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Pilcher v. Cartledge

United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Charleston Division

August 26, 2014

Eddie James Pilcher, Jr., Plaintiff,
v.
Larry Cartledge, Warden; Megan Harris, CCCIV; and Ms. Johnson, IGC, in their official and individual capacity, Defendants.

REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

WALLACE W. DIXON, Magistrate Judge.

This civil rights action brought pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983[1] brought by a state prisoner proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis is before the undersigned United States Magistrate Judge for a report and recommendation on the Defendants' motion for summary judgment filed on May 2, 2014. (Doc. 42). 28 U.S.C. § 636(b) and Local Civil Rule 73.02 for the District of South Carolina.

The Plaintiff, Eddie James Pilcher, Jr., #303616, is presently confined at the Lee Correctional Institutional Institution (LCI), a facility of the South Carolina Department of Corrections (SCDC). At the time of the events at issue, Pilcher was housed at Perry Correctional Institution (PCI).

Defendant Larry Cartledge is the PCI Warden, Defendant Megan Harris is the Mental Health Counselor at PCI, and Defendant Ms. Johnson is the Inmate Grievance co-ordinator at PCI. They are sued in their individual and official capacities. Pilcher sought injunctive relief and damages.

In December 2012, Pilcher alleged that he was placed on crisis intervention ("CI") because he "felt like harming [him]self." Plaintiff stated that his property and clothing were taken and he was placed in a cell for 72 hours. He alleged he was given a blanket at one point during the intervention when it was determined that he was not in a state of "mental derangement." Plaintiff claimed that during the intervention he was not given any toilet tissue. (Dkt. 1 Complaint).

When he was released from CI seventy-two (72) hours later, he claimed that he filed a Step One grievance, PCI 00-34-3, with Defendant Johnson, in which he complained about the conditions of confinement while on CI. Johnson forwarded the grievance to the Warden, who denied the grievance. When the grievance was returned to Pilcher he checked the box which indicated that he did not accept the Warden's decision and wished to appeal the denial. In his verified complaint Pilcher wrote that he did file a Step 2 appeal of the Warden's denial, but, "It appears that my Grievance Coordinator, Ms. Johnson trashed my grievance.... Furthermore, I filed my Step 2 grievance on 1/24/13 but it came up missing.' Somebody trashed it." (Dkt. 1 Complaint).

On May 5, 2014, Pilcher was provided a copy of the Defendants' motion and was given an explanation of dismissal and summary judgment procedure, as well as pertinent extracts from Rules 12 and 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure similar to that required by Roseboro v. Garrison , 528 F.2d 309 (4th Cir.1975). On May 15, 2014, Pilcher filed an opposition to the motion with his own affidavit and exhibits. The case was reassigned to the undersigned on June 5, 2014. Hence it appears consideration of the motions is appropriate.

SUMMARY JUDGMENT STANDARD

Pursuant to FED.R.CIV.P. 56(c), a district court must enter judgment against a party who, "after adequate time for discovery... fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case, and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial." Celotex Corp. v. Catrett , 477 U.S. 317, 322, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 2552, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986). Where "there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and... the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law, " entry of summary judgment is mandated. FED.R.CIV.P. 56(c).

To avoid summary judgment on the Defendants' motion, a Plaintiff must produce evidence creating a genuine issue of material fact. "The mere existence of a scintilla of evidence in support of the Plaintiff's position will be insufficient; there must be evidence on which the jury could reasonably find for the plaintiff." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc. , 477 U.S. 242, 252, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 2512, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986). Though the burden of proof rests initially with the moving party, when a motion for summary judgment is made and supported as provided in Rule 56, the nonmoving party must produce "specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial, " rather than resting upon the bald assertions of his pleadings. FED.R.CIV.P. 56(e). See First National Bank of Arizona v. Cities Service Co. , 391 U.S. 253, 289, 88 S.Ct. 1575, 20 L.Ed.2d 569 (1968).

In determining whether a genuine issue of material fact is in dispute, "[t]he evidence of the nonmovant is to be believed, and all justifiable inferences are to be drawn in his favor." Anderson at 255, 106 S.Ct. at 2513-14. In addition, genuineness means that the evidence must create fair doubt; wholly speculative assertions will not suffice. A trial is not an entitlement; it exists to resolve what reasonable minds would recognize as real factual disputes. See Cole v. Cole , 633 F.2d 1083, 1089 (4th Cir. 1980).

EXHAUSTION OF ADMINISTRATIVE REMEDIES

Defendants pled the affirmative defense of failure to exhaust prison administrative remedies as a bar to this action and moved for summary judgment on that basis, among others. (Dkt. 30 Answer to Amended Complaint.) They also filed the affidavits of Inmate Grievance Branch Chief Ann Hallman, Warden Larry Cartledge, former Inmate Grievance Coordinator C. Johnson and Counselor Megan Harris in support of their motion. It appears the Defendants are correct and are entitled to have the case dismissed without prejudice on that basis.

The Prison Litigation Reform Act's (PLRA) exhaustion requirement, 42 U.S.C.1997e(a), requires that a prisoner exhaust the available administrative remedies before filing a Section 1983 action concerning conditions of his confinement. 42 U.S.C.1997e(a). In enacting the PLRA, Congress carved out an exception to the general rule that exhaustion of state remedies is not a prerequisite to filing a civil rights suit. The PLRA amended § 1997(e) so that it now provides, "No action shall be brought with respect to prison conditions under section 1983 of this title, or any other Federal law, by a ...


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