme Court by misdirecting his
mail. The defendants have moved  for summary judgment; the plaintiff has responded, and the
defendants have offered rebuttal in support of summary judgment. The matter is ripe for resolution.
For the reasons set forth below, the defendants’ motion  for summary judgment will be granted,
and judgment will be entered in favor of the defendants.
Summary Judgment Standard
Summary judgment is appropriate if the “materials in the record, including depositions,
documents, electronically stored information, affidavits or declarations, stipulations (including those
made for purposes of the motion only), admissions, interrogatory answers, or other materials” show
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) and (c)(1). “The moving party must show that if the evidentiary
material of record were reduced to admissible evidence in court, it would be insufficient to permit the
nonmoving party to carry its burden.” Beck v. Texas State Bd. of Dental Examiners, 204 F.3d 629,
633 (5th Cir. 2000) (citing Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317 (1986), cert. denied, 484 U.S. 1066
(1988)). After a proper motion for summary judgment is made, the burden shifts to the non-movant to
set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc.,
477 U.S. 242, 249, 106 S. Ct. 2505, 2511, 91 L. Ed. 2d 202 (1986); Beck, 204 F.3d at 633; Allen v.
Rapides Parish School Bd., 204 F.3d 619, 621 (5th Cir. 2000); Ragas v. Tennessee Gas Pipeline
Company, 136 F.3d 455, 458 (5th Cir. 1998). Substantive law determines what is material. Anderson,
477 U.S. at 249. “Only disputes over facts that might affect the outcome of the suit under the
governing law will properly preclude the entry of summary judgment. Factual disputes that are
irrelevant or unnecessary will not be counted.” Id., at 248. If the non-movant sets forth specific facts
in support of allegations essential to his claim, a genuine issue is presented. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 327.
“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 Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S.
574, 587, 89 L. Ed. 2d 538 (1986); Federal Savings and Loan, Inc. v. Krajl, 968 F.2d 500, 503 (5th
The facts are reviewed drawing all reasonable inferences in favor of the non-moving party.
Allen, 204 F.3d at 621; PYCA Industries, Inc. v. Harrison County Waste Water Management Dist.,
177 F.3d 351, 161 (5th Cir. 1999); Banc One Capital Partners Corp. v. Kneipper, 67 F.3d 1187, 1198
(5th Cir. 1995). However, this is so only when there is “an actual controversy, that is, when both
parties have submitted evidence of contradictory facts.” Little v. Liquid Air Corp., 37 F.3d 1069, 1075
(5th Cir. 1994); see Edwards v. Your Credit, Inc., 148 F.3d 427, 432 (5th Cir. 1998). In the absence of
proof, the court does not “assume that the nonmoving party could or would prove the necessary facts.”
Little, 37 F.3d at 1075 (emphasis omitted).
This is an action filed by a California inmate confined at the Tallahatchie County Correctional
Facility (“TCCF”), a private prison owned and operated by CoreCivic, Inc. (“CoreCivic”). See
generally Pl.’s Complaint. Doc. 1. CoreCivic employs Defendant Roach, referenced as a “case
manager” in the complaint – and Defendant Thomas, a “unit manager” and Roach’s supervisor, at the
TCCF. Id. at 3.
Edwards claims that on January 6, 2016, he provided “very important legal documents,”
including a writ of habeas corpus and court transcripts, to Thomas to be mailed to the “California
Supreme Court.” Id. at 5. Edwards alleges that, after providing his outgoing legal mail to Thomas,
he “contacted the court several months later to check the status” of his documents, but the mail had
not been received. Id.
On March 31, 2016, Edwards filed an inmate grievance against Thomas, claiming that he
“gave [Thomas his] legal mail to send to the California Supreme Court” but “[i]t never made it,” and
seeking staff assistance to locate the documents. Id. at 9. In response, Roach investigated the matter
and interviewed Thomas, who stated that she placed Edwards’ legal documents in the mail. Id. On
April 19, 2016, Edwards filed a First Level Appeal, which resulted in an his interview by TCCF’s
Grievance Coordinator at the time, Patricia Smith. See Ex. 1 to Ex. A of the Defendants’ Motion for
Summary Judgment. That interview occurred on June 3, 2016. Id. During the interview, Edwards
told Smith that “he had a deadline to get this documentation to the courts.” Id. Smith contacted staff
with the California Supreme Court, who informed her that “[Edwards] has no deadline and can to this
time, file his writ of habeas corpus.” Id. at 2. Edwards’ First Level Appeal was thus denied. Id.
On April 20, 2016, Edwards filed the instant suit in the United States District Court for the
Central District of California against the defendants in their official capacities under 42 U.S.C. § 1983,
alleging that they interfered with his legal mail and impeded his right of access to courts. Doc. 1 at 1,
3. On May 3, 2016, that court transferred the case to this one. See Doc. 4.
Exhaustion of Administrative Remedies
As set forth below, the instant case must be dismissed because the plaintiff has not
exhausted the administrative remedies available to him regarding this claim. Congress enacted
the Prison Litigation Reform Act (“PLRA”), 42 U.S.C. §1997e et seq. – including its
requirement that inmates exhaust their administrative remedies prior to filing suit – in an effort to
address the large number of prisoner complaints filed in federal courts. See Jones v. Bock, 549
U.S. 199, 202 (2007). Congress meant for the exhaustion requirement to be an effective tool to
help weed out the frivolous claims from the colorable ones:
Prisoner litigation continues to ‘account for an outsized share of filings’ in federal
district courts. Woodford v. Ngo, 548 U.S. 81, 94, n. 4, 126 S.Ct. 2378 (2006) (slip op.,
at 12, n.4). In 2005, nearly 10 percent of all civil cases filed in federal courts
nationwide were prisoner complaints challenging prison conditions or claiming civil
rights violations. Most of these cases have no merit; many are frivolous. Our legal
system, however, remains committed to guaranteeing that prisoner claims of illegal
conduct by their custodians are fairly handled according to law. The challenge lies in
ensuring that the flood of non-meritorious claims does not submerge and effectively
preclude consideration of the allegations with merit. See Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S.
319, 327, 109 S.Ct. 1827, 104 L.Ed.2d 338 (1989).
Congress addressed that challenge in the PLRA. What this country needs, Congress
decided, is fewer and better prisoner suits. See Porter v. Nussle, 534 U.S. 516, 524,
122 S.Ct. 983, 152 L.Ed.2d 12 (2002) (PLRA intended to “reduce the quantity and
improve the quality of prisoner suits”). To that end, Congress enacted a variety of
reforms designed to filter out the bad claims and facilitate consideration of the good.
Key among these was the requirement that inmates complaining about prison
conditions exhaust prison grievance remedies before initiating a lawsuit.
Jones v. Bock, 549 U.S. 199, 203 (2007).
The Prison Litigation Reform Act (“PLRA”), 42 U.S.C. §1997e(a), requires prisoners to
exhaust any available administrative remedies prior to filing suit under 42 U.S.C. §1983. The
exhaustion requirement protects administrative agency authority, promotes efficiency, and
produces “a useful record for subsequent judicial consideration.” Woodford v. Ngo, 548 U.S.81,
89 (2006). A prisoner cannot satisfy the exhaustion requirement “by filing an untimely or
otherwise procedurally defective administrative grievance or appeal” because “proper exhaustion
of administrative remedies is necessary.” Woodford v. Ngo, 548 U.S. 81, 83-84 (2006); see also
Johnson v. Ford, 261 F. App’x 752, 755 (5th Cir. 2008)( the Fifth Circuit takes “a strict
approach” to the PLRA’s exhaustion requirement)(citing Days v. Johnson, 322 F.3d 863, 866 (5th
Cir. 2003)); Lane v. Harris Cty.Med.Dep’t, No. 06-20935, 2008 WL 116333, at *1 (5th Cir.
Jan.11,2008)( under the PLRA, “the prisoner must not only pursue all available avenues of relief;
he must also comply with all administrative deadlines and procedural rules”). Indeed, “a
prisoner must now exhaust administrative remedies even where the relief sought – monetary
damages – cannot be granted by the administrative process.” Booth v. Churner, 532 U.S. 731,
The requirement that claims be exhausted prior to the filing of a lawsuit is mandatory.
Gonzalez v. Seal, 702 F.3d 785 (5th Cir. 2012). “Whether a prisoner has exhausted
administrative remedies is a mixed question of law and fact.” Dillon v. Rogers, 596 F.3d 260,
266 (5th Cir. 2010). As “exhaustion is a threshold issue that courts must address to determine
whether litigation is being conducted in the right forum at the right time, . . . judges may resolve
factual disputes concerning exhaustion without the participation of a jury.” Id. at 272. The
Supreme Court has also recognized the need for a prisoner to face a significant consequence for
deviating from the prison grievance procedural rules:
The benefits of exhaustion can be realized only if the prison grievance system is given
a fair opportunity to consider the grievance. The prison grievance system will not
have such an opportunity unless the grievance complies with the system’s critical
procedural rules. A prisoner who does not want to participate in the prison grievance
system will have little incentive to comply with the system’s procedural rules unless
noncompliance carries a sanction . . . .
Woodford at 95.
The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation had adopted a grievance
procedure, and Mr. Edwards acknowledges that did not follow the procedure in this case. Instead of
following the established procedure, Mr. Edwards stated that doing so was “futile,” and he terminated
the process prior to its conclusion. As such, the defendants’ motion  for summary judgment will
be granted, and this case will be dismissed without prejudice for failure to exhaust administrative
For the reasons set forth above, the plaintiff did not exhaust the administrative remedies
available to him, and the case will be dismissed for that reason. A final judgment consistent with this
memorandum opinion will issue today.
SO ORDERED this, the 1st day of June, 2017.
/s/ Neal Biggers
NEAL B. BIGGERS
SENIOR U. S. DISTRICT JUDGE
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