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Purnell v. Landerkin

United States District Court, D. Maryland

March 13, 2018

JAMIE PURNELL, #454-933, Plaintiff


          Catherine C. Blake United States District Judge.


         In a complaint filed August 23, 2017, and construed as a civil rights action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, Jamie Purnell alleged that he was subjected to unconstitutional conditions of confinement while detained at the Baltimore City Detention Center, now known as the Baltimore Pretrial Complex. (ECF No. 1). Purnell, who seeks compensatory damages, was ordered to supplement his complaint to specify those responsible for the allegedly unconstitutional conditions. (ECF No. 5). In his supplement, he named only the Warden of the facility, now identified as Kathleen Landerkin. (ECF Nos. 6, 11). Defendant Landerkin has filed a motion to dismiss, or in the alternative, for summary judgment.[2] (ECF No. 11). That motion, construed as a motion for summary judgment, is unopposed.[3] No hearing is necessary to determine the outcome of this case. See Local Rule 105.6 (D. Md. 2016). For reasons noted herein, summary judgment shall be GRANTED in favor of the defendant.


         Motion for Summary Judgment

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(a) provides that summary judgment should be granted "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) (emphases added). "A dispute is genuine if 'a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party.'" Libertarian Party of Va. v. Judd, 718 F.3d 308, 313 (4th Cir. 2013) (quoting Dulaney v. Packaging Corp. of Am., 673 F.3d 323, 330 (4th Cir. 2012)). "A fact is material if it 'might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law.'" Id. (quoting Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986)). Accordingly, "the mere existence of some alleged factual dispute between the parties will not defeat an otherwise properly supported motion for summary judgment[.]" Anderson, 477 U.S. at 247-48. The court must view the evidence in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party, Tolan v. Cotton, 134 S.Ct. 1861, 1866 (2014) (per curiam), and draw all reasonable inferences in that party's favor, Scott v. Harris, 550 U.S. 372, 378 (2007) (citations omitted); see also Jacobs v. N.C. Admin. Office of the Courts, 780 F.3d 562, 568-69 (4th Cir. 2015). At the same time, the court must "prevent factually unsupported claims and defenses from proceeding to trial." Bouchat v. Bait. Ravens Football Club, Inc., 346 F.3d 514, 526 (4th Cir. 2003) (quoting Drewitt v. Pratt, 999 F.2d 774, 778-79 (4th Cir. 1993)).


         It appears that Purnell was a pretrial detainee at the time of his alleged exposure to unconstitutional conditions of confinement. The constitutional protections afforded a pretrial detainee are provided by the Fourteenth Amendment. See Bell v. Wolfish, 441 U.S. 520, 535 n.16 (1979). Thus, Purnell's allegations that the JI Building where he was housed had a thin mattress, mold, and hanging wires overhead, too few shared toilets and showers, and contamination from mice, flies and roaches, is actionable under § 1983. Purnell claims these conditions led to his development of asthma and diabetes. Although he submitted grievance forms concerning these conditions, "they did not get back to him."[4] (ECF No. 1, p. 2). He does not dispute defendant's assertion that the only grievance he filed, as identified by the Resident Grievance Office, concerned a problem with receipt of mail, which was dismissed for procedural reasons. (ECF No. 11-2, Kelvin L. Harris Affidavit, ¶ 4; ECF No. 11-3, grievance and response).

         Inmates are required to exhaust "such administrative remedies as are available" before filing an action. 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(a); see also Ross v. Blake, 136 S.Ct. 1850, 1858 (2016) (holding that an inmate "must exhaust available remedies, but need not exhaust unavailable ones.")- The statute provides that an action shall not be brought with respect to prison conditions under § 1983 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. See 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(a).

         A court may not excuse a failure to exhaust, Ross, 136 S.Ct. at 1856 (citing Miller v. French, 530 U.S. 327, 337 (2000)). Exhaustion (1) allows the facility to address complaints about the program it administers before being subjected to suit; (2) reduces litigation to the extent complaints are satisfactorily resolved; and (3) prepares a useful record in the event of litigation. Jones, 549 U.S. at 219. Failure to exhaust administrative remedies is an affirmative defense, "thus inmates need not plead exhaustion, nor do they bear the burden of proving it. Moore, 517 F.3d at 725. But "a complaint may be dismissed on exhaustion grounds so long as the inmate is first given an opportunity to address the issue." Id.

         This requirement is one of proper exhaustion of available administrative remedies, which means "complet[ing] the administrative review process in accordance with the applicable procedural rules, including deadlines, as a precondition to bringing suit in federal court." Woodford v. Ngo, 548 U.S. 81, 88, 93 (2006). An administrative remedy is not available if a prisoner, through no fault of her own, was prevented from availing herself of it. Moore v. Bennette, 517 F.3d 717, 725 (4th Cir. 2008).

         In Ross, the Supreme Court identified three kinds of circumstances in which an administrative remedy is unavailable. 136 S.Ct. at 1859. First, "an administrative procedure is unavailable when (despite what regulations or guidance materials may promise) it operates as a simple dead end-with officers unable or consistently unwilling to provide any relief to aggrieved inmates." Id. Second, "an administrative scheme might be so opaque that it becomes, practically speaking, incapable of use. In this situation, some mechanism exists to provide relief, but no ordinary prisoner can discern or navigate it." Id. The third circumstance arises when "prison administrators thwart inmates from taking advantage of a grievance process through machination, misrepresentation, or intimidation." Id. at 1860. None of these circumstances are relevant here.

         Defendant asserts an affirmative defense that Purnell did not complete the administrative exhaustion process, which Purnell was given an opportunity to address. He failed to do so.

         IV. ...

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