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Stile v. Dubois

United States District Court, D. New Hampshire

April 8, 2019

James Stile
David Dubois, et al.

          James Stile, pro se

          Corey M. Belobrow, Esq., Brian J.S. Cullen, Esq., Michael T. McCormack, Esq.


          Joseph A. DiClerico, Jr. United States District Judge

         James Stile, who is a federal prisoner proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis, brought suit against the Strafford County Sheriff and deputies in the Sheriff's office, Strafford County, the Strafford County Administrator, the Strafford County Department of Corrections (“SCDC”) Superintendent and officers, and the United States Marshals Service in the District of Maine and individual marshals. His claims arose from an incident that occurred in September of 2014, while Stile was a pretrial detainee held at the Strafford County Department of Corrections awaiting trial in the District of Maine. He alleges claims for violation of the Fourteenth Amendment under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and state law claims.

         The SCDC, Bruce Pelkie, Robert Farrell, and Robert Hayden move for summary judgment on the ground that Stile did not exhaust the administrative remedies that were available to him. Stile did not object to the defendants' motion but filed his own motion for summary judgment on the issue of exhaustion. The SCDC defendants object to Stile's motion.

         Standard of Review

         Summary judgment is appropriate when the moving party “shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). “[A] fact is material if it has the potential of affecting the outcome of the case.” Leite v. Bergeron, 911 F.3d 47, 52 (1st Cir. 2018) (internal quotation marks omitted). “A genuine issue of material fact only exists if a reasonable factfindiner, examining the evidence and drawing all reasonable inferences helpful to the party resisting summary judgment, could resolve the dispute in that party's favor.” Town of Westport v. Monsanto Co., 877 F.3d 58, 64-65 (1st Cir. 2017) (internal quotation marks omitted); Flood v. Bank of Am. Corp., 780 F.3d 1, 7 (1st Cir. 2015).

         The same standard applies on cross motions for summary judgment. The court determines whether either moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Wells Real Estate Inv. Tr. II, Inc. v. Chardon/Hato Rey P'ship, S.E., 615 F.3d 45, 51 (1st Cir. 2010).


         Stile's claims arise from the circumstances and events that occurred on September 5, 2014, when he was taken from his cell at the SCDC and transported to Maine for a hearing in his criminal case. At that time, Stile was a federal pretrial detainee who was in the custody of the SCDC pursuant to an agreement with the United States Marshals Service. Stile alleges that the officers involved in moving and transporting him used excessive force in violation of his Fourteenth Amendment right to due process.


         The SCDC defendants move for summary judgment on the federal claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against them, asserting that Stile failed to exhaust his administrative remedies through grievance procedures at the jail with respect to the transport incident in September of 2014. Stile moves for summary judgment on the ground that the defendants' answers to interrogatories show that grievance procedures were not available or show that a material factual dispute exists as to whether they were available.

         A prisoner cannot bring claims under § 1983 to challenge the conditions of his confinement unless he has exhausted available administrative remedies. 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(a). To satisfy that requirement, a plaintiff must properly use all of the steps provided. Woodford v. Ngo, 548 U.S. 81, 93 (2006). A plaintiff's failure to exhaust administrative remedies is an affirmative defense. Jones v. Bock, 549 U.S. 199, 216 (2007).

         A. SCDC Grievance Procedure

         The SCDC defendants filed a copy of the Operational Guideline, 3.6.04, Inmate Grievance Procedure, that was in effect from 2013 to 2015 while Stile was a detainee at the SCDC. See Aff. Gwen Weisgarber, Captain, SCDC, Doc. 36-2; Doc. 36-3. They also filed a copy of the Inmate Handbook that was in effect at that time. Stile acknowledges that the SCDC had a three-part grievance procedure while he was detained there.

         The grievance procedure is mandatory for an inmate to receive a remedy. The procedure is provided to inmates in the Inmate Handbook. Doc. 36-4. An inmate may make a verbal informal complaint to a staff member within seven days of discovering a grievable issue. Doc. 36-4, at 10. For any condition or issue that requires action or a remedy, an inmate must file a formal written grievance on a grievance form within fourteen days of the issue or incident. Id. at 11. The inmate will be provided an inmate grievance form by a staff member.

         The inmate gives the completed grievance form to the Unit Officer, and the inmate will be provided with a copy of the grievance, if requested. The Unit Supervisor will resolve the grievance if possible, but otherwise the duty shift supervisor will address the grievance. The shift supervisor will address the grievance within five business days, return the original to the inmate, and place a copy in the inmate's Booking Folder. Doc. 36-4, at 11.

         If the inmate is not satisfied with the shift supervisor's response, he must submit the grievance to the “Lieutenant-Operations and Security” or his designee within five business days. Id. The Lieutenant will respond in writing within five business days, and a copy will be placed in the Booking Folder. Id.

         At the third step, if the inmate is still not satisfied with the response, within five business days he must request a further administrative remedy. Id. at 12. A Grievance Committee would then be convened, with members designated by the Superintendent “on an as-needed basis.” Id. An inmate may appear before the Committee. The Committee's decision will be in writing and the inmate will ...

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