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Groomes v. Frazir

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

December 10, 2018

BOBBY GROOMES, Plaintiff,
v.
OFFICER FRAZIR, ET AL., Defendants.

          RULING RE: DEFENDANTS' MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT (DOC. NO. 18)

          Janet C. Hall United States District Judge

         The plaintiff, Bobby Groomes (“Groomes”), initiated this action by filing a civil rights complaint against Correctional Officer Frazir (“Frazir”), Lieutenant Wagner (“Wagner”), Captain N. Lewis (“Lewis”), Warden Antonio Santiago (“Santiago”), and Director of Classification and Population Management David Maiga (“Maiga”). See Complaint (Doc. No. 1). On August 21, 2017, Groomes filed an Amended Complaint naming Frazir, Wagner, Lewis, Santiago, Maiga, and District Administrator Angel Quiros (“Quiros”) as defendants. See Amended Complaint (“Am. Compl.”) (Doc. No. 9).

         On November 2, 2017, the court reviewed the allegations in the Amended Complaint and dismissed the investigation claim; the First Amendment speech claim; the Fourth Amendment search claim; the Eighth Amendment deliberate indifference to mental health needs claim; the Thirteenth Amendment claim; the Fourteenth Amendment due process claims related to the confiscation or loss of Groomes' personal property, the loss of his job, his classification to a level four security level and continued confinement at a level three facility; and the claims under article 1, sections 4, 7 and 20 of the Connecticut Constitution; and, dismissed without prejudice the Eighth Amendment deliberate indifference to mental health needs claim and the Fourteenth Amendment due process claim regarding Groomes' placement on High Security status. See Initial Review Order (Doc. No. 10) at 18. Thus, the court dismissed all claims against Quiros and Maiga. Id. The court concluded that the Fourteenth Amendment equal protection claim relating to the removal of Groomes from his prison job on August 4, 2015, because of his race, would proceed against Wagner, Frazir, Lewis, and Santiago in their individual capacities. Id. On December 20, 2017, Wagner, Frazir, Lewis, and Santiago (“the defendants”) filed an answer to the Amended Complaint. See Answer (Doc. No. 16).

         Pending before the court is the defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment filed by Wagner, Frazir, Lewis and Santiago. For the reasons set forth below, the court grants the Motion for Summary Judgment, and alternatively would dismiss this action pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 41(b).

         I. Notice of Current Mailing Address

         Local Rule 83.1(c)(2) requires that “[a]ny self-represented party . . . provide an address where service can be made upon such party.” On June 30, 2017, Magistrate Judge Garfinkel made the plaintiff aware of his obligation under Local Rule 83.1(c)(2) to keep the Clerk apprised of an address where court orders and rulings could be mailed to him and cautioned him that failure to comply with this requirement could lead to dismissal of the case. See Order (Doc. No. 6). At the time that Groomes filed his Amended Complaint in August 2017, he listed his address as MacDougall-Walker Correctional Institution in Suffield, Connecticut. See Am. Compl. at 2.

         On April 27, 2018, counsel for the defendants served a Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. No. 18), a Memorandum in Support of the Motion (Doc. No. 18-1), Exhibits in support of the Memorandum (Doc. Nos. 18-2 to 18-6), a Local Rule 56(a)1 Statement of Facts (Doc. No. 18-7), and a Notice to Self-Represented Litigant (Doc. No. 18-8) on Groomes by mail at: Roger Sherman House, 8 Rowe Street, New Haven, Connecticut 06511. See (Doc. No. 18-8) at 7. Groomes did not respond to the Motion or seek an extension of time to respond to the Motion.

         On September 10, 2018, the court issued a Notice to Pro Se Litigant (Doc. No. 20) informing Groomes of his obligation to respond to the Motion for Summary Judgment and directing Groomes to file his Response on or before September 24, 2018. The court warned Groomes that if he failed to file a Response to the Motion for Summary Judgment within the time specified, the court would likely grant the Motion absent objection. Id. The Clerk mailed the Notice to Groomes at his address on file with the court: MacDougall Walker Correctional Institution, 1153 East Street South, Suffield, CT 06080. Id.

         On September 26, 2018, the Clerk received the envelope containing the copy of the Notice to Pro Se Litigant back from the United States Postal Service. The envelope included the following notation: Return to Sender, Not Deliverable as Addressed, Unable to Forward - Parole.” See (Docket Entry dated Sept. 26, 2018). Later that day, after becoming aware that Department of Correction records[1] reflected that the plaintiff's current location was the Roger Sherman House in New Haven, Connecticut, a clerk re-mailed a copy of the Notice to Pro Se Litigant to the plaintiff at the Roger Sherman House, 8 Rowe Street, New Haven, Connecticut 06511. Id.

         To date, Groomes has not filed a written notice indicating his current mailing address. Nor has he responded to the court's Notice to Pro Se Litigant or the defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment. He has not otherwise contacted the court. Accordingly, the action is subject to dismissal under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 41(b), for Groomes' failure to respond to Orders and the rules of this court.

         II. Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. No. 18)

         The Motion for Summary Judgment includes two grounds. Wagner, Frazir, Lewis, and Santiago argue that Groomes failed to exhaust his administrative remedies prior to filing this action with regard to the only claim that remains pending against them and that the Amended Complaint fails to state a viable equal protection claim against them. See Mem. Supp. Mot. Summ. J. (Doc. No. 18-1) at 6-11. The court concludes that, even if the case were not subject to dismissal for Groomes' failure to comply with court orders and the Local Rule requiring him to file a written notice of his current address where motions, memoranda, and other documents may be served on him, the Motion for Summary Judgment should be granted on the ground that Groomes failed to exhaust his available administrative remedies prior to filing this action as to the sole claim that remains pending.

         The Prison Litigation Reform Act, section 1997e(a) of title 42 of the United States Code (“PLRA”), requires a prisoner to exhaust “administrative remedies as are available” before bringing an “action . . . with respect to prison conditions.” The Supreme Court has held that this provision requires an inmate to exhaust administrative remedies before filing any type of action in federal court, see Porter v. Nussle, 534 U.S. 516, 532 (2002), regardless of whether the inmate may obtain the specific relief he desires through the administrative process. See Booth v. Churner, 532 U.S. 731, 741 (2001).

         Furthermore, the PLRA requires “proper exhaustion” which includes complying with all “procedural rules, ” including filing deadlines, as defined by the particular prison grievance system. Woodford v. Ngo, 548 U.S. 81, 90-91 (2006). Thus, “untimely or otherwise procedurally defective attempts to secure administrative remedies do not satisfy the PLRA's exhaustion ...


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