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Pickens v. Solomon

United States District Court, E.D. North Carolina, Western Division

May 11, 2018

BRANDON MICHAEL PICKENS, Plaintiff,
v.
GEORGE T. SOLOMON, J.C. HUGGINS, JAMES McRAE, ALTHEA MADDOX, W. BULLARD, TERRESA ATWATER, SAMANTHA BRITT, and DAVID HUNT, Defendants.[1]

          ORDER

          LOUISE W. FLANAGAN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         This matter is before the court on defendant Terresa Atwater's motion for summary judgment limited to failure to exhaust administrative remedies and motion to dismiss (DE 35). Plaintiff did not respond to the motion. In this posture, the issues raised are ripe for adjudication.

         STATEMENT OF THE CASE

         On January 5, 2017, plaintiff, a state inmate, filed this civil rights action pro se pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 alleging that defendant Hunt subjected him to sexual harassment, defendants Britt and Atwater failed to adequately respond to his mental health issues, and the remaining defendants failed to investigate his grievances about the sexual harassment. On June 22, 2017, the court conducted a frivolity review of plaintiff's action pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915 and allowed plaintiff's action to proceed.

         On January 22, 2018, defendant Atwater filed a motion for summary judgment arguing that plaintiff failed to exhaust his administrative remedies pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1997e(a). Alternatively, defendant Atwater seeks dismissal of plaintiff's action pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) on the grounds that plaintiff's allegations against defendant Atwater fail to state a claim for deliberate indifference to serious medical needs. In support, defendant Atwater submitted a Statement of Material Facts and an Appendix, which included affidavits from Finesse G. Couch and Jodi Harrison, and copies of twenty-six grievances plaintiff submitted to the Inmate Grievance Resolution Board between January 7, 2014, and January 5, 2017. Also on January 22, 2018, the court sent plaintiff notice of the instant motion pursuant Roseboro v. Garrison, 528 F.2d 309 (4th Cir. 1975). The notice provided plaintiff's deadline for responding to the motion, and stated:

you cannot rely only on the complaint or other pleadings to defeat a motion for summary judgment, if the defendants properly meet their burden under [Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56]. Instead, you must respond to the motion with affidavits (written statements signed before a notary public and under oath), declarations (written statements bearing a certificate that the statement is signed under penalty of perjury), deposition transcripts, discovery responses, sworn statements . . . or other evidence.

         (Roseboro Letter (Jan. 22, 2018) (DE 41) at 1). Despite this notice, plaintiff did not respond to the instant motion.

         On January 29, 2018, the court entered an initial order regarding case scheduling, and provided the parties twenty-one days to file objections to the proposed schedule contained therein. Defendant Atwater timely filed an objection and requested that the court stay discovery while the instant motion for summary judgment/motion to dismiss was pending. On February 28, 2018, the court stayed discovery and other case scheduling deadlines as to defendant Atwater pending resolution of the instant motion, and entered a case management order governing discovery and dispositive motion practice applicable to the remaining defendants.

         STATEMENT OF THE FACTS

         In the light most favorable to plaintiff, the facts relevant to the instant motion are as follows. Plaintiff alleges that he was placed in administrative segregation for 70 days beginning on January 7, 2014. (Compl. (DE 1) at 6). Plaintiff alleges that defendant Hunt continuously sexually harassed him while he was in administrative segregation. (See i d .) At one of his mental health appointments, plaintiff reported the sexual harassment to defendants Atwater and Britt. (Id.) In response, defendant Atwater allegedly accused plaintiff of lying about the harassment so that he could receive a transfer. (Id.) Plaintiff then reported the sexual harassment to defendant Bullard, who attempted to “coerce” plaintiff into not filing a formal grievance because plaintiff would be subject to disciplinary charges if prison officials determined the allegations were false. (Id. at 6-7). Plaintiff then submitted “confidential” grievances to defendants Huggins and Solomon, who both failed to “process” the grievances through the prison's administrative remedy procedure. (Id. at 7).

         As noted, plaintiff submitted at least twenty-six grievances to prison officials between January 7, 2014, and January 5, 2017, and pursued all of them to the final “step 3” procedure - presentation to the Inmate Grievance Resolution Board.[2] (See App. I (DE 39) & App. II (DE 40)). None of the grievances plaintiff submitted to the Inmate Grievance Resolution Board during that time frame alleged defendant Atwater (or any other prison official) was deliberately indifferent to plaintiff's medical needs by failing to adequately treat mental health issues caused by the alleged sexual harassment. (See id.)

         DISCUSSION

         A. Motion for ...


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