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Ellis v. Rawson

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

November 6, 2017

TRAVIS HOMER ELLIS, JR ADC # 551269 PLAINITIFF
v.
JACOB RAWSON, et al. DEFENDANTS

          RECOMMENDED DISPOSITION

         I. Procedures for Filing Objections

         This Recommended Disposition (“Recommendation”) has been sent to Judge Susan Webber Wright. You may file written objections to this Recommendation. If you file objections, they must be specific and must include the factual or legal basis for your objection. Your objections must be received in the office of the United States District Court Clerk within fourteen (14) days of this Recommendation.

         If no objections are filed, Judge Wright can adopt this Recommendation without independently reviewing the record. By not objecting, you may also waive any right to appeal questions of fact.

         II. Discussion

         A. Background

         Plaintiff Travis Homer Ellis Jr., an Arkansas Department of Correction (“ADC”) inmate, filed this civil rights lawsuit without the help of a lawyer. He claims that Defendants Rawson and Kirtley (“Defendants”) failed to protect him from an attack at the hands of another inmate on July 18, 2016.[1] (Docket entry #1)

         Defendants have now moved for summary judgment on the issue of exhaustion. (#40) Mr. Ellis filed a response. (#46) In addition, Mr. Ellis filed a motion for summary judgment. (#50) Defendants have responded. (#52)

         B. Standard

         Summary judgment is granted to a party when the evidence, viewed in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party, presents no genuine dispute as to any fact important to the outcome of the lawsuit. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56; Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322-23, 106 S.Ct. 2548 (1986); Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 246, 106 S.Ct. 2505 (1986). If important facts remain in dispute, the court cannot grant summary judgment, and the case is set for a trial.

         C. Exhaustion

         The Prison Litigation Reform Act requires the Court to dismiss any claim raised that was not fully exhausted prior to filing a civil lawsuit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. See 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(a) (declaring, “[n]o action shall be brought with respect to prison conditions . . . by a prisoner confined in any jail, prison, or other correctional facility until such administrative remedies as are available are exhausted”); Woodford v. Ngo, 548 U.S. 81, 90 (2006) (explaining the proper exhaustion of remedies “means using all steps that the [prison] holds out, and doing so properly”); Johnson v. Jones, 340 F.3d 624, 627 (8th Cir. 2003) (holding an inmate must exhaust all available administrative remedies before filing suit, and “[i]f exhaustion was not completed at the time of filing, dismissal is mandatory”). Furthermore, an inmate's subjective beliefs regarding exhaustion are irrelevant in determining whether administrative procedures are available. See Chelette v. Harris, 229 F.3d 684, 688 (8th Cir. 2000).

         D. Discussion

         On July 18, 2016, the date that Mr. Ellis was attacked, Administrative Directive (“AD”) 14-16 was in effect. (#40-1) Under AD 14-16, inmates must fully exhaust their administrative remedies as to all defendants before filing a § 1983 lawsuit. (#40-1, p. 17-18) Inmates first file a unit level grievance form within fifteen days of the incident. (#40-1, p.5) The unit level grievance form must contain a statement that “is specific as to the substance of the complaint to include the date, place, personnel involved or witnesses, and how the policy or incident affected the inmate submitting the form.” (#40-1, p. 5-6) This form should be presented to a designated problem-solver or to any staff member holding the rank of sergeant or above. (#40-1, p.6) At this time, the staff member must sign and date the form. (#40-1, p.6) If the problem cannot be resolved, the resolution attempt must be documented on the form, and the inmate may proceed to step two using the same form within three days of receipt of the step one response. (#40-1, p.7-8)

         At step two, the inmate must explain why the informal resolution was unsuccessful. (#40-1, p.8) Upon receipt, the grievance officer transmits an acknowledgement or rejection within five working days. (#40-1, p.9) If an inmate has not received a response within twenty days, the inmate may move to the next level of the process by ...


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