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Bledsoe v. McDowel

United States District Court, W.D. Arkansas, Texarkana Division

March 21, 2017

BILLY JOE BLEDSOE PLAINTIFF
v.
OFFICER BOBBIE MCDOWEL and WARDEN STEPHEN ARNOLD DEFENDANTS

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          Susan O. Hickey United States District Judge.

         Before the Court is the Report and Recommendation filed February 9, 2017, by the Honorable Barry A. Bryant, United States Magistrate Judge for the Western District of Arkansas. (ECF No. 44). Defendants Bobbie McDowell and Stephen Arnold have filed objections. (ECF No. 46). The Court finds the matter ripe for consideration.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff filed this action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 in connection with time spent incarcerated in the Arkansas Department of Community Correction's (“ACC”) Southwest Arkansas Community Correction Center (“SWACCC”) facility. Plaintiff asserts claims involving excessive force; sexual abuse; razor blades in his food tray; destruction of his mail, photos, and grievances; and that he was prevented from filing grievances after he filed a Prison Rape Elimination Act (“PREA”) complaint.

         Plaintiff was incarcerated in SWACCC at all times relevant to this matter.[1] Among other things, Plaintiff alleges that on April 4, 2016, Defendant McDowell escorted him to a mental health appointment. While he was handcuffed, Plaintiff alleges that McDowell fondled his genitals, causing him injury.

         On May 1, 2016, Plaintiff informed a SWACCC staff member of the alleged sexual abuse. Plaintiff was taken to a phone and allowed to call the PREA hotline. On May 2, 2016, Plaintiff provided a written statement to SWACCC officials, describing the alleged sexual abuse. SWACCC conducted an investigation, ultimately concluding that Plaintiff's allegation of sexual abuse could not be substantiated.

         On June 30, 2016, Plaintiff filed this lawsuit. On December 9, 2016, Defendants filed a Motion for Summary Judgment on Exhaustion, arguing that Plaintiff's claims should be dismissed for failure to exhaust his administrative remedies pursuant to the Prison Litigation Reform Act (“PLRA”). Judge Bryant issued a Report and Recommendation, recommending that the motion be denied because Plaintiff's PREA complaint substituted in place of a formal written grievance-thus exhausting Plaintiff's administrative remedies-and because genuine issues of material fact existed as to whether Defendants prevented Plaintiff from filing grievances after he filed the PREA complaint. On February 22, 2017, Defendants filed objections to the Report and Recommendation, specifically objecting to the recommendations “(1) that the . . . grievance policy relieves [Plaintiff's] obligation to comply with that policy; (2) that [Plaintiff's] PREA complaint may substitute as a grievance under the . . . grievance policy; and (3) that [Plaintiff] has shown a genuine dispute of fact concerning whether he filed grievances or whether the . . . Defendants prevented him from filing them.” (ECF No. 46). According to 28 U.S.C. § 646(b)(1), the Court will conduct a de novo review of all issues related to Defendants' specific objections.

         II. STANDARD

         The standard for summary judgment is well established. When a party moves for summary judgment, “[t]he court shall grant summary judgment 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); Krenik v. County of LeSueur, 47 F.3d 953, 957 (8th Cir. 1995). This is a “threshold inquiry of . . . whether there is a need for trial-whether, in other words, there are genuine factual issues that properly can be resolved only by a finder of fact because they reasonably may be resolved in favor of either party.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 250 (1986). A fact is material only when its resolution affects the outcome of the case. Id. at 248. A dispute is genuine if the evidence is such that it could cause a reasonable jury to return a verdict for either party. Id. at 252.

         In deciding a motion for summary judgment, the Court must consider all the evidence and all reasonable inferences that arise from the evidence in a light most favorable to the nonmoving party. Nitsche v. CEO of Osage Valley Elec. Co-Op, 446 F.3d 841, 845 (8th Cir. 2006). The moving party bears the burden of showing that there is no genuine issue of material fact and that it is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. See Enterprise Bank v. Magna Bank, 92 F.3d 743, 747 (8th Cir. 1996). The nonmoving party must then demonstrate the existence of specific facts in the record that create a genuine issue for trial. Krenik, 47 F.3d at 957. However, a party opposing a properly supported summary judgment motion “may not rest upon mere allegations or denials . . . but must set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.” Id. at 256.

         III. DISCUSSION

         As an initial matter, the Court must examine the ACC's grievance policy. The Court will determine whether Plaintiff exhausted his administrative remedies, and if not, whether an exception applies to excuse the failure to exhaust.

         A. Grievance Process

         First, the Court must determine whether Plaintiff exhausted his administrative remedies under ...


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