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Moore v. Hunt

United States District Court, M.D. Alabama, Eastern Division

May 22, 2019

LARRY BRADFORD MOORE, Plaintiff,
v.
CORPORAL OFFICER JIMMY HUNT, Defendant.

          RECOMMENDATION OF THE MAGISTRATE JUDGE

          GRAY M. BORDEN, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         I. INTRODUCTION

         This 42 U.S.C. § 1983 action is pending on a complaint filed by Larry Moore, an inmate incarcerated at the Chambers County Detention Facility (“CCDF”) in LaFayette, Alabama. Moore complains that Defendant Jimmy Hunt subjected him to excessive force on November 7, 2016. Moore also complains that Defendant Hunt acted negligently regarding his welfare and safety on November 30, 2016. Moore seeks monetary damages for the alleged violations of his constitutional rights. Doc. 1 at 2-4.

         Defendant Hunt filed an answer, special report, and supporting evidentiary materials addressing the claims in the complaint. In these documents Hunt denies he acted in violation of Moore's constitutional rights and argues this case is due to be dismissed because Moore failed to exhaust the administrative remedy available to him at the CCCDF for addressing his claims. Doc. 19 at 8-10.

         Upon receipt of Defendant Hunt's special report, the court issued an order providing Moore an opportunity to file a response. This order directed Moore to address Defendant Hunt's arguments that: “(i) Plaintiff's claims are due to be dismissed because he failed to exhaust his available administrative remedies as required by 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(a) of the Prison Litigation Reform Act [(“PLRA”) prior to filing this federal civil action] . . .; and (ii) [t]he claims contained in the complaint fail to establish a violation of his constitutional rights by Defendant.” Doc. 20 at 1-2 (footnote omitted). The order also advised Moore that his response should be supported by affidavits or statements made under penalty of perjury and/or appropriate other evidentiary materials. Doc. 20 at 3. The order further cautioned Moore that unless “sufficient legal cause” is shown within ten days of entry of this order “why such action should not be undertaken, . . . the court may at any time [after expiration of the time for his filing a response] and without further notice to the parties (1) treat the special report and any supporting evidentiary materials as a motion to dismiss or motion for summary judgment, whichever is appropriate, and (2) after considering any response as allowed by this order, rule on the motion in accordance with the law.” Doc. 20 at 3-4 (footnote omitted). Moore has not filed a response to Hunt's report.

         Pursuant to the aforementioned order, the court deems it appropriate to treat the report filed by Hunt as a motion to dismiss regarding the exhaustion defense. This case, therefore, is now pending on Hunt's motion to dismiss. See Bryant v. Rich, 530 F.3d 1368, 1374-75 (11th Cir. 2008) (“[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.”); Trias v. Fla. Dep't of Corr., 587 Fed.Appx. 531, 534 (11th Cir. 2014) (holding that the district court properly construed Defendant's “motion for summary judgment as a motion to dismiss for failure to exhaust administrative remedies”).

         II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

In addressing the requirements of 42 U.S.C. § 1997e 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. This means that until such administrative remedies as are available are exhausted, a prisoner is precluded from filing suit in federal court.

Leal v. Ga. Dep't of Corr., 254 F.3d 1276, 1279 (11th Cir. 2001) (citations and internal quotations omitted). Furthermore, “the question of exhaustion under the PLRA [is] a ‘threshold matter' that [federal courts must] address before considering the merits of the case, ” and that cannot be waived. Myles v. Miami-Dade Cnty. Corr. & Rehab. Dep't, 476 Fed.Appx. 364, 366 (11th Cir. 2012) (quoting Chandler v. Crosby, 379 F.3d 1278, 1286 (11th Cir. 2004)).

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. 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.

Myles, 476 Fed.Appx. at 366 (citations and internal quotations omitted). Consequently, 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]. 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.” Trias, 587 Fed.Appx. at 535. Based on the foregoing, the Eleventh Circuit has rejected an inmate-plaintiff's argument that “disputed facts as to exhaustion should be decided” only after a trial either before a jury or judge. Id. at 534.

         III. DISCUSSION

         Moore complains that Defendant Hunt subjected him to excessive force on November 7, 2016, when Hunt maced him without provocation while his hands were cuffed behind his back. Moore further complains that Hunt acted negligently in response to Moore's statement that he “felt he would kill [him]self” by responding that if Moore felt like killing himself to “make sure he d[id] it right.” Doc. 1 at 2. Hunt denies these allegations and also asserts that this case is subject to dismissal because Moore failed to exhaust the administrative remedy provided to him at the CCDF prior to filing suit, as required by the PLRA.

         The PLRA compels proper exhaustion of available administrative remedies before a prisoner can seek relief in federal court on a § 1983 complaint. Specifically, 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(a) states 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.” As the Supreme Court has observed, “Congress has provided in § 1997(e)(a) that an inmate must exhaust irrespective of the forms of relief sought and offered through administrative remedies.” Booth v. Churner, 532 U.S. 731, 741 n.6 (2001). “[T]he PLRA's exhaustion requirement applies to all ...


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