Knotts v. Mays

Filing 5

REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION recommending 1 Complaint filed by Lafayette Westly Knotts be dismissed without prejudice. Objections to R&R due by 5/9/2006. Signed by Judge William M Catoe on 4/19/06. (ladd, )

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Knotts v. Mays Doc. 5 6:06-cv-01165-MBS Date Filed 04/19/2006 Entry Number 5 Page 1 of 10 UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT DISTRICT OF SOUTH CAROLINA Lafayette Westly Knotts, # 275052, ) ) Plaintiff, ) ) vs. ) ) Hammi Mays, Corporal at Allendale ) Correctional Institution, ) ) Defendant. ) ) _________________________________________ ) C/A No. 6:06-1165-MBS-WMC Report and Recommendation Background of this Case The plaintiff is an inmate at the Allendale Correctional Institution of the South Carolina Department of Corrections (SCDC). The defendant is a corporal at the Allendale Correctional Institution. The above-captioned case arises out of a gassing incident on March 10, 2006, when the plaintiff was sprayed with "top cop gas" for kicking his door. The plaintiff states that he was kicking on the door of his cell because another inmate was being attacked by Corporal Mays. The plaintiff's Answers on page 2 of the complaint indicate that he filed a grievance (Grievance No. 0259-06) on March 12, 2006. The plaintiff has 1 6:06-cv-01165-MBS Date Filed 04/19/2006 Entry Number 5 Page 2 of 10 not received a response on his grievance as of the date on which he signed the complaint. In his prayer for relief, the plaintiff seeks two hundred thousand dollars ($200,000) from Corporal Mays. The plaintiff also seeks monetary damages from persons who are not listed as defendants in the caption of the complaint or in the party information section on page 2 of the complaint. Those persons are Officer Washington, Officer Best, Lieutenant B. Carter, and Warden George T. Hagan. Discussion Under established local procedure in this judicial district, a careful review has been made of the pro se complaint pursuant to the procedural provisions of 28 U.S.C. § 1915; 28 U.S.C. § 1915A; and the Prison Litigation Reform Act. The review has been conducted in light of the following precedents: Denton v. Hernandez, 504 U.S. 25, 118 L.Ed.2d 340, 112 S.Ct. 1728, 1992 U.S. LEXIS® 2689 (1992); Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 324-325, 1989 U.S. LEXIS® 2231 (1989); Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519 (1972); Nasim v. Warden, Maryland House of Correction, 64 F.3d 951, 1995 U.S.App. LEXIS® 26108 (4th Cir. 1995)(en banc), cert. denied, 516 U.S. 2 6:06-cv-01165-MBS Date Filed 04/19/2006 Entry Number 5 Page 3 of 10 1177, 134 L.Ed.2d 219, 116 S.Ct. 1273, 1996 U.S. LEXIS® 1844 (1996); Todd v. Baskerville, 712 F.2d 70 (4th Cir. 1983); and Boyce v. Alizaduh, 595 F.2d 948 (4th Cir. 1979)(recognizing the district court's authority to conduct an initial screening of a pro se filing).1 Pro se complaints and petitions are held to a less stringent standard than those drafted by attorneys, Gordon v. Leeke, 574 F.2d 1147, 1151 (4th Cir.), cert. denied, Leeke v. Gordon, 439 U.S. 970 (1978), and a federal district court is charged with liberally construing a complaint or petition filed by a pro se litigant to allow the development of a potentially meritorious case. See Hughes v. Rowe, 449 U.S. 5, 9-10 & n. 7 (1980)(per curiam); and Cruz v. Beto, 405 U.S. 319 (1972). When a federal court is evaluating a pro se complaint or petition, the plaintiff's or petitioner's allegations are assumed to be true. Fine v. City of New York, 529 F.2d 70, 74 (2nd Cir. 1975). Even under this less stringent standard, the § 1983 complaint is subject to summary dismissal. The requirement of liberal construction does not mean that the court can ignore a clear failure in the pleading to allege facts which set forth a claim currently Boyce has been held by some authorities to have been abrogated in part, on other grounds, by Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319 (1989)(insofar as Neitzke establishes that a complaint that fails to state a claim, under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), does not by definition merit sua sponte dismissal under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(i) [formerly 28 U.S.C. § 1915(d)], as "frivolous"). 3 1 6:06-cv-01165-MBS Date Filed 04/19/2006 Entry Number 5 Page 4 of 10 cognizable in a federal district court. Weller v. Department of Social Services, 901 F.2d 387, 1990 U.S.App. LEXIS® 6120 (4th Cir. 1990). This case is subject to summary dismissal because the plaintiff's answers on page 2 of the complaint (Entry No. 1) reveal that the plaintiff's grievance (Grievance No. 0259-06), which was filed on March 12, 2006, is pending. See 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(a), which was enacted as part of the Prison Litigation Reform Act; Porter v. Nussle, 534 U.S. 516, 524, 152 L.E.2d 12, 122 S.Ct. 983, 2002 U.S. LEXIS® 1373 (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."); Booth v. Churner, 531 U.S. 956, 149 L.Ed.2d 958, 121 S.Ct. 1819, 2001 U.S. LEXIS® 3982 (2001)(unanimous decision: PLRA requires administrative exhaustion even if grievance procedure does not allow monetary damages and prisoner seeks only monetary damages, so long as grievance tribunal has authority to take some responsive action); and Higginbottom v. Carter, 223 F.3d 1259, 2000 U.S.App. LEXIS® 21087 (11th Cir. 2000). Although the lack of exhaustion of administrative remedies is, generally, considered an affirmative defense and not a jurisdictional infirmity in the 4 6:06-cv-01165-MBS Date Filed 04/19/2006 Entry Number 5 Page 5 of 10 Fourth Judicial Circuit, if the lack of exhaustion is apparent from the face of the prisoner's complaint or from additional facts requested by the court, sua sponte dismissal prior to service of the complaint is appropriate. See Anderson v. XYZ Correctional Health Services, 407 F.3d 674, 683, 2005 U.S.App. LEXIS® 8698 (4th Cir. 2005). In orders filed on May 9, 1996, this court certified that the inmate grievance procedure established by the South Carolina Department of Corrections met the standards required by 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(a)(2). See the orders filed in Misc. No. 3:96-MC-83-2 and Misc. No. 3:96-MC-84-2 (D.S.C., May 9, 1996). Under the SCDC Grievance Procedure, the Warden will respond to the Step 1 grievance in writing no later than forty (40) days from the filing of the initial grievance. If the inmate is not satisfied with the Warden's response, he or she must file an appeal of the Step 1 grievance response by filing a Form 10-5a, Step 2 Request for Responsible Official Review with the Inmate Grievance Coordinator within five (5) days of the receipt of the response from the Warden. A responsible official will have sixty (60) days to respond to the Step 2 grievance. The decision of the "responsible official" who answers Step 2 is the Department's final response in the matter. It is not necessary for the 5 6:06-cv-01165-MBS Date Filed 04/19/2006 Entry Number 5 Page 6 of 10 inmate to file an appeal with the state Administrative Law Court (formerly called the ALJ Division) for matters pertaining to the prisoner's conditions of confinement. In such cases, if the prisoner is not satisfied with the response of the Step 2 SCDC Responsible Official Review, he or she may then file a complaint in a federal district court about the alleged problems with the conditions of confinement that were raised in the grievance. Even if SCDC fails to respond to the plaintiff's Step 1 grievance and, as a result, leaves the plaintiff with no decision to appeal to Step 2, the plaintiff must still refrain from filing suit in federal court until all time periods for both steps to be completed have expired. Once the full period for prison responses has run without the issuance of any response, it is generally held that the inmate has substantially complied with the § 1997e exhaustion requirement. See, e.g., Boyd v. Corrections Corp. of America, 380 F.3d 989, 996, 2004 U.S.App. LEXIS® 18903 (6th Cir. 2004)("Following the lead of the . . . other circuits that have considered this issue, we conclude that administrative remedies are exhausted when prison officials fail to timely respond to a properly filed grievance), cert. denied, 73 U.S.L.W. 3555, 161 L.Ed.2d 477, 125 S.Ct. 1639, 2005 U.S. LEXIS® 2458 (2005); Jernigan v. Stuchell, 304 F.3d 1030, 1032, 2002 U.S.App. LEXIS® 19144 (10th Cir. 6 6:06-cv-01165-MBS Date Filed 04/19/2006 Entry Number 5 Page 7 of 10 2002)("agree[ing with other circuits] that the failure to respond to a grievance within the time limits contained in the grievance policy renders an administrative remedy unavailable"); Lewis v. Washington, 300 F.3d 829, 833, 2002 U.S.App. LEXIS® 16388 (7th Cir. 2002)(stating that prison's failure timely to respond renders administrative remedies unavailable); Foulk v. Charrier, 262 F.3d 687, 698, 2001 U.S.App. LEXIS® 18707 (8th Cir. 2001)(holding that defendants failed to prove non-exhaustion where they presented no evidence to refute plaintiff's contention that he could not pursue grievance further after warden did not respond to his grievance); and Underwood v. Wilson, 151 F.3d 292, 295, 1998 U.S.App. LEXIS® 18884 (5th Cir. 1998)(holding that "available administrative remedies are exhausted when the time limits for the prison's response set forth in the prison Grievance Procedures have expired"), cert. denied, 526 U.S. 1133, 1999 U.S. LEXIS® 3500 (1999). Under such circumstances, an inmate of the South Carolina Department of Corrections who files a Step 1 grievance but receives no response thereto must wait at least 105 days (approximately four (4) months) from the time he or she files a Step 1 grievance before it may be said that he 7 6:06-cv-01165-MBS Date Filed 04/19/2006 Entry Number 5 Page 8 of 10 or she has exhausted "such administrative remedies as are available."2 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(a). Recommendation Accordingly, it is recommended that the District Court dismiss the above-captioned case without prejudice and without issuance and service of process. See Denton v. Hernandez, supra; Neitzke v. Williams, supra; Haines v. Kerner, supra; Brown v. Briscoe, 998 F.2d 201, 202-204 & n. *, 1993 U.S.App. LEXIS® 17715 (4th Cir. 1993), replacing unpublished opinion originally tabled at 993 F.2d 1535 (4th Cir. 1993); Boyce v. Alizaduh, supra; Todd v. Baskerville, supra, 712 F.2d at 74; 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)[essentially a redesignation of "old" 1915(d)]; and "new" 28 It appears that as long as the inmate waits the full 105 days established for the running of the entire process through Step 2, he or she may then file suit in federal court even though he or she has not formally completed Step 2. This is true because the SCDC policy states, in pertinent part, "[i]f, at the institutional level, the response to the grievance exceeds the established time limits, the grievance will automatically proceed to the next level of appeal." Section 14(e) of the SCDC policy. See Boyd; Jernigan; Lewis; Foulk; and Underwood. The 105-day period is determined by giving the maximum amount of time provided in the SCDC policy for each step in the process and assuming that no extensions of time are sought and the SCDC fails to timely respond to the Step 1 grievance within the forty (40) days allowed or fails to request a specific continuance of the established time to respond by SCDC officials at any point during the process. See Section 16 of the SCDC Policy, which provides that all grievances are to be disposed of within 105 days from the filing of the Step 1 grievance. 8 2 6:06-cv-01165-MBS Date Filed 04/19/2006 Entry Number 5 Page 9 of 10 U.S.C. § 1915A[as soon as possible after docketing, district courts should review prisoner cases to determine whether they are subject to summary dismissal]. The plaintiff's attention is directed to the Notice on the next page. April 19, 2006 Greenville, South Carolina s/William M. Catoe United States Magistrate Judge 9 6:06-cv-01165-MBS Date Filed 04/19/2006 Entry Number 5 Page 10 of 10 N o t ic e of Right to File Objections to M a g is t r a t e Judge's "Report and Recommendation" & T he Serious Consequences of a Failure to Do So The plaintiff is hereby notified that any objections to the attached Report and Recommendation (or Order and Recommendation) must be filed within ten (10) days of the date of service. 28 U.S.C. § 636 and Fed. R. Civ. P. 72(b). The time calculation of this ten-day period excludes weekends and holidays and provides for an additional three days for filing by mail. Fed. R. Civ. P. 6. A magistrate judge makes only a recommendation, and the authority to make a final determination in this case rests with the United States District Judge. See Mathews v. Weber, 423 U.S. 261, 270-271 (1976); and Estrada v. Witkowski, 816 F. Supp. 408, 410, 1993 U.S.Dist. LEXIS® 3411 (D.S.C. 1993). During the ten-day period for filing objections, but not thereafter, a party must file with the Clerk of Court specific, written objections to the Report and Recommendation, if he or she wishes the United States District Judge to consider any objections. Any written objections must specifically identify the portions of the Report and Recommendation to which objections are made and the basis for such objections. See Keeler v. Pea, 782 F. Supp. 42, 43-44, 1992 U.S.Dist. LEXIS® 8250 (D.S.C. 1992); and Oliverson v. West Valley City, 875 F. Supp. 1465, 1467, 1995 U.S.Dist. LEXIS® 776 (D.Utah 1995). Failure to file specific, written objections shall constitute a waiver of a party's right to further judicial review, including appellate review, if the recommendation is accepted by the United States District Judge. See United States v. Schronce, 727 F.2d 91, 94 & n. 4 (4th Cir.), cert. denied, Schronce v. United States, 467 U.S. 1208 (1984); and Wright v. Collins, 766 F.2d 841, 845-847 & nn. 1-3 (4th Cir. 1985). Moreover, if a party files specific objections to a portion of a magistrate judge's Report and Recommendation, but does not file specific objections to other portions of the Report and Recommendation, that party waives appellate review of the portions of the magistrate judge's Report and Recommendation to which he or she did not object. In other words, a party's failure to object to one issue in a magistrate judge's Report and Recommendation precludes that party from subsequently raising that issue on appeal, even if objections are filed on other issues. Howard v. Secretary of HHS, 932 F.2d 505, 508-509, 1991 U.S.App. LEXIS® 8487 (6th Cir. 1991). See also Praylow v. Martin, 761 F.2d 179, 180 n. 1 (4th Cir.)(party precluded from raising on appeal factual issue to which it did not object in the district court), cert. denied, 474 U.S. 1009 (1985). In Howard, supra, the Court stated that general, non-specific objections are not sufficient: A general objection to the entirety of the [magistrate judge's] report has the same effe cts as would a failure to object. The district court's attention is not focused on any specific issues for review, thereby making the initial reference to the [magistrate judge] useless. * * * T his duplication of time and effort wastes judicial resources rather than saving them, and runs contrary to the purposes of the Magistrates Act. We would hardly countenance an appellant's b rie f simply objecting to the district court's determination without explaining the source of the error. Accord Lockert v. Faulkner, 843 F.2d 1015, 1017-1019 (7th Cir. 1988), where the Court held that the appellant, who proceeded pro se in the district court, was barred from raising issues on appeal that he did not specifically raise in his objections to the district court: Ju st as a complaint stating only 'I complain' states no claim, an objection stating only "I object" pr es er ves no issue for review. * * * A district judge should not have to guess what arguments an objecting party depends on when reviewing a [magistrate judge's] report. See also Branch v. Martin, 886 F.2d 1043, 1046, 1989 U.S.App. LEXIS® 15,084 (8th Cir. 1989)("no de novo review if objections are untimely or general"), which involved a pro se litigant; and Goney v. Clark, 749 F.2d 5, 6 n. 1 (3rd Cir. 1984)(per curiam)("plaintiff's objections lacked the specificity necessary to trigger de novo review"). This notice, h e r e b y , apprises the plaintiff of the consequences of a failure to file specific, w r i t t e n o b j e c tio n s . See Wright v. Collins, supra; and Small v. Secretary of HHS, 892 F.2d 15, 16, 1989 U.S.App. LEXIS® 19,302 (2nd Cir. 1989). Filing by mail pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 5 may be accomplished by mailing objections addressed as follows: Larry W. Propes, Clerk United States District Court Post Office Box 10768 Greenville, South Carolina 29603 10

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