United States District Court, E.D. North Carolina, Western Division
W. FLANAGAN United States District Judge
matter comes before the court on defendant's motion for
partial summary judgment (DE 26) and plaintiff's cross
motion for summary judgment (DE 37). Also before the court is
defendant's motion for the entry of a protective order
(DE 31). For the following reasons, the court denies without
prejudice both motions for summary judgment and allows
defendant's motion for the entry of a protective order.
OF THE CASE
25, 2015, plaintiff, a state inmate, filed this civil rights
action pro se pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983
alleging that defendant was deliberately indifferent to his
serious medical needs. Specifically, plaintiff contends that
defendant consistently disregarded his complaints about pain
throughout his body. (Compl. p. 3). Plaintiff's claims
survived frivolity review on April 13, 2016, and the clerk of
court was directed to maintain management of the action. On
June 13, 2016, plaintiff filed a motion for summary judgment,
which was denied without prejudice both because plaintiff had
not met his burden of demonstrating that there is no genuine
issue of fact, and also because his motion was premature.
(June 27, 2016 Order (DE 22) at 1).
filed the instant motion for partial summary judgment on July
20, 2016, arguing that portions of plaintiff's complaint
should be dismissed without prejudice for failure to exhaust
administrative remedies prior to filing this action.
Contemporaneously with his motion for summary judgment,
defendant also filed a motion for the entry of a protective
order, arguing that he should not be required to respond to
plaintiff's discovery requests until the entry of a case
management order by the court. Plaintiff responded to
defendant's motion for partial summary judgment on
September 15, 2016, and, on October 18, 2016, filed a
cross-motion for summary judgment. These matters are now ripe
Motion for Protective Order
requests that he not be required to respond to
plaintiff's discovery requests pending resolution of his
Motion for Partial Summary Judgment and the entry of a case
management order in this matter. A district court has the
authority pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 26(c)
to establish limitations on discovery. Lone Star
Steakhouse & Saloon, Inc. v. Alpha of Virginia,
Inc., 43 F.3d 922, 929 (4th Cir. 1995). The court may
properly exercise its discretion pursuant to Rule 26(c) to
issue a stay of discovery pending resolution of dispositive
motions. Tilley v. United States, 270 F.Supp.2d 731,
734 (M.D. N.C. 2003), aff'd, 85 F. App'x 333
(4th Cir. 2004), cert. denied, 543 U.S. 819 (2004).
Accordingly, defendant's motion for the entry of a
protective order is GRANTED.
Cross-motions for Summary Judgment
Standard of Review
judgment is appropriate when there exists no genuine issue of
material fact, and the moving party is entitled to judgment
as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a); Anderson v.
Liberty Lobby, 477 U.S. 242, 247 (1986). The party
seeking summary judgment bears the burden of initially coming
forward and demonstrating an absence of a genuine issue of
material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S.
317, 323 (1986). Once the moving party has met its burden,
the nonmoving party then must affirmatively demonstrate that
there exists a genuine issue of material fact requiring
trial. Matsushita Elec. Industrial Co. Ltd. v. Zenith
Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986). There is no issue
for trial unless there is sufficient evidence favoring the
non-moving party for a jury to return a verdict for that
party. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 250. “When
cross-motions for summary judgment are before a court, the
court examines each motion separately, employing the familiar
standard under Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil
Procedure.” Desmond v. PNGI Charles Town Gaming,
L.L.C., 630 F.3d 351, 354 (4th Cir. 2011).
Defendant's Motion for Partial Summary Judgment
with regard to plaintiff's complaints relating to pain
and swelling in his hands and wrists, raises the affirmative
defense that plaintiff failed to exhaust his administrative
remedies. Title 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(a) of the Prison
Litigation Reform Act (“PLRA”) requires a
prisoner to exhaust his administrative remedies before filing
an action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 concerning his
confinement. Ross v. Blake, __ U.S. __, 136 S.Ct.
1850, 1856 (2016) (“[A] court may not excuse a failure
to exhaust, even to take [special circumstances] into
account.”); Woodford v. Ngo, 548 U.S. 81,
83-85 (2006); see Jones v. Bock, 549 U.S. 199, 217
(2007) (“failure to exhaust is an affirmative defense
under [42 U.S.C. § 1997e]”); Anderson v. XYZ
Corr. Health Servs., Inc., 407 F.3d 674, 683 (4th Cir.
2005). The PLRA 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 . . .
until such administrative remedies as are available are
exhausted.” 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(a); see
Woodford, 548 U.S. at 84. Exhaustion is mandatory.
Woodford, 548 U.S. at 85; Porter v. Nussle,
534 U.S. 516, 524 (2002) (“Once within the discretion
of the district court, exhaustion in cases covered by §
1997e(a) is now mandatory.”); Anderson, 407
F.3d at 677. A prisoner must exhaust his administrative
remedies even if the relief requested is not available under
the administrative process. Booth v. Churner, 532
U.S. 731, 741 (2001). “[U]nexhausted claims cannot be
brought in court.” Jones, 549 U.S. at 211.
North Carolina Department of Public Safety
(“DPS”) has a three-step administrative remedy
procedure which governs the filing of grievances. See,
e.g., Moore v. Bennette, 517 F.3d 717, 721 (4th
Cir. 2008). The DPS's Administrative Remedy Procedure
(“ARP”) first encourages inmates to attempt
informal communication with responsible authorities at the
facility in which the problem arose. DPS ARP § .0301(a).
If informal resolution is unsuccessful, the DPS ARP provides
that any inmate in DPS custody may submit a written grievance
on Form DC-410. Id. § .0310(a). If the inmate
is not satisfied with the decision reached at the step one
level of the grievance process, he may request relief from
the Facility Head. Id. § .0310(b)(1). If the
inmate is not satisfied with the decision reached by the
Facility Head, he may appeal his grievance to the Secretary
of Correction through the inmate grievance examiner.
Id. § .0310(c)(1). The decision by the Inmate
Grievance Examiner or a modification by the Secretary of
Correction shall constitute the final step of the ARP.
Id. § .0310(c)(6). An inmate's
administrative remedy request may be ...