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Donaldson v. Charles E. Samuels

March 24, 2008


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Kugler, United States District Judge


Presently before the Court is a motion by Defendants Warden Charles E. Samuels, Jr., Lieutenant S. Miller, and Senior Correctional Officer W. Archibald (collectively "Defendants") to dismiss the complaint of Plaintiff Ofa Kareem Donaldson ("Plaintiff") or alternatively, for summary judgment. Plaintiff alleges that Defendants assaulted him while he was an inmate in federal prison. For the reasons set forth below, this Court will deny Defendants' motion.


Plaintiff, a former inmate at the Federal Correctional Institution in Fort Dix, New Jersey ("FCI Ft. Dix"), submitted the above-captioned Complaint on November 22, 2006. Plaintiff's Complaint, brought pursuant to Bivens v. Six Unknown Federal Narcotics Agents, 403 U.S. 388, 391 (1999), alleges that Defendants violated Plaintiff's constitutional rights when on March 13, 2005, Defendant Correctional Officers Archibald and Miller physically assaulted him and Defendant Warden Samuels knew about the incident and refused to investigate.

Plaintiff first reported the incident on May 9, 2005, through an Administrative Remedy Request. Two days later, Defendant Warden Samuels responded, informing Plaintiff that his allegations had been referred to the proper authorities, an investigation would be conducted, and that Plaintiff would not be informed of the outcome. (Defs.' Br. Moran Decl. ¶¶ 9-10; Exs. 2-3.)

Dissatisfied with this response, Plaintiff filed an appeal with the Regional Office on July 5, 2005. The Regional Office rejected the appeal as untimely because it was not filed within the allotted twenty-day time period. Plaintiff was informed, however, that he could resubmit his appeal with a verification from prison staff on Bureau of Prisons letterhead that the late filing was not Plaintiff's fault. (Moran Decl. ¶¶ 11-13; Ex. 4.) Plaintiff then filed an appeal of the Regional Office's disposition to the Central Office on September 9, 2005. That same day, the Central Office rejected this appeal as untimely and also because Plaintiff had never submitted a verification to the Regional Office with his reasons for the late filing. (Moran Decl. ¶¶ 14-16.)

In the present motion, filed June 7, 2007, Defendants move for dismissal of the claims against them on the grounds that Plaintiff failed to exhaust his administrative remedies as required by the Prison Litigation Reform Act ("PLRA"), 42 U.S.C. § 1997e. Plaintiff filed a brief opposing Defendants' motion on June 29, 2007.


A motion to dismiss for failure to exhaust administrative remedies is treated as a motion to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). Robinson v. Dalton, 107 F.3d 1018, 1022 (3d Cir. 1997). However, once the parties go "beyond the face of the pleadings" to establish whether the administrative remedies have been exhausted, courts should treat the issue "in a manner consistent with Rule 56 for summary judgment." Id. Since the parties have gone outside the pleadings in this case, the Court will treat Defendants' motion as one for summary judgment.

Summary judgment is appropriate where the Court is satisfied that "there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c); Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 330 (1986). A genuine issue of material fact exists only if "the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could find for the nonmoving party." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). When the Court weighs the evidence presented by the parties, "[t]he evidence of the non-movant is to be believed, and all justifiable inferences are to be drawn in his favor." Id. at 255.

The burden of establishing the nonexistence of a "genuine issue" is on the party moving for summary judgment. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 330. The moving party may satisfy this burden by either (1) submitting affirmative evidence that negates an essential element of the nonmoving party's claim; or (2) demonstrating to the Court that the nonmoving party's evidence is insufficient to establish an essential element of the nonmoving party's case. Id. at 331.

Once the moving party satisfies this initial burden, the nonmoving party "must set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(e). To do so, the nonmoving party must "do more than simply show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to material facts." Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986). Rather, to survive summary judgment, the nonmoving party must "make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of [every] element essential to that party's case, and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial." Celotex, 477 U.S. at 322.


Pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(a): "No action shall be brought with respect to prison conditions under section 1983 of this title, 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." This provision requires "proper exhaustion," which demands compliance with an agency's deadlines and other critical procedural rules. Roscoe v. Dobson, 248 Fed. App'x 440, 442 (3d Cir. 2007) (citing Woodford v. Ngo, 126 S.Ct. 2378, 2386-87 (2006)). The purpose of the exhaustion requirement is "(1) to return control of the inmate grievance process to the prison administrators; (2) to encourage development of an administrative record, and perhaps settlements, within the inmate grievance process; and (3) to reduce the burden on the federal courts by erecting barriers to frivolous lawsuits." Spruill v. Gillis, 3 ...

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