United States District Court, M.D. North Carolina
JAMES C. MCNEILL, Plaintiff,
CAMERON GADDY, et al., Defendants.
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND RECOMMENDATION OF UNITED
STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
WEBSTER, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
James C. McNeill, a prisoner of the State of North Carolina,
seeks monetary damages against several defendants pursuant to
42 U.S.C. § 1983 for alleged wrongful confiscation of
legal documents and deliberate indifference to
Plaintiff’s serious medical needs while he was
incarcerated at Scotland Correctional Institution
(“Scotland”). (See Compl., Docket Entry
2.) Defendant, Connie Locklear-Jones, M.D. (“Dr.
Locklear-Jones”), has filed a Motion for Summary
Judgment solely on the issue of whether Plaintiff exhausted
his administrative remedies. (See Docket Entry 22.)
Plaintiff filed a response. (Docket Entry 27.) For the
reasons stated herein, the Court recommends that the motion
for summary judgement be granted and this action be dismissed
against Dr. Locklear-Jones.
complaint, Plaintiff alleges that he was injured as a result
of Defendants’ deliberate indifference to his serious
medical needs while he was incarcerated at Scotland from May
23, 2018 through July 12, 2018. (Compl. at 40-41.) Plaintiff
states that Defendant Dr. Locklear-Jones discontinued
treatment for Plaintiff’s chronic pain in retaliation
of another pending lawsuit against Dr. Locklear-Jones.
(Id. at 32). Specifically, Plaintiff alleges that
Dr. Locklear-Jones disregarded previous medical orders for
his prescription medications for Gabapentin, Tramadol, and
Baclofen, as well as an extra mattress and chair in his cell.
(Id. at 35.)
also alleges that on May 23, 2018, he went to a medical
screening and overheard Dr. Locklear-Jones say that she
“can’t stand” Plaintiff and wished he was
dead. (Id. at 40-41.) Plaintiff alleges that Dr.
Locklear-Jones informed the staff not to dispense
Plaintiff’s blood pressure medications. (Id.
at 41.) Plaintiff asserts that he submitted a total of 12
grievances concerning Dr. Locklear-Jones’ deliberate
indifference to his serious medical needs and none were
processed. (Id.) Finally, Plaintiff states that once
he was transferred to Polk Correctional Institution
(“Polk”), he saw Dr. Sher Guleria, and all of
Plaintiff’s prescription medications were administered
under medical order. (Id. at 43.)
Locklear-Jones filed her Motion for Summary Judgment on April
8, 2019. (Docket Entry 22.) She included affidavits and other
attachments in support of her argument that Plaintiff failed
to exhaust his administrative remedies prior to filing the
instant civil Complaint. (See Docket Entries 24,
24-1, 24-2, 24-3, 24-4.) On April 19, 2019, Plaintiff filed a
response, with an attached affidavit and grievance form dated
November 22, 2016. (Docket Entry 27.) Defendant thereafter
filed a reply. (Docket Entry 32.)
Locklear-Jones argues that summary judgment should be entered
in her favor solely on the grounds that Plaintiff failed to
properly exhaust his administrative remedies regarding his
claims against Dr. Locklear-Jones as required by the Prison
Litigation Reform Act (“PLRA”). (Docket Entry
22.) Summary 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(c); Zahodnick v. Int’l Bus. Machs. Corp.,
135 F.3d 911, 913 (4th Cir. 1997). The party seeking summary
judgment bears the initial burden of coming forward and
demonstrating the absence of a genuine issue of material
fact. Temkin v. Frederick County Comm’rs, 945
F.2d 716, 718 (4th Cir. 1991) (citing Celotex v.
Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986)). Once the moving
party has met its burden, the non-moving party must then
affirmatively demonstrate that there is a genuine issue of
material fact which requires trial. Matsushita Elec.
Indus. 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 fact
finder to return a verdict for that party. Anderson v.
Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 250 (1986);
Sylvia Dev. Corp. v. Calvert County, Md., 48 F.3d
810, 817 (4th Cir. 1995). Thus, the moving party can bear his
burden either by presenting affirmative evidence or by
demonstrating that the non-moving party’s evidence is
insufficient to establish his claim. Celotex, 477
U.S. at 331 (Brennan, J., dissenting).
making the summary judgment determination, the Court must
view the evidence, and all justifiable inferences from the
evidence, in the light most favorable to the non-moving
party. Zahodnick, 135 F.3d at 913; Halperin v.
Abacus Tech. Corp., 128 F.3d 191, 196 (4th Cir. 1997).
However, the party opposing summary judgment may not rest on
mere allegations or denials, and the court need not consider
“unsupported assertions” or “self-serving
opinions without objective corroboration.”
Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248-49; Evans v. Techs.
Applications & Serv. Co., 80 F.3d 954, 962 (4th Cir.
PLRA, 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(a), requires inmates to properly
exhaust administrative remedies before filing civil actions
challenging the conditions of their confinement. See
Woodford v. Ngo, 548 U.S. 81, 84 (2006); Moore v.
Bennette, 517 F.3d 717, 725 (4th Cir. 2008). The
exhaustion requirement applies “to all inmate suits
about prison life, whether they involve general circumstances
or particular episodes, and whether they allege excessive
force or some other wrong.” Porter v. Nussle,
534 U.S. 516, 532 (2002). It is well-settled that Section
1997e’s exhaustion requirement is mandatory. See
Jones v. Bock, 549 U.S. 199, 211 (2007); see also
Woodford, 548 U.S. at 90-91 (stating that the PLRA
requires “proper exhaustion, ” which
“demands compliance with an agency’s deadlines
and other critical procedural rules”);
Anderson, 407 F.3d at 676-77 (citing
Porter, 534 U.S. at 524).
threshold matter, Dr. Locklear-Jones argues that Plaintiff
failed to exhaust his administrative remedies prior to filing
his Complaint. (Docket Entry 23 at 3-13.) In support of this
argument, she submitted the affidavits of three employers
from the North Carolina Department of Public
Safety (“NCDPS”): Correctional
Officer Sheryl Hatcher; Correctional Officer Keirah Williams;
and the Executive Director of the Inmate Grievance Resolution
Board (“the Board”), Kimberly Grande.
(See Docket Entries 24, 33, 34.) The affidavits
describe Plaintiff’s use and knowledge of NCDPS’s
three-step Administrative Remedy Procedure
(“ARP”), which governs the filing of grievances
in each of its correctional facilities.See,
e.g., Moore v. Bennette, 517 F.3d 717, 721 (4th
first encourages inmates to attempt informal communication
with responsible officials at the facility where the problem
arose. ARP § .0301(a). If informal resolution is
unsuccessful, the ARP provides that “any aggrieved
inmate may submit a written grievance . . . .”
Id. § .0310(a)(1). An inmate may only submit a
new grievance after a pending grievance has completed step
two. Id. § .0304(b). If the inmate is not
satisfied with the decision reached at the above-described
step one of the grievance process, he or she may request
relief from the facility head. Id. §
.0310(b)(1). If the inmate is not satisfied with the decision
reached at the above-described step two of the grievance
process, he or she may appeal to the Secretary of Public
Safety (“SPS”) through the Inmate Grievance
Examiner (“IGE”). Id. §
.0310(c)(1). The decision by the IGE or a modification by the
SPS shall constitute the final step of the Administrative
Remedy Procedure. Id. § .0310(c)(6).
“North Carolina prisoners can satisfy the exhaustion
requirement by completing all three steps of the inmate
grievance process, which culminates in the rendering of a
decision upon the prisoner’s appeal by [ the
Board].” Harris v. Midford, No.
1:10-cv-263-RJC, 2011 WL 1601446, at *2 (W.D. N.C. Apr. 27,
Officer Hatcher processes grievances at Scotland. (Hatcher
Aff. ¶ 2, Docket Entry 33.) Hatcher states that between
May 23, 2018 and July 12, 2018, she received four grievance
submissions from Plaintiff. (Id. ¶ 3.) Three of
these grievances were rejected because plaintiff had another
grievance pending at step one, while the fourth grievance
concerning Plaintiff’s personal property was appealed
to step three on August 3, 2018. (Id. ¶¶
5-8; see also Exs. A-D, Docket Entries 33-1, 33-2,
Williams, a correctional officer, reviewed the records
related to a fifth grievance submitted by Plaintiff, after he
transferred to Polk, that was received on July 18, 2018 and
screened the following day. (Williams Aff. ¶ 4, Docket
Entry 34.) In this grievance, Plaintiff complained of Dr.
Locklear-Jones’ discontinuance of his prescribed
medications, including his order for an extra mattress and
chairs in his cell. (Ex. A, Docket Entry 34-1.) Williams
states that she rejected the grievance because Plaintiff had
a pending grievance that had not completed step two review.