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Abdulmutallab v. Sessions

United States District Court, D. Colorado

July 24, 2018

JEFFERSON SESSIONS, Attorney General of the United States, in his official capacity, FEDERAL BUREAU OF PRISONS, and JOHN DOES 1 THROUGH 20, in their official capacities, Defendants.



         This matter is before the Court on “Plaintiff's Objections to Magistrate Judge's Order (Doc. 102) Denying Plaintiff's Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(d) Motion (Doc. 90)” (the “Objection”) (ECF No. 109), seeking an order setting aside or rejecting the Magistrate Judge's Order (the “Order”) denying Plaintiff's request to conduct discovery he contends he needs in order to respond to Defendants' Motion for Partial Summary Judgment (the “Motion”) (ECF No. 80). Upon consideration of the Objection, Defendants' Response (ECF No. 111), relevant parts of the court record, and the applicable law and rules, and being otherwise fully advised, Plaintiff's Objection is OVERRULED in part and SUSTAINED in part.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Briefly, [1] at issue is whether Defendants' Motion based on Plaintiff's alleged failure to exhaust administrative remedies should be denied as premature or, in the alternative, deferred[2]until Plaintiff has had an opportunity to conduct discovery. Having found that the discovery Plaintiff sought is neither relevant nor necessary to resolving the Motion, the Magistrate Judge denied Plaintiff's Rule 56(d) motion. The Magistrate Judge based her order on the finding that exhaustion is an objective standard, to be determined based on the face of the grievance; and that as Plaintiff has been provided with all the administrative remedy requests and responses, he has all the information he needs to defend Defendants' Motion. Plaintiff argues otherwise, filing the Objection now at issue.


         A. Review of Magistrate Judge's Order

         To begin, the parties dispute whether the Order is dispositive or nondispositive. The difference matters as the standard of review differs. Compare Fed. R. Civ. P. 72(a) (the district judge considers timely objections and modifies or sets aside any part of the order that is clearly erroneous or is contrary to law) withFed. R. Civ. P. 72(b) (“The district judge must determine de novo any part of the magistrate judge's disposition that has been properly objected to.”). In this case, however, the Court finds that it need not resolve the issue as, under either standard, Plaintiff's Objection cannot be sustained as to his request to conduct discovery.[3]

         B. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(d) Motion

         To show relief is warranted under Rule 56(d), [4] “a party must specifically identify what facts it seeks to discover and show how those facts would materially aid its case on the dispositive issues.” Chavez v. Perry, 142 Fed.Appx. 325, 334 (10th Cir. 2005) (citing Jensen v. Redevelopment Agency, 998 F.2d 1550, 1554-55 (10th Cir. 1993)). “No relief under Rule 56(f) is warranted when the information sought is either irrelevant to the summary judgment motion or merely cumulative.” Id. (citation and quotation marks omitted). Instead, the information must be “‘essential to his opposition.'” Committee for First Amend. v. Campbell, 962 F.2d 1517, 1521 (10th Cir. 1992) (quoting Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 250 n.5 (1986)). “Unless…lacking in merit, the motion should be liberally treated.” Id. at 1522 (citation and quotation marks omitted).

         III. ANALYSIS

         Plaintiff raises two objections. The Court addresses each in turn.

         A. Objection to the Magistrate Judge's Substantive Finding

         The Magistrate Judge found that exhaustion is an objective inquiry, to be judge on the face of the grievance itself. Plaintiff objects to this finding, arguing that the subjective understanding of or actions by individual officials are relevant to whether Defendants have “fair notice” of Plaintiff's complaints or a “fair opportunity” to resolve his complaints. Defendants argue the court's review is to focus objectively on Plaintiff's own remedy requests, not on the subjective interpretation of those requests by individual officials. Further, Defendants contend, even if the Bureau of Prison's subjective understanding of the request mattered, that understanding is presented in the first paragraph of each remedy request response. The Court agrees, in part, with Defendants.

         “Requiring exhaustion allows prison officials an opportunity to resolve disputes concerning the exercise of their responsibilities before being haled into court.” Jones v. Brock, 549 U.S. 199, 204 (2007) (emphasis added). In Jon ...

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