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Davis v. Williams

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

March 4, 2019

MICHAEL DAVIS, Plaintiff,
v.
DR. CHARLES WILLIAMS, et al., Defendants.

          RULING DENYING MOTION FOR RECONSIDERATION

          Jeffrey Alker Meyer United States District Judge

         Plaintiff Michael Davis is a prisoner of the State of Connecticut at Osborn Correctional Institution. He filed this action against two prison officials-Dr. Charles Williams, the prison's religious facilitator, and Correctional Officer Hutton. He asserts claims pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for violation of his right to free exercise of his religion and for denial of due process. In accordance with 28 U.S.C. § 1915A, I conducted an initial review of Davis's claims and permitted them to proceed. Doc. #7; Davis v. Williams, 2017 WL 507213 (D. Conn. 2017).

         The defendants thereafter moved to dismiss on the ground that Davis had failed to exhaust his administrative remedies before commencing this action. See Woodford v. Ngo, 548 U.S. 81 (2006) (explaining mandate of Prison Litigation Reform Act for proper exhaustion of administrative remedies).

         On February 16, 2018, I granted defendants' motion, concluding from a somewhat scanty record that Davis had exceeded the five-day limitation period for filing a Level 2 grievance to appeal the denial of his Level 1 grievance. Doc. #19 at 1-2. Nevertheless, because of my uncertainty about the completeness of the record, I granted leave for Davis to file a motion for reconsideration if he believed my ruling was based on a misunderstanding of the facts or law. Id. at 2.

         Davis followed up with a motion for reconsideration, alleging facts that would arguably suggest-contrary to my earlier ruling-that he had timely filed his Level 2 grievance. Doc. #21 at 2. Although I will assume for present purposes that Davis is correct about this, I still conclude for reasons detailed below that Davis did not properly and timely exhaust his administrative remedies.

         In order to explain why I reach this conclusion, it is important to understand the basic framework of the DOC's rules for the resolution of grievances. The DOC's inmate grievance procedure is set forth at length in DOC Administrative Directive 9.6. See Riles v. Buchanan, 656 Fed.Appx. 577, 579-80 (2d Cir. 2016) (describing requirements of AD 9.6).[1] The process contemplates at least three stages of review for an inmate who wishes to seek a remedy for mistreatment or adverse conditions at a prison.

         The first stage is informal resolution. An inmate may attempt to verbally resolve the issue with an appropriate staff member or supervisor. See AD 9.6(6)(A). If verbal attempts to resolve the matter are not effective, the inmate must submit a written request for resolution on a form referred to as an Inmate Request form (CN 9601). Ibid. A prison official-usually the staff member most involved-must respond to this Inmate Request form within 15 business days. Ibid.

         The second stage is for the inmate to file a formal grievance. To do this, the inmate must submit a Level 1 grievance on a form referred to as an Inmate Administrative Remedy form (CN 9602). See Id. at 9.6(6)(C). Most significantly for purposes of this ruling, the Level 1 grievance must be filed not later than 30 calendar days from the date of the occurrence or discovery of the cause of the grievance, and it must also include a copy of the staff response to the Inmate Request form or explain why the response is not attached. See Id. The Unit Administrator in turn must issue a written response to a Level 1 grievance within 30 business days. See Id. at 9.6(6)(I).

         A Level 1 grievance may be returned to the inmate without disposition on its merits if the inmate has failed in the first instance to avail himself of the informal resolution process or if the inmate fails without adequate explanation to attach the Inmate Request form along with the staff response. See Id. at 9.6(6)(E). The rejection of a Level 1 grievance for this reason is done on a form referred to as a Grievance Returned Without Disposition form (CN 9606). Ibid.

         The third stage of the grievance process is the filing of a Level 2 grievance to the District Administrator. The inmate must file any Level 2 grievance within just five calendar days of receiving an adverse decision on a Level 1 grievance. See Id. at 9.6(6)(K). Alternatively, if the inmate has not received a response to a Level 1 grievance within 30 business days, then he may go ahead and file a Level 2 grievance. See Id. at 9.6(6)(I).[2]

         The incident at issue in this case occurred on August 18, 2016. On that same day, Davis decided to file a Level 1 grievance. This was plainly improper because he had not yet exhausted the oral and written informal resolution process. Davis knew or should have known this, because the Administrative Remedy form (CN 9602) that Davis filled out clearly advised him at the top of the form next to a box labeled “I am filing a Grievance, ” which he checked, of the necessity that he must first exhaust informal resolution procedures and also that any grievance must be filed within 30 days of the incident at issue:

Prior to filing a grievance, you must attempt informal resolution. Attach a copy of CN 9601, Inmate Request Form with the staff member's response OR state in Section 4 the reason why the form is not attached. Grievances must be filed within 30 days of the occurrence or discovery of the cause of grievance.

Doc. #21 at 7.

         Davis did nothing to explain on the grievance form why he had failed to exhaust the informal resolution process except to state: “No CN 9601 obtained.” Doc. #21 at 6. Not surprisingly, a prison administrator returned Davis's grievance to him because he had ignored ...


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