United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Aiken Division
ORDER AND OPINION
Richard Mark Gergel United States District Court Judge
the Court is the report and recommendation ("R &
R") of the Magistrate Judge (Dkt. No. 27) recommending
that the Court deny Defendants' motion for summary
judgment (Dkt. No. 14). For the reasons set forth below, the
Court adopts the R & R as the Order of the Court and
denies Defendants' motion for summary judgment.
Garcia Wilson brought this suit pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §
1983, claiming that Defendants violated his constitutional
rights by failing to protect him from inmate violence and
using excessive force while Plaintiff was incarcerated in the
custody of the South Carolina Department of Corrections
("SCDC"). Plaintiff alleges several specific
incidents in which SCDC employees assisted in attacking
Plaintiff or failed to prevent attacks by inmates including,
for example, that on October 27, 2016 Defendant Parker
allowed five inmates to enter Plaintiffs cell to beat and rob
him; that on June 2, 2017 Defendant Gillespie allowed five
inmates to enter Plaintiffs cell to stab and rob him; and
that on August 16, 2017 Defendant West curtailed Plaintiffs
visit from counsel to seize Plaintiffs paperwork, allegedly
in retaliation for Plaintiff having filed a lawsuit. (Dkt.
No. 1-1 ¶¶ 50-53, 68-76, 81-91.)
moved for summary judgment (Dkt. No. 14), Plaintiff filed a
response in opposition (Dkt. No. 15) and Defendants replied
(Dkt. No. 25). Defendants objected to the Magistrate
Judge's R & R. (Dkt. No. 34.)
Review of the R & R
Magistrate Judge makes only a recommendation to the Court
that has no presumptive weight and, therefore, the
responsibility to make a final determination remains with the
Court. See, e.g., Mathews v. Weber, 423 U.S. 261,
270-71 (1976). The Court may "accept, reject, or modify,
in whole or in part, the findings or recommendations made by
the magistrate judge." 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(C).
Where there are specific objections to the R & R, the
Court "makes a de novo determination of those
portions of the report or specified proposed findings or
recommendations to which objection is made."
Id. In the absence of objections, the Court reviews
the R & R to "only satisfy itself that there is no
clear error on the face of the record in order to accept the
recommendation." Fed.R.Civ.P. 72 advisory
committee's note. Where there are no objections, the
Court need not give any explanation for adopting the
Magistrate Judge's analysis and recommendation. See,
e.g., Camby v. Davis, 718 F.2d 198, 199 (4th Cir. 1983)
("In the absence of objection ... we do not believe that
it requires any explanation.").
Motion for Summary Judgment
judgment is appropriate if the movant "shows that there
is no genuine dispute as to any material fact" and it is
therefore entitled to judgment as a matter of law.
Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). In other words, summary judgment should
be granted "only when it is clear that there is no
dispute concerning either the facts of the controversy or the
inferences to be drawn from those facts." Pulliam
Inv. Co. v. Cameo Props., 810 F.2d 1282, 1286 (4th Cir.
1987). "In determining whether a genuine issue has been
raised, the court must construe all inferences and
ambiguities in favor of the nonmoving party."
HealthSouth Rehab. Hosp. v. Am. Natl Red Cross, 101
F.3d 1005, 1008 (4th Cir. 1996).
party seeking summary judgment has the initial burden of
demonstrating to the court that there is no genuine issue of
material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S.
317, 323 (1986). Once the moving party has made this
threshold demonstration, the non-moving party, to survive the
motion for summary judgment, may not rest on the allegations
averred in his pleadings. Id. at 324. Rather, the
non-moving party must demonstrate that specific, material
facts exist that give rise to a genuine issue. Id.
Under this standard, "[c]onclusory or speculative
allegations do not suffice, nor does a 'mere scintilla of
evidence'" in support of the non-moving party's
case. Thompson v. Potomac Elec. Power Co., 312 F.3d
645, 649 (4th Cir. 2002) (quoting Phillips v. CSX
Transp., Inc., 190 F.3d 285, 287 (4th Cir. 1999)).
Prison Litigation Reform Act ("PLRA") mandates that
an inmate exhaust "such administrative remedies as are
available" before bringing suit under § 1983. 42
U.S.C. § l997(e)(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."); see also Anderson v. XYZ Corr. Health
Servs., 407 F.3d 674, 677 (4th Cir. 2005). The
administrative remedies are dictated by the prison. See
Jones v. Bock, 549 U.S. 199, 218 (2007). A prison
grievance procedure is "available" if it is
"capable of use to obtain some relief for the action
complained of." Ross v. Blake, 136 S.Ct. 1850,
1855 (2016). The PLRA, therefore, has a "built-in
exception to the exhaustion requirement: A prisoner need not
exhaust remedies if they are not 'available.'"
Ross, 136 S.Ct. at 1855. The prisoner bears the
burden of demonstrating that an administrative remedy is
unavailable. See Graham v. Gentry, 413 Fed.Appx.
660, 663 (4th Cir. 2011) ("[I]n order to show that a
grievance procedure was not 'available,' a prisoner
must adduce facts showing that he was prevented, through no
fault of his own, from availing himself of that
procedure.") (internal citation omitted).
an administrative remedy is not
"available"-meaning, the remedy, "although
officially on the books, is not capable of use to obtain
relief-in at least three circumstances. Ross, 136
S.Ct. at 1859. First, "an administrative procedure is
unavailable when (despite what regulations or guidance
materials may promise) it operates as a simple dead end- with
officers unable or consistently unwilling to provide any
relief to aggrieved inmates." Id. Meaning, the
"administrative officials have apparent authority, but
decline ever to exercise it." Id. Second, a
remedy is unavailable where the "administrative scheme
might be so opaque that it becomes, practically speaking,
incapable of use." Id. In other words,
"some mechanism exists to provide relief, but no
ordinary prisoner can discern or navigate it."
Id. Last, an administrative remedy is not available
"when prison administrators thwart inmates from taking
advantage of a grievance process through machination,
misrepresentation, or intimidation." Id. at
1860. In this situation, "officials might ...