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Pinkton v. Jenkins

United States District Court, N.D. Mississippi, Oxford Division

March 7, 2019

ADAM LEE PINKTON PLAINTIFF
v.
WARDEN LEPHER JENKINS BARBARA JAMES MARSHALL COUNTYCORRECTIONAL FACILITY BERNICE BROWN DEFENDANTS

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          JANE M. VIRDEN, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         This matter comes before the court on the pro se prisoner complaint of Adam Lee Pinkton, who challenges the conditions of his confinement under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. For the purposes of the Prison Litigation Reform Act, the court notes that the plaintiff was incarcerated when he filed this suit. The plaintiff has brought the instant case under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, which provides a federal cause of action against “[e]very person” who under color of state authority causes the “deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution and laws.” 42 U.S.C. § 1983.

         Defendant Lepher Jenkins has moved [40] for summary judgment, seeking dismissal of the plaintiff's allegations, arguing that none of the allegations involve him.[1] In addition, the documents presented with the motion for summary judgment reveal that the plaintiff has not exhausted his administrative remedies as to defendants Jenkins, James, or Brown. Further, the defendants have filed with the court a Suggestion of Death as to defendant Bernice Brown, and the plaintiff has not timely sought to substitute a party in her place. For the reasons set forth below, the instant motion [40] for summary judgment will be granted, and the instant case will be dismissed.

         Allegations

         The plaintiff's remaining claims against the defendants are that they: (1) maintained inadequate staffing levels at the Marshall County Correctional Facility (“MCCF”) (Jenkins, James); (2) permitted excessive contraband in the facility (Jenkins, James); (3) maintained unsanitary kitchen conditions (Jenkins, James); (4) provided inadequate exercise and outdoor recreation (Jenkins, James); (5) retaliated against the plaintiff for complaining about the conditions at the facility (Jenkins); and (6) denied him access to the courts (Brown).

         Mr. Pinkton Has Not Exhausted Administrative Remedies as to Any Claim in This Case

         Prisoners must first exhaust any available administrative remedies before seeking relief in federal court regarding their conditions of confinement. Congress enacted the Prison Litigation Reform Act (“PLRA”), 42 U.S.C. §1997e et seq. - including its requirement that inmates exhaust their administrative remedies prior to filing suit - in an effort to address the large number of prisoner complaints filed in federal courts. See Jones v. Bock, 549 U.S. 199, 202 (2007). Congress meant for the exhaustion requirement to be an effective tool to help weed out the frivolous claims from the colorable ones:

Prisoner litigation continues to ‘account for an outsized share of filings' in federal district courts. Woodford v. Ngo, 548 U.S. 81, 94, n. 4, 126 S.Ct. 2378 (2006) (slip op., at 12, n.4). In 2005, nearly 10 percent of all civil cases filed in federal courts nationwide were prisoner complaints challenging prison conditions or claiming civil rights violations. Most of these cases have no merit; many are frivolous. Our legal system, however, remains committed to guaranteeing that prisoner claims of illegal conduct by their custodians are fairly handled according to law. The challenge lies in ensuring that the flood of non-meritorious claims does not submerge and effectively preclude consideration of the allegations with merit. See Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 327, 109 S.Ct. 1827, 104 L.Ed.2d 338 (1989).
Congress addressed that challenge in the PLRA. What this country needs, Congress decided, is fewer and better prisoner suits. See Porter v. Nussle, 534 U.S. 516, 524, 122 S.Ct. 983, 152 L.Ed.2d 12 (2002) (PLRA intended to “reduce the quantity and improve the quality of prisoner suits”). To that end, Congress enacted a variety of reforms designed to filter out the bad claims and facilitate consideration of the good. Key among these was the requirement that inmates complaining about prison conditions exhaust prison grievance remedies before initiating a lawsuit.

Jones v. Bock, 549 U.S. 199, 203 (2007).

         The Prison Litigation Reform Act (“PLRA”), 42 U.S.C. §1997e(a), requires prisoners to exhaust any available administrative remedies prior to filing suit under 42 U.S.C. §1983. The 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 cannot satisfy the exhaustion requirement “by filing an untimely or otherwise procedurally defective administrative grievance or appeal” because “proper exhaustion of administrative remedies is necessary.” Woodford v. Ngo, 548 U.S. 81, 83-84 (2006); see also Johnson v. Ford, 261 Fed.Appx. 752, 755 (5th Cir. 2008)(the Fifth Circuit takes “a strict approach” to the PLRA's exhaustion requirement)(citing Days v. Johnson, 322 F.3d 863, 866 (5thCir. 2003)); Lane v. Harris Cty.Med.Dep't, No. 06-20935, 2008 WL 116333, at *1 (5th Cir. Jan.11, 2008)(under the PLRA, “the prisoner must not only pursue all available avenues of relief; he must also comply with all administrative deadlines and procedural rules”). Indeed, “a prisoner must now exhaust administrative remedies even where the relief sought - monetary damages - cannot be granted by the administrative process.” Booth v. Churner, 532 U.S. 731, 739 (2001).

         The requirement that claims be exhausted prior to the filing of a lawsuit is mandatory and non-discretionary. Gonzalez v. Seal, 702 F.3d 785 (5th Cir.2012). “Whether a prisoner has exhausted administrative remedies is a mixed question of law and fact.” Dillon v. Rogers, 596 F.3d 260, 266 (5th Cir. 2010). As “exhaustion is a threshold issue that courts must address to determine whether litigation is being conducted in the right forum at the right time, . . . judges may resolve factual disputes concerning exhaustion without the participation of a jury.” Id. at 272. The Supreme Court has also recognized the need for a prisoner to face a significant consequence for deviating from the prison grievance procedural rules:

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 grievance 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 ...

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