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Phillips v. Hurley

United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Eastern Division

September 9, 2014

ROY PHILLIPS, Plaintiff,
v.
JAMES HURLEY, et al., Defendant.

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

STEPHEN N. LIMBAUGH, Jr., District Judge.

This matter is before the Court on defendants' motions to dismiss. The motions have been fully briefed and the matter is ripe for disposition.

I. Background

Plaintiff Roy Phillips, an inmate at the Northeast Correctional Center[1] ("NECC"), filed this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§ 1983 and 1985 against Missouri Department of Corrections employees James Hurley, Larry Allen, Tyree Butler, Kristin Cutt, John Hagerty, Janet Wilson, Marsha Kiel, Amber Grote, Donna Kearse, and Dana Jost. Plaintiff sued defendants in both their individual and official capacities. Plaintiff's amended complaint includes five counts: Count I alleges violations regarding plaintiff's placement in administrative segregation; Count II alleges a failure to replace broken eye glasses; Count III alleges interference with legal mail; Count IV alleges failure to replace or compensate for lost property (ear buds and cotton shorts); and Count V alleges failure to provide necessary medical care. Upon review of plaintiff's motion for leave to file the amended complaint, this Court previously dismissed the following claims: (1) the official capacity claims against Kearse, Jost, Butler, Cutt, and Allen; (2) the loss of property claims relative to the ear buds and cotton shorts stated in Count IV; and (3) the § 1985 claims. The Court allowed the filing of the amended complaint and issued service of process on plaintiff's remaining § 1983 claims based on alleged violations of plaintiff's First, Eighth and Fourteenth Amendment rights. Thereafter, plaintiff's claims against Janet Wilson were dismissed for failure to serve process as required by Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 4(m).

There are three pending motions to dismiss. Defendants Hurley, Butler, Cutt and Allen filed a motion to dismiss Count I for failure to exhaust administrative remedies. Defendant Hurley filed a motion to dismiss Count II for failure to state a claim. Finally, defendants Kiel, Grote, Hagerty, and Hurley filed a motion to dismiss Count III for failure to exhaust administrative remedies and failure to state a claim.

II. Motion to Dismiss Standard

The purpose of a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim is to test the legal sufficiency of a complaint so as to eliminate those actions "which are fatally flawed in their legal premises and deigned to fail, thereby sparing litigants the burden of unnecessary pretrial and trial activity." Young v. City of St. Charles , 244 F.3d 623, 627 (8th Cir. 2001) (citing Neitzke v. Williams , 490 U.S. 319, 326-27 (1989)). "To survive a motion to dismiss, a claim must be facially plausible, meaning that the factual content... allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.'" Cole v. Homier Dist. Co., Inc. , 599 F.3d 856, 861 (8th Cir. 2010) (quoting Ashcroft v. Iqbal , 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009)). The Court must "accept the allegations contained in the complaint as true and draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the nonmoving party." Id. (quoting Coons v. Mineta , 410 F.3d 1036, 1039 (8th Cir. 2005)). However, "[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, " will not pass muster. Iqbal , 556 U.S. at 678.

III. Discussion

A. Motion to Dismiss of Defendants Hurley, Butler, Cutt, and Allen

Defendants Hurley, Butler, Cutt, and Allen move to dismiss the claims in Count I of the amended complaint for failure to exhaust administrative remedies. The Prison Litigation Reform Act of 1996 ("PLRA") provides that "[n]o action shall be brought with respect to prison conditions under section 1983... until such administrative remedies as are available are exhausted." 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(a); Gibson v. Weber , 431 F.3d 339, 341 (8th Cir. 2005). Accordingly, "[u]nder the plain language of section 1997e(a), an inmate must exhaust administrative remedies before filing suit in federal court." Johnson v. Jones , 340 F.3d 624, 627 (8th Cir. 2003). "Thus, in considering motions to dismiss for failure to exhaust under section 1997e(a), the district court must look to the time of filing, not the time the district court is rendering its decision, to determine if exhaustion has occurred." Id. "If exhaustion was not completed at the time of filing, dismissal is mandatory." Id.

The Missouri Department of Corrections ("MDOC") has developed an administrative grievance procedure for inmates to internally grieve complaints against MDOC and its staff; the procedure requires that the inmate file an informal resolution request, an inmate grievance, and, finally, an inmate grievance appeal. See Foulk v. Charrier , 262 F.3d 687, 694 (8th Cir. 2001); Dashley v. Corr. Med. Serv. , 345 F.Supp.2d 1018, 1022-23 (E.D. Mo. 2004). Not only is the inmate required to exhaust the administrative remedies available to him under PLRA, but he is required to properly exhaust those administrative remedies. Woodford v. Ngo , 548 U.S. 81, 93 (2006).

In Count I of the amended complaint, plaintiff alleges the defendants retaliated against him by placement and continuation in administrative segregation for prevailing on a conduct violation hearing. Plaintiff alleges he was confined in administrative segregation for more than 120 days without cause in violation of his Eighth and Fourteenth Amendment rights. Defendants have provided the Court with affidavit testimony that plaintiff did not file a grievance with regard to his placement, or the continuation of his placement, in administrative segregation.

In response, plaintiff concedes that he failed to exhaust his administrative remedies with one exception. Plaintiff argues that his amended complaint includes claims under the Missouri constitution and that the exhaustion requirement does not apply to his state law claims. Plaintiff's amended complaint, however, alleges only § 1983 claims. Any references to violations of the state constitution do not state a claim under § 1983. Doe v. Gooden , 214 F.3d 952, 955 (8th Cir. 2000); Ebmeier v. Stump , 70 F.3d 1012, 1013 (8th Cir. 1995). "Section 1983 guards and vindicates federal rights alone." Id. Further, if plaintiff intended to allege any state law claim in his amended complaint, separate from his § 1983 claims, he has not done so.

The Court finds that it is undisputed that plaintiff failed to exhaust his administrative remedies with regard to his claims in Count I of the amended complaint. The Court notes that it has relied on materials outside the pleadings in coming to its conclusion that plaintiff has not exhausted his administrative remedies. Pursuant to Rule 12(d) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, the Court has discretion to consider such materials in a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss and convert the motion to one for summary judgment. Rule 12(d) provides that the "parties must be given a reasonable opportunity to present all the material that is pertinent to the motion." Here, plaintiff responded to the ...


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