United States District Court, D. Connecticut
RULING RE: MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT (DOC. NO.
C. HALL, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Mario Simmons (“Simmons”) brings this action
pursuant to sections 1983 and 1988 of title 42 of the United
States Code against defendant Correction Officer Sheckler
(“Sheckler”), alleging violations of his Eighth
Amendment rights under the United States Constitution.
See generally Complaint (“Compl.”) (Doc.
No. 1). According to the Complaint, the violations took place
on August 2, 2013, at the State of Connecticut's Robinson
Correctional Institution, where Simmons was an inmate and
Sheckler worked as a correction officer. Id. at
¶ 3, 4, 6. At approximately 11:40 a.m., an inmate
assaulted Simmons. Id. at ¶ 6. Several
correction officers, including Sheckler, responded to the
assault, at which time Sheckler allegedly used excessive
force against Simmons. Id. at 7, 8. Sheckler now
moves for summary judgment, solely on the grounds that
Simmons failed to exhaust his administrative remedies.
See generally Motion for Summary Judgment
(“Def.'s Mot.”) (Doc. No. 42).
following reasons, the defendant's Motion for Summary
Judgment (Doc. No. 42) is granted.
motion for summary judgment, the burden is on the moving
party to establish that there are no genuine issues of
material fact in dispute and that the party is entitled to
judgment as a matter of law. See Anderson v. Liberty
Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 256 (1986); Wright v.
N.Y. State Dep't of Corr., 831 F.3d 64, 71-72 (2d
Cir. 2016). Once the moving party has met its burden, the
nonmoving party “must set forth specific facts showing
that there is a genuine issue for trial, ”
Anderson, 477 U.S. at 256, and present “such
proof as would allow a reasonable juror to return a verdict
in [its] favor, ” Graham v. Long Island R.R.,
230 F.3d 34, 38 (2d Cir. 2000). “An issue of fact is
genuine and material if the evidence is such that a
reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving
party.” Cross Commerce Media, Inc. v. Collective,
Inc., 841 F.3d 155, 162 (2d Cir. 2016).
assessing the record to determine whether there are disputed
issues of material fact, the trial court must “resolve
all ambiguities and draw all inferences in favor of the party
against whom summary judgment is sought.” LaFond v.
Gen. Physics Servs. Corp., 50 F.3d 165, 175 (2d Cir.
1995). “Where it is clear that no rational finder of
fact ‘could find in favor of the nonmoving party
because the evidence to support its case is so slight,'
summary judgment should be granted.” F.D.I.C. v.
Great Am. Ins. Co., 607 F.3d 288, 292 (2d Cir. 2010)
(quoting Gallo v. Prudential Residential Servs., Ltd.
P'ship, 22 F.3d 1219, 1224 (2d Cir. 1994)). On the
other hand, where “reasonable minds could differ as to
the import of the evidence, ” the question must be left
to the finder of fact. Cortes v. MTA N.Y. City
Transit, 802 F.3d 226, 230 (2d Cir. 2015) (quoting
R.B. Ventures, Ltd. v. Shane, 112 F.3d 54, 59 (2d
sole question before the court is whether Simmons properly
exhausted his administrative remedies prior to commencing
this suit. See Memorandum of Law in Support of
Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment
(“Def.'s Mem.”) (Doc. No. 42-1) at 1.
to the Prison Litigation Reform Act (“PLRA”),
inmates may not bring an action under federal law until they
exhaust “such administrative remedies as are
available.” 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(a). “[T]he
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). Moreover, “the PLRA
exhaustion requirement requires proper exhaustion, ”
meaning that “prisoners must complete the
administrative review process in accordance with the
applicable procedural rules - rules that are defined not by
the PLRA, but by the prison grievance process itself.”
Johnson v. Killian, 680 F.3d 234, 238 (2d Cir. 2012)
(quoting Woodford v. Ngo, 548 U.S. 81, 93 (2006);
Jones v. Bock, 549 U.S. 199, 218 (2007)).
Ross v. Blake, the Supreme Court identified a
single, “textual exception” to the PLRA
exhaustion requirement, namely: while inmates must always
exhaust available remedies, they need not exhaust remedies
that are “unavailable” to them. 136 S.Ct. 1850,
1858 (2016). The court recognized three circumstances in
which “an administrative remedy, although officially on
the books, is not capable of use to obtain relief.”
Id. at 1859. Specifically, exhaustion may be excused
when (1) a procedure “operates as a simple dead end -
with officers unable or consistently unwilling to provide any
relief to aggrieved inmates”; (2) “an
administrative scheme [is] so opaque that it becomes,
practically speaking, incapable of use, ” because
“no ordinary prisoner can discern or navigate
it”; or (3) “prison administrators thwart inmates
from taking advantage of a grievance process through
machination, misrepresentation, or intimidation.”
Id. at 1859-60.
failure to exhaust is an affirmative defense, defendants bear
the initial burden of establishing, by pointing to legally
sufficient sources such as statutes, regulations, or
grievance procedures, that a grievance process exists and
applies to the underlying dispute.” Hubbs v.
Suffolk Cty. Sheriff's Dep't, 788 F.3d 54, 59
(2d Cir. 2015) (internal quotation marks, citations, and
alterations omitted). However, once the defendant has
established that “an administrative remedy was
available in the sense that a grievance policy or procedure
existed and covered the dispute at hand, ” the burden
shifts to the plaintiff to prove an exception to exhaustion
by showing that a grievance procedure is unavailable.
Id. at 61 (internal quotation marks omitted);
see also Scott v. Kastner-Smith, 298 F.Supp.3d 545,
554 (W.D.N.Y. 2018) (“After the defendant satisfies its
burden, the plaintiff may attempt to overcome the PLRA's
exhaustion requirement by demonstrating . . . [an] exception[
].”) (quoting Powell v. Schriro, No. 14 Civ.
6207 (KPF), 2015 WL 7017516, at *6 (S.D.N.Y. Nov. 12, 2015))
(internal alterations omitted).
case, Simmons was required to comply with the grievance
procedures set forth in the Connecticut Department of
Correction Administrative Directive 9.6 (“Directive
9.6”). Shehan v. Erfe, No. 3:15-CV-1315
(MPS), 2017 WL 53691, at *6 (D. Conn. Jan. 4, 2017).
Specifically, Simmons's excessive force claims were
grievable using the Inmate Grievance Procedure outlined in
section 6 of Directive 9.6. See Directive 9.6,
§ 4(A) (“The Inmate Grievance Procedure provides
an administrative remedy for all matters subject to the
Commissioner's authority that are not specifically
identified in Sections 4(B) through 4(I) of this
Directive.”). Prior to filing an inmate grievance, the
Inmate Grievance Procedure requires that the inmate seek
informal resolution, first by attempting to resolve the issue
verbally and then by submitting a written Inmate Request
Form. Directive 9.6, §6 (A). If the inmate is not
satisfied with the informal resolution offered, the inmate
may file a written grievance within thirty calendar days of
the occurrence or discovery of the cause of the grievance.
Id. at § 6(C). If the inmate is not satisfied
with the response to his grievance, the inmate may file an
appeal. Id. at § K.
argues that Simmons failed to exhaust his administrative
remedies because he did not file a grievance within thirty
calendar days of August 2, 2013, the date of the incident.
See Def.'s Mem. at 6. As support, Sheckler
provides the Affidavits of prison officials who are
responsible for maintaining inmate grievance records at each
of the correctional institutions that housed Simmons since
August 2, 2013.See generally Affidavit of Kim
Casey-Cortes (“Casey-Cortes Aff.”) (Doc. No.
42-2); Affidavit of Brian Nolan (“Nolan Aff.”)
(Doc No. 42-2); Affidavit of Louis Kopacz (“Kopacz
Aff.”) (Doc No. 42-2). These officials attest that they
diligently searched the records for grievances and appeals
filed by Simmons, but found none relating to his claims
against Sheckler. See Casey-Cortes Aff. at ¶ 4;
Nolan Aff. at ¶ 4; Kopacz Aff. at ¶¶ 18, 20.
Notably, their search did reveal that Simmons attempted to
file two grievances regarding other aspects of the inmate
assault on August 2, 2013. See Defendant's Local
Rule 56(a)1 Statement (“Def.'s L.R. 56(a)1”)
(Doc. No. 42-2) at ¶ 24; Plaintiff's Local Rule
56(a)2 Statement (“Pl.'s L.R. 56(a)2”) (Doc.
No. 46-1) at ¶ 24. However, as Simmons concedes, neither
of these two grievances concerned Simmons's excessive
force claims against Sheckler. See Def.'s L.R.
56(a)1 at ¶ 26; Pl.'s L.R. 56(a)2 at ¶ 26.
Thus, they cannot provide Simmons with a basis for exhausting
his claims against Sheckler, as an “inmate must exhaust
his administrative remedies for each claim he asserts in
federal court.”Shehan, 2017 WL 53691, at *6;
see also Jones v. Bock, 549 U.S. 199, 219-20, 223-24
(2007) (directing courts to evaluate PLRA exhaustion using a
claim-by-claim approach, and observing that “[a]ll
agree that no unexhausted claim may be considered.”).
Accordingly, the court concludes that Shecker has discharged
his initial burden of proving that Simmons failed to exhaust
his administrative remedies. See Khudan v. Lee, No.