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Lyles v. Sterling

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

April 11, 2018

Courtney Lyles, Plaintiff,
v.
Bryan Sterling, Michael McCall, NFN Lewis, Florence Mauney, Stephen Claytor, NFN DeGeorges, NFN Bennett, NFN Swinger, NFN Valero, NFN Tucker, NFN Mitchell, Officer Edgerton, NFN Robinson, Warden Cartledge, NFN Miskinis, Robert Olsen, and Tashonda Caldwell, Defendants.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          CAMERON MCGOWAN CURRIE, SENIOR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Courtney Lyles (“Plaintiff”), proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis, brought this action against Bryan Sterling, Michael McCall, NFN Lewis, Florence Mauney, Stephen Claytor, NFN DeGeorges, NFN Bennett, NFN Swinger, NFN Valero, NFN Tucker, NFN Mitchell, Officer Edgerton, NFN Robinson, Warden Cartledge, NFN Miskinis, Robert Olsen, and Tashonda Caldwell (collectively “Defendants”) alleging violation of his constitutional rights pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, as well as state law claims. ECF No. 1. This matter is before the court on Defendants' motion for summary judgment. ECF No. 33. Because Plaintiff is proceeding pro se, the Magistrate Judge entered an order pursuant to Roseboro v. Garrison, 528 F.2d 309 (4th Cir. 1975), advising him of the importance of the motion and the need to file an adequate response. ECF No. 34. Plaintiff filed a “Motion to Dismiss Defendants motion for Summary Judgment.”[1] ECF No. 41. Defendants filed a reply. ECF No. 42.

         On February 15, 2018, the Magistrate Judge issued a Report and Recommendation, recommending Defendants' motion for summary judgment be granted. ECF No. 44. The Magistrate Judge advised the parties of the procedures and requirements for filing objections to the Report and the serious consequences if they failed to do so. On March 8, 2018, Plaintiff filed objections to the Report. ECF No. 46. Defendants filed a reply on March 21, 2018. ECF No. 47. This matter is ripe for the court's review.

         I. Standard

         The Magistrate Judge makes only a recommendation to this court. The recommendation has no presumptive weight, and the responsibility to make a final determination remains with the court. Mathews v. Weber, 423 U.S. 261 (1976). The court is charged with making a de novo determination of those portions of the Report to which specific objection is made, and the court may accept, reject, or modify, in whole or in part, the recommendation of the Magistrate Judge, or recommit the matter to the Magistrate Judge with instructions. See 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1). The court reviews only for clear error in the absence of an objection. See Diamond v. Colonial Life & Accident Ins. Co., 416 F.3d 310, 315 (4th Cir. 2005) (stating that “in the absence of a timely filed objection, a district court need not conduct a de novo review, but instead must ‘only satisfy itself that there is no clear error on the face of the record in order to accept the recommendation.'”) (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 72 advisory committee's note).

         II. Discussion

         The Magistrate Judge recommends granting Defendants' motion for summary judgment as to all federal claims, other than the claim for lost property, based on failure to exhaust administrative remedies. ECF No. 44 at 3-9. With respect to the lost property claim, as to which Plaintiff did exhaust administrative remedies, the Magistrate Judge recommends dismissal because South Carolina has an adequate post-deprivation remedy for an alleged deprivation of property. Id. at 12. The Report notes Plaintiff's due process rights were not violated, even if a correctional officer did lose or mishandle Plaintiff's property. Further, the Report recommends declining to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over any state law claim for alleged loss of property, to allow Plaintiff to pursue such a claim in state court. Id. at 14, 16.

         Plaintiff asserts several objections to the Report. First, Plaintiff appears to object to the Roseboro Order's time granted to respond to summary judgment, because he receives legal mail “week(s) after the institution receives it that makes it hard to properly produce an adequate argument to the courts.” ECF No. 46 at 2. Plaintiff notes he did not receive a ruling on his request for extension to respond to Defendants' summary judgment motion and “simply did the best that I could and submitted what I had.” Id. at 4.[2] Plaintiff's second objection argues “serious injury cases should be taken into special consideration, ” apparently contending there should be an exception to the exhaustion of administrative remedies requirements for cases of serious injury. Id. at 4. He also alleges he was not informed of the requirements in time to file an informal request for resolution, and was in lock-up or being transferred for medical procedures during that time. Id. at 3 (“Statute of limitations had expired before surgery.”). Third, Plaintiff argues Defendants are not entitled to summary judgment on his property claim because he was not present for the packing of his property, and his legal material and other personal property remain missing. He contends he is unable to “present evidence that doesn't exist” regarding his allegedly lost property.

         a. Timing

         Plaintiff appears to argue he had insufficient time to research and submit a full response to Defendants' motion for summary judgment and limited time for objections to the Report. The court notes Plaintiff requested an extension for his response to the summary judgment motion, which was granted, but Plaintiff asserts he never received the order and so assumed his response was due within the time frame specified by the Roseboro Order.[3] Plaintiff appears to have submitted his response within the original time frame. He did not request an extension for his objections. Finally, although Plaintiff notes he had limited time to file his response to the motion for summary judgment and objections to the Report, he does not allege he has more information to present.

         b. § 1983 Claims unrelated to Property

         i. Administrative Remedies

         Plaintiff next argues he was unable to exhaust administrative remedies as to his § 1983 claims alleging failure to protect him from an inmate attack and deliberate indifference to serious medical needs because he was being moved frequently between medical unit and lockup, and transported to outside facilities for medical care. He contends he was unable to research his claims or attempt to resolve them informally within the allotted time frame.

         “The doctrine [of exhaustion of administrative remedies] provides that no one is entitled to judicial relief for a supposed or threatened injury until the prescribed administrative remedy has been exhausted.” Woodford v. Ngo, 548 U.S. 81, 88-91 (2006); see also 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(a). A court may not excuse a failure to exhaust, even to take into account special circumstances. Ross v. Blake, 578 U.S. __, 136 S.Ct. 1850, 1856 (2016). However, the PLRA does contain one exception to mandatory exhaustion: the administrative remedies must be “available” to an inmate. Id. at 1858. Administrative remedies are unavailable when they operate as a simple dead end, are so opaque ...


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