United States District Court, M.D. Alabama, Southern Division
RECOMMENDATION OF THE MAGISTRATE JUDGE
TERRY F. MOORER, Magistrate Judge.
In this 42 U.S.C. § 1983 action, Plaintiff, an inmate incarcerated at the Geneva County Jail in Geneva, Alabama, complains that he was not afforded a phone call after being processed into the jail. Doc. No. 1. Plaintiff names Carl Rowe, Administrator of the Geneva County Jail, Lynn Vickers, and Perez Bruner as defendants. He seeks injunctive relief and damages for the alleged violation of his constitutional rights.
Defendants filed a special report and supporting evidentiary materials addressing Plaintiff's claims for relief. In these documents, Defendants argue this case is due to be dismissed because prior to filing this cause of action Plaintiff failed to properly exhaust an administrative remedy available to him at the Geneva County Jail regarding the claims in the complaint. Doc. No. 11 at 3-5. Defendants base their exhaustion defense on Plaintiff's failure to file a grievance regarding the claims raised in the complaint. Id.
On February 12, 2015, the court provided Plaintiff an opportunity to file a response to Defendants' report in which he was advised to "specifically address Defendants' assertion that... [h]is claims are due to be dismissed because he failed to exhaust his available administrative remedies as required by 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(a)" prior to filing this federal civil action. Doc. No. 12 at 1 (footnote omitted). Plaintiff has filed no response to this order within the time allowed by the court.
"[A]n exhaustion defense... is not ordinarily the proper subject for a summary judgment [motion]; instead, it should be raised in a motion to dismiss, or be treated as such if raised in a motion for summary judgment." Bryant v. Rich, 530 F.3d 1368, 1374-1375 (11th Cir. 2008) (internal quotations omitted); Trias v. Florida Dept. of Corrections, 587 Fed.App'x 531, 534 (11th Cir. 2014) (District court properly construed defendant" "motion for summary judgment as a motion to dismiss for failure to exhaust administrative remedies...."). Therefore, the court will treat Defendants' report as a motion to dismiss.
II. STANDARD OF REVIEW
In addressing the requirements of 42 U.S.C. § 1997e regarding exhaustion, the Eleventh Circuit has
recognized that "[t]he plain language of th[is] statute makes exhaustion a precondition to filing an action in federal court." Higginbottom v. Carter, 223 F.3d 1259, 1261 (11th Cir. 2000) (per curiam) (quoting Freeman v. Francis, 196 F.3d 641, 643-44 (6th Cir. 1999)). This means that "until such administrative remedies as are available are exhausted, " a prisoner is precluded from filing suit in federal court. See id. (affirming dismissal of prisoner's civil rights suit for failure to satisfy the mandatory exhaustion requirements of the PLRA); Harris v. Garner, 190 F.3d 1279, 1286 (11th Cir. 1999) ("reaffirm[ing] that section 1997e(a) imposes a mandatory requirement on prisoners seeking judicial relief to exhaust their administrative remedies" before filing suit in federal court), modified on other grounds, 216 F.3d 970 (11th Cir. 2000) (en banc); Miller v. Tanner, 196 F.3d 1190, 1193 (11th Cir. 1999) (holding that under the PLRA's amendments to § 1997e(a), "[a]n inmate incarcerated in a state prison... must first comply with the grievance procedures established by the state department of corrections before filing a federal lawsuit under section 1983"); Harper v. Jenkin, 179 F.3d 1311, 1312 (11th Cir. 1999) (per curiam) (affirming dismissal of prisoner's civil suit for failure to satisfy the mandatory exhaustion requirements of § 1997e(a)); Alexander v. Hawk, 159 F.3d 1321, 1328 (11th Cir. 1998) (affirming dismissal of prisoner's Bivens action under § 1997e(a) for failure to exhaust administrative remedies prior to filing suit in federal court).
Leal v. Georgia Dept. of Corrections, 254 F.3d 1276, 1279 (11th Cir. 2001). The Court has, therefore, determined that "the question of exhaustion under the PLRA [is] a threshold matter' that [federal courts must] address before considering the merits of the case. Chandler v. Crosby, 379 F.3d 1278, 1286 (11th Cir. 2004). Because exhaustion is mandated by the statute, [a court has] no discretion to waive this requirement. Alexander v. Hawk, 159 F.3d 1321, 1325-26 (11th Cir. 1998)." Myles v. Miami-Dade County Correctional and Rehabilitation Dept., 476 Fed.App'x 364, 366 (11th Cir. 2012). The court will "resolve this issue first." Id.
"When deciding whether a prisoner has exhausted his remedies, the court should first consider the plaintiff's and the defendants' versions of the facts, and if they conflict, take the plaintiff's version of the facts as true. If in that light, the defendant is entitled to have the complaint dismissed for failure to exhaust administrative remedies, it must be dismissed.' Turner v. Burnside, 541 F.3d 1077, 1082 (11th Cir.2008) ( citing Bryant, 530 F.3d at 1373-74). If the complaint is not subject to dismissal at this step, then the court should make specific findings in order to resolve the disputed factual issues related to exhaustion.' Id. ( citing Bryant, 530 F.3d at 1373-74, 1376)." Myles, 476 Fed.App'x at 366. A district court "may resolve disputed factual issues where necessary to the disposition of a motion to dismiss for failure to exhaust [without a hearing]. See [ Turner, 541 F.3d at 1082]. The judge properly may consider facts outside of the pleadings to resolve a factual dispute as to exhaustion where doing so does not decide the merits, and the parties have a sufficient opportunity to develop the record. Bryant, 530 F.3d at 1376." Trias, 587 Fed.App'x at 535.
Upon review of the complaint, Defendants' special report and the evidentiary materials filed in support thereof, the court concludes that Defendants' motion to dismiss is due to be granted.
Plaintiff challenges the failure of Defendants to afford him a telephone call after he was booked into the Geneva County Jail. Defendants deny Plaintiff's allegation and further maintain this case is subject to dismissal because Plaintiff has failed to exhaust the administrative remedy provided at the Geneva County Jail prior to filing this complaint as required by ...