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Isaac v. Unknown Flenoid

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

August 24, 2016

HAROLD D. ISAAC, Plaintiff,
v.
UNKNOWN FLENOID, et al., Defendant,

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          STEPHEN N. LIMBAUGH, JR. UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         This matter is before the Court on defendants' motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. The motion is granted in part and denied in part.

         Background

         Plaintiff brings this action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against several officials at the Southeast Correctional Center (SECC). On review of the amended complaint under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e), the Court dismissed all of plaintiff's claims except for his retaliation claims against Dana Cockrell and Timothy Holsten.

         Plaintiff alleges that Cockrell, who is a caseworker, retaliated against him for asking about the racial composition of the restrictive housing unit by extending his placement in administrative segregation for ninety days. He believes that placement in restrictive housing is racially motivated. He says she falsified a classification hearing form, noting that his behavior was disruptive. See Doc. No. 11 at 4 (Classification Hearing Form dated December 29, 2015).

         Plaintiff claims he sent Holsten a letter requesting an Informal Resolution Request (IRR) form, a laundry bag, and law library request forms. He alleges that the letter was returned to him stamped “denied.” He says that, because he did not have a laundry bag, he was forced to sleep on the same bedsheets for more than five months. He claims that Holsten acted in retaliation against him because he requested the IRR.

         Finally, plaintiff alleges he attempted to use the grievance procedures to address these issues but that prison officials refused to provide him with the forms.

         Standard

         To state a claim under the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, a complaint must contain “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). “To survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). A pleading need not include “detailed factual allegations, ” but it is not sufficient to tender “naked assertion[s]” that are “devoid of further factual enhancement.” Id. (internal quotation marks omitted). A complaint must do more than allege “labels and conclusions” or “a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action.” Id.

         Discussion

         1. Exhaustion

         Defendants argue that the complaint must be dismissed because, “[o]n its face [it] does not demonstrate that he exhausted the prison grievance procedure.” They further argue that plaintiff's “allegation that Defendant Holsten failed to provide him with an IRR form is without merit.” The argument is misplaced.

         Under 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(a), a prisoner may not bring an action under § 1983 “until such administrative remedies as are available are exhausted.” However, a prisoner is not required to plead and demonstrate exhaustion in the complaint. See Jones. v. Bock, 549 U.S. 199, 212 (2007). Exhaustion is an affirmative defense, and failure to exhaust must be proven by the defendants. Id. Therefore, defendants' argument fails.

         Additionally, plaintiff says prison officials prevented him from filing the proper grievance forms. A prisoner must exhaust “available” remedies. A fact question exists whether the grievance process was unavailable to plaintiff because of the prison officials' actions. See Ross v. Blake, 136 S.Ct. 1850, 1860 (exhaustion is unavailable “ when prison administrators thwart inmates ...


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