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Grady v. Brayboy

United States District Court, M.D. North Carolina

October 9, 2019

TRACEY TERRELL GRADY, Plaintiff,
v.
KRISTIE B. BRAYBOY, et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND RECOMMENDATION OF UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

          L. PATRICK AULD UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         This case comes before the undersigned United States Magistrate Judge for a recommendation on the “Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings” (Docket Entry 18) (the “Motion”)[1] filed by Kristie Brayboy, Renee Cordeiro, Kenneth E. Lassiter, Tammy S. Lockamy, and Barry Smith (collectively, the “Defendants”). For the reasons that follow, the Court should grant the Motion.

         BACKGROUND

         Pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, Tracey Terrell Grady (the “Plaintiff”), an inmate with the North Carolina Department of Public Safety (the “NC DPS”), commenced this action against Defendants, various NC DPS employees, for their alleged violations of his constitutional rights during his incarceration at Hoke Correctional Institution (the “Hoke C.I.”). (See Docket Entry 1 (the “Complaint”) at 1-8.)[2] According to the Complaint, Plaintiff filed grievance number “4320-2018-IBK-07541” (the “Grievance”) with the NC DPS “concerning the facts relating to []his [C]omplaint.” (Id. at 8.) The Complaint further states that Plaintiff appealed the Grievance “to Step Two, [but] staff are illegally trying to den[y Plaintiff] the grievance process.” (Id.) Plaintiff elaborated that he “wrote many grievances, ” which he attached to his Complaint, which the grievance examiner “at Hoke C.I.” rejected. (Id.) Per Plaintiff, “one is still in the appeal stage at this time.” (Id.)

         Plaintiff attached multiple grievances to his Complaint. (See generally Docket Entry 1-1.) Although the Grievance itself does not appear (see generally id.), the attachments contain the NC DPS Step One and Step Two responses to the Grievance (see id. at 1-2).[3]These materials reflect that the NC DPS received the Grievance on July 24, 2018, and issued a Step One denial on August 6, 2018, which Plaintiff appealed the same day. (See id. at 1.) They further reflect that NC DPS issued a Step Two denial on August 23, 2018, which Plaintiff appealed the next day. (See id. at 2.)

         On or about August 27, 2018, Plaintiff submitted the Complaint (see Docket Entry 1-2 at 1), [4] which bears a file-stamp of August 30, 2018 (see Docket Entry 1 at 1).[5] Thereafter, Defendants filed an Answer (see Docket Entry 16), which they subsequently amended (see Docket Entry 17). Both the Answer and Amended Answer assert that, “[o]n the face of Plaintiff's Complaint, it is clear that Plaintiff has failed to exhaust all remedies for the claims he has brought against the [d]efendants he has named. It is Defendants' intention to bring a motion for judgment on the pleadings on this issue . . . .” (Docket Entry 16 at 2; Docket Entry 17 at 2.) Defendants subsequently moved for judgment on the pleadings pursuant to Rule 12(c) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure (the “Rules”), on the grounds that “Plaintiff's claims are barred for failure to exhaust his administrative remedies prior to filing suit.” (Docket Entry 18 at 1.)

         In support of their Motion, Defendants submitted the Grievance and the NC DPS's Step One, Step Two, and Step Three responses to the Grievance. (Docket Entry 20-1 (the “Exhibits”) at 2-5.) The Exhibits reflect that, through Inmate Grievance Examiner Wakenda Greene, the NC DPS denied the Grievance at Step Three on September 6, 2018. (See id. at 5 (“The [G]rievance is considered resolved by prison staff and is, therefore, dismissed.”).) In response to Defendants' Motion, Plaintiff requests that the Court “read the exhausted Step Three remedy [to the] Grievance, ” which “was exhausted on 9-6[-]2018.” (Docket Entry 22 at 3.) Plaintiff elaborates that, “[o]n September 6th 2018[, he] exhausted to Step Three [the] Grievance, ” noting that “the name of the [relevant] Grievance Examiner is[] Wakenda Greene.” (Id. at 2.) Plaintiff further “moves to enter the [exhausted Grievance into] evidence, ” asserting that “it would be in the interest of justice to grant [him leave] to proceed to trial in this case.” (Id.)

         DISCUSSION

         I. Relevant Rules

         “[A] party may move for judgment on the pleadings” pursuant to Rule 12(c) any time “[a]fter the pleadings are closed, ” as long as it moves “early enough not to delay trial.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(c). In evaluating a Rule 12(c) motion, the Court considers only the pleadings, (I) taking all factual allegations in the Complaint as true, (ii) taking all factual allegations in the answer “as true only where and to the extent they have not been denied or do not conflict with the [C]omplaint, ” and (iii) drawing all reasonable inferences in favor of the nonmoving party. Alexander v. City of Greensboro, 801 F.Supp.2d 429, 433 (M.D. N.C. 2011) (internal quotation marks omitted). “The test applicable for judgment on the pleadings is whether or not, when viewed in the light most favorable to the party against whom the motion is made, genuine issues of material fact remain or whether the case can be decided as a matter of law.” Smith v. McDonald, 562 F.Supp. 829, 842 (M.D. N.C. 1983), aff'd, 737 F.2d 427 (4th Cir. 1984), aff'd, 472 U.S. 479 (1985). In other words, “a Rule 12(c) motion tests only the sufficiency of the [C]omplaint and does not resolve the merits of the plaintiff's claims or any disputes of fact.” Massey v. Ojaniit, 759 F.3d 343, 353 (4th Cir. 2014) (internal quotation marks omitted).

         As such, if “matters outside the pleadings are presented to and not excluded by the [C]ourt, the [Rule 12(c)] motion must be treated as one for summary judgment under Rule 56.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(d). In turn, under Rule 56, “[t]he [C]ourt shall grant summary judgment if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). A genuine dispute of material fact exists “if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). The movant bears the burden of establishing the absence of such dispute. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986).

Moreover, [w]here, as here, the movant seeks summary judgment on an affirmative defense, [he] must conclusively establish all essential elements of that defense. When the defendant has produced sufficient evidence in support of [hi]s affirmative defense, the burden of production shifts to the plaintiff to come forward with specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.

Ray Commc'ns, Inc. v. Clear Channel Commc'ns, Inc., 673 F.3d 294, 299 (4th Cir. 2012) (citation and internal quotation marks omitted).

         II. ...


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