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Jones v. Santini

United States District Court, D. Colorado

January 2, 2018

STEVEN BRADLEY JONES, SR., Plaintiff,
v.
GEORGE SANTINI, WILLIAMSON, HECTOR LOZANO, LARRY HUTSON, and THOMAS G. KRAUS, M.D., Defendants.

          RECOMMENDATION OF UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

          Michael E. Hegarty, United States Magistrate Judge

         Defendants Hector Lozano and Williamson seek summary judgment on Plaintiff Steven Bradley Jones' second claim for relief. According to Defendants, Mr. Jones failed to exhaust this claim before filing the present action. Although Mr. Jones filed a combined response to Defendants' Motion to Dismiss and Motion for Summary Judgment, he does not address Defendants' exhaustion argument. The Court finds the undisputed evidence demonstrates Mr. Jones did not exhaust his claims before filing this case. Accordingly, the Court respectfully recommends that Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment be granted.

         BACKGROUND

         Mr. Jones is an inmate at the Federal Correctional Institution in Littleton, Colorado. Am. Compl. 2, ECF No. 21; Mot. for Summ. J. ¶ 1, ECF No. 42. On May 5, 2017, Mr. Jones submitted an administrative remedy request to the Warden asserting Defendants Lozano and Williamson confiscated his walking cane in retaliation for filing a lawsuit and grievances. Decl. of Megan G. Marlow ¶ 10, ECF No. 42-1. On May 19, 2017, Mr. Jones filed the present case. Compl. 1, ECF No. 1. Mr. Jones' second cause of action asserts Mr. Lozano and Mr. Williamson violated the First Amendment when they confiscated his walking cane. Am. Compl. 6.

         The Warden denied Mr. Jones' administrative remedy request on June 13, 2017, Decl. of Megan G. Marlow ¶ 10, and Mr. Jones filed an appeal to the Regional Director on June 23, 2017. Id. After the Regional Director denied Mr. Jones' appeal, he filed a complaint at the national level on August 28, 2017. Id. ¶ 11; ECF No. 42-1, at 15.

         On October 27, 2017, Defendants Lozano and Williamson filed the present Motion for Summary Judgment, which argues that Mr. Jones did not properly exhaust his administrative remedies before filing this case. Mot. for Summ. J., ECF No. 42. According to Defendants, when Mr. Jones filed suit, he had initiated only the second step of a four-step administrative remedy process. Because the Prison Litigation Reform Act (“PLRA”) requires that an inmate complete every step of a prison's administrative process, Defendants contend Mr. Jones did not satisfy the PLRA's mandatory exhaustion requirement. Id. at 4. Although Mr. Jones filed a combined response to Defendants' Motion to Dismiss and Motion for Summary Judgment, he does not address Defendants' exhaustion argument. See Pl.'s Resp., ECF No. 52. Defendants filed a Reply in Support of Their Motion for Summary Judgment on December 8, 2017. ECF No. 54.

         LEGAL STANDARDS

         I. Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56

         A motion for summary judgment serves the purpose of testing whether a trial is required. Heideman v. S. Salt Lake City, 348 F.3d 1182, 1185 (10th Cir. 2003). A court shall grant summary judgment if the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, admissions, or affidavits show there is no genuine issue of material fact, and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c). A fact is material if it might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing substantive law. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 255 (1986).

         The moving party bears the initial responsibility of providing to the court the factual basis for its motion. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). “The moving party may carry its initial burden either by producing affirmative evidence negating an essential element of the nonmoving party's claim, or by showing that the nonmoving party does not have enough evidence to carry its burden of persuasion at trial.” Trainor v. Apollo Metal Specialties, Inc., 318 F.3d 976, 979 (10th Cir. 2002). Only admissible evidence may be considered when ruling on a motion for summary judgment. World of Sleep, Inc. v. La-Z-Boy Chair Co., 756 F.2d 1467, 1474 (10th Cir. 1985).

         If the movant properly supports a motion for summary judgment, the non-moving party has the burden of showing there are issues of material fact to be determined. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 322. That is, the opposing party may not rest on the allegations contained in his complaint, but must respond with specific facts showing a genuine factual issue for trial. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e); Scott v. Harris, 550 U.S. 372, 380 (2007) (“The mere existence of some alleged factual dispute between the parties will not defeat an otherwise properly supported motion for summary judgment; the requirement is that there be no genuine issue of material fact.”); Hysten v. Burlington N. & Santa Fe Ry., 296 F.3d 1177, 1180 (10th Cir. 2002). These specific facts may be shown “by any of the kinds of evidentiary materials listed in Rule 56(c), except the mere pleadings themselves.” Pietrowski v. Town of Dibble, 134 F.3d 1006, 1008 (10th Cir. 1998) (quoting Celotex, 477 U.S. at 324). “[T]he content of summary judgment evidence must be generally admissible and . . . if that evidence is presented in the form of an affidavit, the Rules of Civil Procedure specifically require a certain type of admissibility, i.e., the evidence must be based on personal knowledge.” Bryant v. Farmers Ins. Exch., 432 F.3d 1114, 1122 (10th Cir. 2005). “The court views the record and draws all inferences in the light most favorable to the non-moving party.” Pepsi-Cola Bottling Co. of Pittsburg, Inc. v. Pepsico, Inc., 431 F.3d 1241, 1255 (10th Cir. 2005).

         II. Dismissal of a Pro Se Plaintiff's Complaint

         A federal court must construe a pro se plaintiff's pleadings “liberally” and hold the pleadings “to a less stringent standard than formal pleadings filed by lawyers.” Smith v. United States, 561 F.3d 1090, 1096 (10th Cir. 2009). “[The] court, however, will not supply additional factual allegations to round out a plaintiff's complaint or construct a legal theory on plaintiff's behalf.” Id. (citing Whitney v. New Mexico, 113 F.3d 1170, 1173-74 (10th Cir. 1997)). The Tenth Circuit interpreted this rule to mean:

[I]f the court can reasonably read the pleadings to state a valid claim on which the plaintiff could prevail, it should do so despite the plaintiff's failure to cite proper legal authority, his confusion of various legal theories, his poor syntax and sentence ...

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