Sledge v. Shelby County Division of Corrections et al
ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANTS MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT, WITHDRAWING THE COURTS REFERENCE TO THE MAGISTRATE JUDGE, AND DENYNG DEFENDANTS MOTION TO COMPEL AS MOOT. Signed by Chief Judge S. Thomas Anderson on 2/7/18. (mbm)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE WESTERN DISTRICT OF TENNESSEE
DAVID DYSON, DANNY McCLAIN,
and DEMETRIUS HALEY,
ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANTS’ MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT,
WITHDRAWING THE COURT’S REFERENCE TO THE MAGISTRATE JUDGE, AND
DENYNG DEFENDANTS’ MOTION TO COMPEL AS MOOT
Before the Court is the Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 22) of Defendants
David Dyson and Demetrius Haley (“Defendants”).1 Plaintiff Cordarlrius Sledge (“Plaintiff”)
filed his pro se Complaint (ECF No. 1), alleging Defendants, corrections officers at the facility in
which he was imprisoned, violated his civil rights. Defendants now seek the dismissal of all
claims brought against them in that Complaint because Plaintiff failed to exhaust his remedies as
he was required to do under the Prison Litigation Reform Act, 42 U.S.C. § 1997e (the “PLRA”).
Plaintiff has filed no response. For reasons set forth below, the instant Motion is GRANTED.
All of Plaintiff’s claims against Defendants are hereby DISMISSED. As a result, the Court’s
prior Reference (ECF No. 29) of Defendants’ Motion to Compel (ECF No. 28) to the Magistrate
Judge is WITHDRAWN. And the Motion to Compel is DENIED as moot.
As Defendant Danny McClain has not yet been served with process and is therefore not
yet a party to this action, the Court excludes Defendant McClain from its label of “Defendants”
as used in this Order.
Plaintiff filed his pro se Complaint (ECF No. 1) on April 19, 2016. The Court is required
screen to prisoner complaints, dismissing them or portions thereof if they are frivolous or
otherwise fail to state a remediable claim for relief. See 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2)(B), 1915A(b).
The Court screened Plaintiff’s Complaint in this case, dismissing one defendant in its April 26,
2017 Order (ECF No. 11). And in doing so, the Court also ordered that process be served upon
the remaining Defendants. Not long thereafter, Defendants filed an Answer (ECF No. 15) to the
pro se Complaint. On October 24, 2017, Defendants filed the present Motion (ECF No. 22).
Plaintiff, however, did not file a response. Despite the fact that the period to respond had long
since elapsed, the Court gave Plaintiff another chance in its January 3, 2018 Order (ECF No. 30),
warning Plaintiff that failure to respond would result in the Court regarding Defendants’
Statement of Facts as undisputed in its entirety. Plaintiff still has not responded.
Defendants also filed a Motion to Compel Discovery on January 3, 2018 (ECF No. 28).
On the same day, the Court referred that Motion to the Magistrate Judge (ECF No. 29).
The following facts are undisputed by the parties.2
See Def. Dyson and Haley’s
Statement of Undisputed Material Facts, Oct. 24, 2017, ECF No. 22-2 [hereinafter “Defs.’
Statement of Facts”]; Order Directing Pl. to Show Cause, Jan. 3, 2018, ECF No. 30. Plaintiff
was an inmate housed by the Shelby County Division of Corrections, 1045 Mullins Station Road,
Because Plaintiff has failed to respond to Defendants’ Motion or Statement of Facts,
Defendants’ Statement of Facts is treated as undisputed in its entirely. The Court will not,
however, consider such “facts” that are merely legal conclusions or statements unsupported by
evidence. See infra Part II.
Memphis, TN 38134 (the “DOC”) at the time he filed this lawsuit. Plaintiff alleges that certain
officers employed by the DOC, including Defendants, assaulted Plaintiff while he was an inmate.
Plaintiff further alleges that this incident occurred on May 16, 2015 (the “Incident”). DOC
Policy 323 (“Policy 323”) governs the submission by inmates of complaints or grievances
concerning actions by staff that negatively affect inmates. The version of Policy 323 that was in
effect at the time of the Incident took effect on April 27, 2015. The rules governing inmate
grievances, as explained in Policy 323, are included in the DOC Inmate Handbook. Each inmate
receives an Inmate Handbook upon arrival at the DOC. The grievance process is available to
every inmate. The grievance process was available to Plaintiff on and after the date of the
Incident. Grievance forms and submission boxes for those forms are located throughout the
prison and are available to all inmates. The submission boxes are locked so that forms can be
inserted into them but cannot be removed from them without a key. DOC mail clerks, but no
other individuals, have keys to the submission boxes.
Policy 323 covers four types of
grievances: (1) line grievances, (2) medical grievances, (3) confidential grievances, and (4)
emergency grievances. Plaintiff’s allegations constituted a confidential grievance. Policy 323
requires inmates to submit any grievance, including confidential grievances, within thirty days of
the alleged incident giving rise to the grievance. An inmate must sign and submit his own
grievance form. Inmates may not use disciplinary appeal forms to substitute for, or double as,
grievance forms. The DOC Inmate Grievance Department (the “Department”) maintains all
grievances submitted by inmates. Tonya Beasley is the supervisor of the Department. The
Department maintains Plaintiff’s entire grievance file.
On May 27, 2015, Plaintiff submitted an appeal of discipline against him stemming from
the Incident. Plaintiff’s submission was an appeal of a decision to administer discipline to
Plaintiff. Plaintiff sent a letter dated February 29, 2016, regarding the Incident, which the
Department received on or about March 3, 2016. Plaintiff sent a second letter dated March 7,
2016, which the Department received on or about that same day. In addition to Plaintiff’s letters,
several other inmates sent a letter—dated May 19, 2015—about the Incident to DOC Director
William Gupton, attorney Arthur Horne, the DOC’s Office of Professional Standards, Fox 13
News, and Mayor Mark Luttrell. Plaintiff did not sign this letter. Plaintiff submitted no other
grievance documents regarding the Incident.
STANDARD OF LAW
Summary judgment is proper where the pleadings, depositions, answers to
interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no
genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a
matter of law. Fed. R. Civ. P. 56. When deciding a motion for summary judgment, the Court
must review all the evidence, viewing it in a light most favorable to the nonmoving party and
also drawing all reasonable inferences in that party’s favor. Roell v. Hamilton Cty., 870 F.3d
471, 479 (6th Cir. 2017) (citing Watson v. Cartee, 817 F.3d 299, 302 (6th Cir. 2016));
Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986). The Court “may
not make credibility determinations or weigh the evidence.” Laster v. City of Kalamazoo, 746
F.3d 714, 726 (6th Cir. 2014). “The burden is generally on the moving party to show that no
genuine issue of material fact exists, but that burden may be discharged by ‘showing . . . that
there is an absence of evidence to support the nonmoving party’s case.’” Bennett v. City of
Eastpointe, 410 F.3d 810, 817 (6th Cir. 2005) (quoting Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317,
324 (1986)). When the motion is supported by documentary proof such as depositions and
affidavits, the nonmoving party may not rest on his pleadings but instead must present some
“specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.” Celotex Corp., 477 U.S. at 324;
Eastham v. Chesapeake Appalachia, L.L.C., 754 F.3d 356, 360 (6th Cir. 2014). These facts must
be more than a scintilla of evidence and must meet the standard of whether a reasonable juror
could find by a preponderance of the evidence that the nonmoving party is entitled to a verdict in
his favor. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 252 (1986). The Court must, however,
enter summary judgment “against a party who fails to . . . [meet the burden] that party will bear .
. . at trial.” Celotex Corp, 477 U.S. at 322.
Plaintiff’s pro se Complaint is captioned as a “Complaint for Violation of Civil Rights
Under 42 U.S.C. § 1983.” Pro Se Complaint, at 1, Apr. 19, 2016, ECF No. 1. Plaintiff alleges
that Defendants entered the area he was located in for a random search because they claimed to
have seen smoke. Id. at 2. Plaintiff was then strip-searched by Defendants. Id. Plaintiff says
that Defendants claimed Plaintiff tried to flush contraband immediately preceding or during the
search. Id. Then, according to the allegations of the pro se Complaint, Defendants Haley and
McClain punched Plaintiff in the face. Id. Defendant Dyson picked Plaintiff up and slammed
him face first into the sink and then the floor.
Plaintiff claims to have then lost
consciousness, waking up in the institution’s medical center. Id. Plaintiff ultimately seeks to
have “Defendants . . . held [accountable] for their actions.” Id. at 3.
Defendants move for summary judgment solely on the basis that Plaintiff has failed to
satisfy the exhaustion requirement set forth in the PLRA. See Mem. in Supp. of Defs. David
Dyson and Demetrius Haley’s Mot. for Summ. J. Based on Pl.’s Failure to Exhaust
Administrative Remedies, at 6–10, Oct. 24, 2017, ECF No. 22-1 [hereinafter “Defs’ Mot. for
Summ. J.”]. Plaintiff, despite the entry of a Show Cause Order, has failed to respond. Plaintiff’s
failure is not, however, good grounds for granting the Motion. See W.D. Tenn. R. 7.2(a)(2).
Therefore, the Court is given the difficult task of considering Defendants’ Motion on the merits
without “the crucible of meaningful adversarial testing.” United States v. Cronic, 466 U.S. 648,
656 (1984) (discussing the right to counsel). “The dilemma thereby created for the Court . . .
[involves] playing ‘devil’s advocate’ on behalf of the disinterested [party], while at the same
time attempting to exercise [its] impartiality in making a just determination . . . .” Gottlieb v.
Barry, 43 F.3d 474, 490 (10th Cir. 1994) (discussing the appointment of a guardian ad litem).
Yet a determination on Defendants’ Motion must be made.
Effect of the PLRA
Generally speaking, “[e]very person who, under [the] color of [law] of any State . . . ,
subjects, or causes to be subjected, any citizen of the United States . . . to the deprivation of any
rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution and laws, shall be liable to the party
injured . . .” 42 U.S.C. § 1983. But pursuant to the PLRA, “[n]o action shall be brought with
respect to prison conditions under . . . [42 U.S.C. § 1983] . . . by a prisoner confined in any jail,
prison, or other correctional facility until such administrative remedies as are available are
exhausted.” 42 U.S.C. 1997e(a). In giving effect to a statute, the Court must apply the plain
meaning of the statutory language. United States v. Wiltberger, 18 U.S. 76, 95 (1820); Vergos v.
Gregg's Enters., 159 F.3d 989, 990 (6th Cir. 1998) (quoting Appleton v. First Nat'l Bank, 62 F.3d
791, 801 (6th Cir. 1995)). The Court “presume[s] . . . ‘that [the] legislature says . . . what it
means and means . . . what it says.’” Henson v. Santander Consumer USA Inc., 137 S. Ct. 1718,
1725 (2017) (quoting Dodd v. United States, 545 U.S. 353, 357 (2005)). And the Supreme Court
has been clear that Congress meant no action. Porter v. Nussle, 534 U.S. 516, 532 (2002) (citing
Wilson v. Seiter, 501 U.S. 294. 299 n.1 (1991)) (“[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.”). “All ‘available’
remedies must . . . be exhausted . . . .” Id. at 524 (quoting Booth v. Churner, 532 U.S. 731, 740
(2001)). And “those remedies need not meet federal standards, nor must they be ‘plain, speedy,
and effective.’” Id. If a prisoner fails to exhaust his remedies, no action can lie. And the
Supreme Court has likewise been clear that the remedies available are determined by the
procedure of the institution in which the prisoner is housed. Jones v. Bock, 549 U.S. 199, 218
Whether Plaintiff Timely Filed a Grievance
Defendants assert that the Department received no timely grievance from Plaintiff. Defs’
Mot. for Summ. J., at 1. If correct, this is sufficient cause to dismiss Plaintiff’s claims for failure
to exhaust his remedies because the Supreme Court has held that missing a deadline set by a
grievance policy is indeed a failure to exhaust available remedies. Jones, 549 U.S. at 217–18
(quoting Woodford v. Ngo, 548 U.S. 81, 93 (2006)). Policy 323 required Plaintiff to submit his
grievance within thirty days of the Incident. Defs.’ Statement of Facts, ¶¶ 16–18 (citing Defs.’
Mot. for Summ. J., Ex. A, §§ II(B), (E), IX(E), ECF No. 22-3 [hereinafter “Policy 323”]). The
Court will examine the communications received by the Department in light of Policy 323 to
determine if any communication was proper and timely.
According to the undisputed facts, Defendants received (1) an appeal of discipline from
Plaintiff, (2) two letters from Plaintiff seeking information about the investigation into the
Incident, and (3) a letter from other inmates concerning the Incident. Defendants first received
the disciplinary appeal on May 27, 2015—eleven days after the Incident. Defs.’ Statement of
Facts, ¶ 24 (citing Defs.’ Mot. for Summ. J., Ex. B, ¶ 14, ECF No. 22-3 [hereinafter “Beasley
Aff.]; Defs.’ Mot. for Summ. J., Ex. D, ECF No. 22-3 [hereinafter “Disciplinary Appeal”]).
While within 30 days of the Incident, the disciplinary appeal cannot constitute a grievance under
Policy 323 because the Policy expressly states that a disciplinary appeal is not a grievance.
Defs.’ Mot. for Summ. J., at 8; Policy 323, § III(C)(2). Therefore, the disciplinary appeal does
not constitute a properly filed grievance.
Plaintiff also sent two letters to the Department in February and March of 2016, inquiring
about the Department’s investigation. Defs.’ Mot. for Summ. J., at 9; Defs.’ Statement of Facts,
§§ 25–26 (citing Policy 323, § IX(E); Beasley Aff., ¶ 16; Defs.’ Mot. for Summ. J., Ex. E, ECF
No. 22-3 [hereinafter “Pl.’s Feb. Letter”]; Defs.’ Mot. for Summ. J., Ex. F, ECF No. 22-3
[hereinafter “Pl.’s Mar. Letter”]). Defendants note that these letters did not comply with Policy
323’s requirements for filing a grievance because they were sent more than thirty days after the
Incident. Defs.’ Mot. for Summ. J., at 9; Defs.’ Statement of Facts, §§ 25–26 (citing Policy 323,
§ IX(E); Beasley Aff., ¶ 16; Pl.’s Feb. Letter; Pl.’s Mar. Letter). The letters—sent on February
29, 2016, and March 3, 2016—fall well outside the thirty-day period that began on May 16,
2015. Therefore, the letters were untimely under Policy 323 and cannot constitute a properly
Finally, several other inmates sent a letter to the DOC Director and other individuals on
May 19, 2015—well within the thirty-day period. Defs.’ Statement of Facts, ¶ 27 (citing Defs.’
Mot. for Summ. J., Ex. G, ECF No. 22-3 [hereinafter “Group Letter”]. Policy 323 is clear,
however, that an inmate may not submit a grievance on behalf of another inmate.3 Policy 323, §
III(M). And “although an inmate ‘may assist another inmate in preparing a grievance . . . [,] the
complainant must sign the grievance and submit the form.” Defs. Mot. for Summ. J., at 10
(quoting Policy 323, § III(K)). Here, Plaintiff did not sign the letter from the other inmates.
Defs.’ Statement of Facts, ¶ 27 (citing Group Letter). Thus, this letter cannot constitute a
grievance either. And the Court must conclude that Plaintiff failed to exhaust his remedies since
he did not properly file a grievance as required by Policy 323. Because Plaintiff failed to exhaust
his remedies, the PLRA precludes the filing of this action. The Court therefore finds that no
material facts remain in dispute and Defendants are entitled to judgment as a matter of law.
For the foregoing reasons, Defendants’ Motion is GRANTED, and Plaintiff’s claims
against Defendants are DISMISSED. Necessarily, the Court’s prior reference of Defendants’
Motion to Compel to the Magistrate Judge for determination is WITHDRAWN.
Defendants’ Motion to Compel is hereby DENIED as moot.
IT IS SO ORDERED.
s/ S. Thomas Anderson
S. THOMAS ANDERSON
CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Date: February 7, 2018.
The only exception to this rule is not applicable here. See Policy 323, § III(M); Pro Se
Compl., ECF No. 1.
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