United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Florence Division
CHRISTOPHER G. ROBERTS, Plaintiff,
CAPTAIN JOSEPH POWELL, SERGEANT ERIC DOE, and OFFICER FREDERICK DOE, Defendants.
C. NORTON, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
matter is before the court on United States Magistrate Judge
Thomas Rogers, III's report and recommendation
(“R&R”), ECF No. 96, that the court grant
Captain Joseph Powell (“Captain Powell”),
Sergeant Eric Doe (“Sergeant Doe”), and Officer
Frederick Doe's (“Officer Doe”)
(collectively, “defendants”) motion for summary
judgment, ECF No. 68. For the reasons set forth below, the
court adopts the R&R and grants defendants' motion
for summary judgment.
facts of this case are set forth fully in the R&R, and as
such, the court refrains from a lengthy recitation here. In
summary, this case arises out of plaintiff Christopher
Roberts' (“Roberts”) incarceration at
Ridgeland Correctional Institution (“Ridgeland”).
Roberts alleges that after arriving at Ridgeland, he was
placed in an unlocked cell in a dangerous dormitory and was
subsequently robbed and assaulted in that cell by other
inmates. Roberts brought this action on June 12, 2017,
pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging that
defendants-officers who worked at Ridgeland-violated his
constitutional rights by their deliberate indifference to his
safety. On September 25, 2018, defendants a motion for
summary judgment, ECF No. 68, to which Roberts responded on
October 26, 2018, ECF No. 79. On March 29, 2019, the R&R
granted the motion for summary judgment on the grounds that:
(1) Roberts failed to exhaust his administrative remedies
before filing this federal action, as required by the Prison
Litigation Reform Act (“PLRA”); and (2) Roberts
failed to present sufficient evidence to support the merits
of his Eighth Amendment claim that defendants failed to
protect him from harm while at Ridgeland. Roberts filed his
objections to the R&R on April 12, 2019. ECF No. 97.
Defendants have not filed a response to these objections or
any objections of their own, and the deadline for such
filings has passed.
STANDARDS OF REVIEW
court is charged with conducting a de novo review of
any portion of the magistrate judge's report to which
specific, written objections are made, and may accept,
reject, or modify, in whole or in part, the recommendations
contained in that report. 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1). The
magistrate judge's recommendation does not carry
presumptive weight, and it is the responsibility of this
court to make a final determination. Mathews v.
Weber, 423 U.S. 261, 270-71 (1976). A party's
failure to object may be treated as agreement with the
conclusions of the magistrate judge. See Thomas v.
Arn, 474 U.S. 140, 150 (1985).
judgment shall be granted “if the movant shows that
there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and that
the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.”
Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). “Only disputes over facts that
might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law
will properly preclude the entry of summary judgment.”
Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248
(1986). “[S]ummary judgment will not lie if the dispute
about a material fact is ‘genuine,' that is, if the
evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a
verdict for the nonmoving party.” Id.
“[A]t the summary judgment stage the judge's
function is not himself to weigh the evidence and determine
the truth of the matter but to determine whether there is a
genuine issue for trial.” Id. at 249. The
court should view the evidence in the light most favorable to
the nonmoving party and draw all justifiable inferences in
its favor. Id. at 255.
objects to the R&R's conclusion that he failed to
exhaust his administrative remedies before filing this suit
and that he failed to present sufficient evidence to support
the merits of his Eighth Amendment deliberate indifference
claim. Because the court agrees with the R&R that summary
judgment should be granted on exhaustion grounds, it refrains
from addressing the merits of Roberts' claim.
PLRA was enacted to stem the flood of prisoner litigation
suits in federal court and requires that “[n]o 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.” 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(a). In other
words, before filing a federal lawsuit, a prisoner must
follow the administrative procedures set out by the prison
system for filing a grievance within the system. Jones v.
Bock, 549 U.S. 199, 218 (2007) (“The level of
detail necessary in a grievance to comply with the grievance
procedures will vary from system to system and claim to
claim, but it is the prison's requirements, and not the
PLRA, that define the boundaries of proper
exhaustion.”) Only once a prisoner has exhausted the
internal administrative procedures may he seek relief in
federal court. This exhaustion requirement applies even when
a plaintiff, such as Roberts, is seeking monetary damages for
harm he suffered at the prison. Booth v. Churner,
532 U.S. 731, 741 (2001) (“Congress has mandated
exhaustion clearly enough, regardless of the relief offered
through the administrative procedures.”).
South Carolina Department of Corrections (“SCDC”)
has set forth the grievance policy that all inmates like
Roberts must follow and exhaust before seeking relief in
court. See SCDC Policy GA-01.12, Inmate Grievance
System, May 12, 2014, Ex. A to Aff. S. Anderson, ECF No.
68-8. This policy requires first that inmates
“make an effort to informally resolve a grievance by
submitting a Request to Staff Member Form . . . within eight
(8) working days of the incident.” Id. ¶
13.2. The Institutional Grievance Coordinator
(“IGC”) will then conduct an investigation into
the situation and make recommendations to the Warden
regarding how to resolve the matter. Id. ¶
13.3. However, “[a]ny grievance which alleges criminal
activity will be referred immediately to the Chief/designee,
Inmate Grievance Branch.” Id. ¶ 15. The
next official step is for the inmate to file SCDC Form 10-5,
Step 1, which is the first official grievance an inmate
makes. Id. The inmate may then appeal any decision
on Step 1 by filing SCDC Form 10-5a, Step 2, and the
“responsible official will render the final decision on
the grievance within 90 days from the date that the IGC
received the appeal of the Warden's decision.”
Id. ¶¶ 13.5-13.7. Finally, the inmate may
appeal a final answer on the grievance to the South Carolina
Administrative Law Court. Id. ¶ 13.9.
submitted to the court the records of Roberts' SCDC
grievance history from September 21, 1995 to September 12,
2017, the date the records were pulled from the SCDC system.
See SCDC Offender Management System, All Grievances
Filed By An Inmate, Ex. B to Anderson Aff., ECF No. 68-10.
The court's review of those records shows that Roberts
did not file any Step 1 grievances after the alleged incident
of November 18, 2016. However, SCDC's Offender Management
System and Roberts' own testimony demonstrates that he
filed an informal Inmate Request on December 1, 2016, the day
after he was transferred from Ridgeland to Allendale
Correctional Institution (“ACI”). According to
Roberts, he “put it in the kiosk as soon as [he] was
able to get to the kiosk and fill the paperwork out when I
was at Allendale.” Roberts Dep. at 155:14-18. His
Inmate Request details, with original spelling and
punctuation retained, are as follows:
I would like to know what to do about filing paperwork on
officers at Ridgeland who house me in the wrong cell. And no
counts was being done to show where I was I was robbed and
violated two inmates is charged on a PREA case unit was on
lock down but officer allowed inmates to run freely and left
my door unlocked because the toilet did not work and no
lights he said I was on the roll call sheet for cell 40 but
was put in 24 due to him just allowing inmates to move on
their own I got their on Friday from McDougal and was robbed
and violated next evening. His SGT admitted his officer was
in the wrong but I would like to know what I can do to have
officer held accountable I was emergency transfer to
Allendale yesterday. Thank you.
Inmate Request, ECF No. 68-10. On December 16, 2016, the IGC
issued the following response to the request: “Inmate
Roberts: [ ] You can submit your grievance for review. [ ] In
accordance to SCDC Policy, GA-01.12 Inmate Grievance System,
Section 15, grievances alleging criminal activity will be
forwarded to the Chief, Inmate Grievance Branch, for possible
investigation by the Division of Police Services.”
Id. However, there is no record of Roberts
submitting a grievance after receiving this ...