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Smith v. Turner

United States District Court, S.D. Mississippi.

February 9, 2017

TYLER JAMES SMITH PLAINTIFF
v.
MICHAEL TURNER, Warden, et al. DEFENDANTS

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND GRANTING DEFENDANTS' MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT FOR PLAINTIFFS FAILURE TO EXHAUST ADMINISTRATIVE REMEDIES

          JOHN C. GARGIULO UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         BEFORE THE COURT is the Complaint filed by Plaintiff Tyler James Smith, a postconviction inmate in the custody of the Mississippi Department of Corrections (MDOC). Plaintiff is proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis. Defendants Marshall Turner, Gary Holton, and Sherry Green have filed a Motion for Summary Judgment, alleging that Plaintiff failed to exhaust available administrative remedies before filing suit in federal court. (ECF No. 26).

         An omnibus hearing, which also operated as a Spears hearing, [1] was held on August 15, 2016. Plaintiff was ordered to file a Response to Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment by September 6, 2016. Plaintiff did not do so. An Order to Show Cause then issued, requiring Plaintiff to respond to the Motion for Summary Judgment by December 1, 2016. Plaintiff signed for and received the Order to Show Cause (ECF No. 33) but still did not file a Response. Plaintiff did not fully exhaust MDOC's Administrative Remedy Program (ARP) with respect to his claims before seeking relief in federal court, and his claims must be dismissed.

         DISCUSSION

         A. Summary Judgment Standard

         Summary Judgment is mandated against the party who fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case and on which that party has the burden of proof at trial. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e); Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). A motion for summary judgment shall be granted "if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute of material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). In evaluating a motion for summary judgment, the Court must construe "all facts and inferences in the light most favorable to the non-moving party." McFaul v. Valenzuela, 684 F.3d 564, 571 (5th Cir. 2012).

         B. Plaintiff Failed to Exhaust Administrative Remedies

         Under the Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA), Pub. L. No. 104-134, 110 Stat. 1321, H.R. 3019 (codified as amended in scattered titles and sections of the U.S.C.), prisoners are required to exhaust available administrative remedies before filing a conditions-of-confinement lawsuit:

No action shall be brought with respect to prison conditions under [42 U.S.C. § 1983], or any other Federal law, 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).

         The PLRAs exhaustion requirement protects administrative agency authority, promotes efficiency, and produces "a useful record for subsequent judicial consideration." Woodford v. Ngo, 548 U.S. 81, 89 (2006). A prisoner's failure to exhaust available administrative remedies undermines these purposes.

The benefits of exhaustion can be realized only if the prison grievance system is given a fair opportunity to consider the grievance. The prison grievance system will not have such an opportunity unless the grievant complies with the system's critical procedural rules. A prisoner who does not want to participate in the prison grievance system will have little incentive to comply with the system's procedural rules unless noncompliance carries a sanction ....

Woodford, 548 U.S. at 95.

         Exhaustion "is a threshold issue that courts must address to determine whether litigation is being conducted in the right forum at the right time." Dillon v. Rogers, 596 F.3d 260, 272 (5th Cir. 2010). Dismissal is mandatory where a prisoner fails to properly exhaust the available prison grievance process before filing suit in federal court. Gonzalez v. Seal,702 F.3d 785, 788 (5th Cir. 2012). "[J]udges may resolve ...


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