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Murray v. Ballard

United States District Court, S.D. West Virginia, Charleston Division

January 23, 2019

GARLAND MURRAY, Plaintiff,
v.
DAVID BALLARD, et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          JOSEPH R. GOODWIN, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         I. Introduction

         Pending before the court is the plaintiff's “Submittions for Summary Judgment” [ECF No. 47], which the court construes as a Motion for Summary Judgment. Also pending before the court is a Motion for Summary Judgment [ECF No. 51] filed by Defendants Ballard, Rubenstein, Lt. Dempsey, and McKinney, in which Defendants C.O. Dempsey and Mitchell have joined [ECF No. 53].

         This matter was referred to United States Magistrate Judge Dwane L. Tinsley for submission of proposed findings and a recommendation for disposition, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B). On December 19, 2018, Magistrate Judge Tinsley submitted his Proposed Findings and Recommendation (“PF&R”) [ECF No. 72], recommending the court grant the defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment [ECF No. 51], deny the plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment [ECF No. 47], and dismiss this matter from the docket.

         The plaintiff's objections to the PF&R were filed on January 8, 2019 [ECF No. 73].[1] The court has reviewed de novo those portions of the PF&R to which the plaintiff objects and finds the plaintiff's objections lack merit. For the reasons stated herein, the court OVERRULES the plaintiff's objections and ADOPTS and INCORPORATES the findings and recommendation of the Magistrate Judge. The court GRANTS the defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment [ECF No. 51], DENIES the plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment [ECF No. 47], and DISMISSES this matter from the docket.

         II. Background

         The factual background of this case is set forth in detail in the PF&R and need not be repeated here. The court ADOPTS the factual background and undisputed facts as set forth in the Magistrate Judge's PF&R.

         III. Standard of Review

         A district court “shall make a de novo determination of those portions of the report or specified proposed findings or recommendations to which objection is made.” 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(C). This court is not, however, required to review, under a de novo or any other standard, the factual or legal conclusions of the magistrate judge as to those portions of the findings or recommendation to which no objections are addressed. Thomas v. Arn, 474 U.S. 140, 150 (1985). In addition, this court need not conduct a de novo review when a party “makes general and conclusory objections that do not direct the Court to a specific error in the magistrate's proposed findings and recommendations.” Orpiano v. Johnson, 687 F.2d 44, 47 (4th Cir. 1982). The court notes that the plaintiff's pro se filing detailing his objections to the PF&R contains primarily general and conclusory objections. Nevertheless, to the extent the court has been able to discern specific assertions of error, the court has endeavored to construe the plaintiff's arguments liberally.

         IV. Discussion

         The Magistrate Judge found that the plaintiff has not properly exhausted his administrative remedies concerning the claims addressed in his Complaint and that the plaintiff has failed to demonstrate that such remedies were unavailable to him.[2]The Magistrate Judge therefore proposed that the court find that all defendants in this litigation are entitled to judgment as a matter of law on all claims in the Complaint and that the plaintiff is not entitled to judgment as a matter of law.

         As stated in the PF&R, exhaustion of administrative remedies is a threshold issue that the court must address before considering the merits of the plaintiff's substantive claims for relief. See Jones v. Bock, 549 U.S. 199, 216 (2007); Moore v. Bennette, 517 F.3d 717, 725 (4th Cir. 2008). If a plaintiff fails to exhaust his or her administrative remedies, then the defendant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Legg v. Adkins, No. 2:16-cv-01371, 2017 WL 722604, at *2 (S.D. W.Va. Feb. 23, 2017).

         The Prison Litigation Reform Act (“PLRA”) states that “[n]o action shall be brought with respect to prison conditions under section 1983 of this title . . . by a prisoner confined in any . . . correctional facility until such administrative remedies as are available are exhausted.” 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(a). Moreover, “[n]ot only must a prisoner exhaust his administrative remedies, but he must also do so properly.” Wells v. Parkersburg Work Release Ctr., No. 2:15-cv-04103, 2016 WL 696680, at *3 (S.D. W.Va. Jan. 19, 2016). “Proper exhaustion demands compliance with an agency's deadlines and other critical procedural rules because no adjudicative system can function effectively without imposing some orderly structure on the course of its proceedings.” Id. (citing Woodford v. Ngo, 548 U.S. 81, 90-91 (2006)). Whether an administrative remedy has been exhausted for purposes of the PLRA “is a question of law to be determined by the judge.” Creel v. Hudson, No. 2:14-cv-10648, 2017 WL 4004579, at *3 (S.D. W.Va. Sept. 12, 2017) (citing Drippe v. Tobelinski, 604 F.3d 778, 782 (3d Cir. 2010)).

         The West Virginia Prison Litigation Reform Act (“WVPLRA”) likewise “require[s] inmates to exhaust their administrative remedies before they bring a lawsuit.” Legg, 2017 WL 722604, at *2 (citing 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(a); W.Va. Code § 25-1A-2a(i)). Under the WVPLRA, “[a]n inmate may not bring a civil action regarding an ordinary administrative remedy until the ...


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