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Wilson v. Arkansas Department of Correction

United States District Court, E.D. Arkansas, Pine Bluff Division

March 30, 2016

CHARLES ISAAC WILSON, JR. ADC #79592, Plaintiff,
v.
ARKANSAS DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTION et al., Defendants.

PROPOSED FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATION

PATRICIA S. HARRIS, Magistrate Judge.

INSTRUCTIONS

The following Proposed Findings and Recommendation have been sent to United States District Judge Susan W. Wright. You may file written objections to all or part of this Recommendation. If you do so, those objections must: (1) specifically explain the factual and/or legal basis for your objection; and (2) be received by the Clerk of this Court within fourteen (14) days of this Recommendation. By not objecting, you may waive the right to appeal questions of fact.

DISPOSITION

Plaintiff Charles Isaac Wilson, Jr. ("Wilson"), an inmate who is currently incarcerated at the East Arkansas Regional Unit of the Arkansas Department of Correction ("ADC"), filed a pro se complaint on June 23, 2014, and an amended complaint on July 25, 2014, challenging the conditions of his confinement at the ADC's Cummins Unit. Defendants are ADC Director Wendy Kelley and State Fire Marshal Lindsey Williams ("Kelley" and "Williams").[1] Kelley filed a motion for summary judgment, a statement of facts, and a brief in support, on September 29, 2015 (Doc. Nos. 70-72). Wilson filed a response to the motion and factual statement, along with a brief, on October 19, 2015 (Doc. Nos. 73-75). On December 31, 2015, Williams filed a motion for summary judgment, a statement of facts, and a brief in support (Doc. Nos. 80-82). Wilson filed a response and statement of facts on January 11, 2016 (Doc. Nos. 84-85).

I. Standard of review

Under Rule 56(c) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, summary judgment is proper "if 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(c); Celotex v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 321 (1986). When ruling on a motion for summary judgment, the court must view the evidence in a light most favorable to the nonmoving party. Naucke v. City of Park Hills, 284 F.3d 923, 927 (8th Cir. 2002). The nonmoving party may not rely on allegations or denials, but must demonstrate the existence of specific facts that create a genuine issue for trial. Mann v. Yarnell, 497 F.3d 822, 825 (8th Cir. 2007). The nonmoving party's allegations must be supported by sufficient probative evidence that would permit a finding in his favor on more than mere speculation, conjecture, or fantasy. Id. (citations omitted). A dispute is genuine if the evidence is such that it could cause a reasonable jury to return a verdict for either party; a fact is material if its resolution affects the outcome of the case. Othman v. City of Country Club Hills, 671 F.3d 672, 675 (8th Cir. 2012). Disputes that are not genuine or that are about facts that are not material will not preclude summary judgment. Sitzes v. City of West Memphis, Ark., 606 F.3d 461, 465 (8th Cir. 2010).

II. Analysis

According to Wilson's complaint, the barracks at the Cummins unit are overcrowded to the extent the conditions rise to the level of a constitutional violation, and are in violation of state and federal law. Kelley and Williams assert that Wilson failed to exhaust his available administrative remedies as to any claim against them, and that he was not subjected to unconstitutional conditions of confinement. They also argue that Wilson's claims are moot because he no longer resides at the Cummins Unit. For the reasons set forth below, the Court finds that Wilson exhausted his available remedies, and that his claims are moot.

Exhaustion

The Court must first consider Kelley and Williams' argument that Wilson failed to exhaust his administrative remedies because he failed to name either of them in an exhausted grievance before he filed this lawsuit. The Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA) requires an inmate to exhaust prison grievance procedures before filing suit in federal court. See 42 U.S.C. ยง1997e(a); Jones v. Bock, 549 U.S. 199, 202 (2007); Jones v. Norris, 310 F.3d 610, 612 (8th Cir. 2002). Exhaustion under the PLRA is mandatory. Jones v. Bock, 549 U.S. at 211. The 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 v. Nussle, 534 U.S. 516, 532 (2002).

The PLRA does not prescribe the manner in which exhaustion occurs. See Jones v. Bock, 549 U.S. at 922-923. It merely requires compliance with prison grievance procedures to properly exhaust. See id. at 922-23. Thus, the question as to whether an inmate has properly exhausted administrative remedies will depend on the specifics of that particular prison's grievance policy. See id. at 923-924. ADC grievance policy states that a grieving inmate should write a brief statement regarding the substance of the complaint, including the date, place, personnel involved or witnesses, and how the policy or incident affected the inmate submitting the form. (Doc. No. 70-1, at 2).

Wilson filed two grievances relating to his claims that the barracks were overcrowded: CU-11-02256 and CU-14-00604. (Doc. Nos. 70-3 and 70-4). Neither then-ADC Director Hobbs nor Williams was named in either grievance. In fact, no individual was named in either grievance. Despite Wilson's failure to name Hobbs or Williams in his grievances, the ADC investigated both and decided them on the merits. In Daniels v. Hubbard, No. 5:14CV00360-BSM, 2015 WL 9222627 (E. D. Ark. December 17, 2015), a similar situation was considered by Chief Judge Brian S. Miller. Judge Miller's analysis is instructive:

Hubbard moved for summary judgment for a lack of exhaustion... because Daniels did not identify her in his ...

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