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Taylor v. Miller

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

February 8, 2017

MICHAEL MILLER, et al., Defendants.



         Pro se plaintiff Samuel Lewis Taylor, an inmate at the Crossroads Correctional Center, brings First Amendment retaliation claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for alleged retaliation taken against him in 2012 and 2013 when he was incarcerated at the Potosi Correctional Center. Taylor claims defendants Michael Miller, Jason Crawford, Dorine Johnson, Carl Gravett, and Stanley Pruett, employees of the Missouri Department of Corrections (MDOC) assigned to Potosi, retaliated against him for filing a lawsuit against defendant Miller. Defendants move for summary judgment, arguing Taylor has failed to exhaust his administrative remedies and failed to provide evidence of adverse action or retaliatory motive. Taylor opposes the motion. For the reasons that follow, I will grant defendants' motion for summary judgment.

         Legal Standard

          In ruling on a motion for summary judgment, I must view the facts and inferences from the facts in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co., Ltd. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986). The moving party must establish that there is no genuine issue of material fact and that they are entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). Once the moving party has met this burden, the nonmoving party may not rest on the allegations in its pleadings, but by affidavit or other evidence must set forth specific facts showing that a genuine issue of material fact exists. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(1), (e). If the nonmoving party fails to present evidence sufficient to establish an essential element of a claim on which that party bears the burden of proof, summary judgment is appropriate. Pedersen v. Bio-Med. Applications of Minn., 775 F.3d 1049, 1053 (8th Cir. 2015). Although a district court must view the facts in the light most favorable to the non-moving party, it is not required to “accept unreasonable inferences or sheer speculation as fact.” Howard v. Columbia Pub. Sch. Dist., 363 F.3d 797, 800 (8th Cir.2004).

         Factual Background

         Defendants submitted a statement of uncontroverted material facts in support of their motion along with a number of exhibits. Taylor filed an affidavit statement of facts in response, signed under penalty of perjury, in which he admits defendants' statements of fact in paragraphs 1-8 but states generally that paragraphs “from 9 throughout Affiant are controverted.” Aff. Statement ¶ 1, ECF No. 27. Taylor's statement of facts includes 21 pages of additional facts but does not specifically controvert defendants' facts, as required by Local Rule 4.01(E). As a result, unless otherwise noted, Taylor is deemed to have admitted the facts in defendants' statement. See Local Rule 4.01(E) (“All matters set forth in the statement of the movant shall be deemed admitted for purposes of summary judgment unless specifically controverted by the opposing party.”); see also Cross v. MHM Corr. Servs., Inc., 2014 WL 5385113, at *2 (E.D. Mo. Oct. 10, 2014) (“Plaintiffs' pro se status does not excuse them from . . . complying with Local Rule 4.01(E).”). This does not apply to legal conclusions presented as facts in defendants' statement.

         Taylor also filed a declaration, signed under penalty of perjury, as well as 62 exhibits. Defendants filed a reply to Taylor's statement of controverted material facts and Taylor filed a surreply, attaching more exhibits. After considering these materials, and with the summary judgment standard in mind, I accept the following facts as undisputed except where indicated.

         Defendant Miller served as a Correction Classification Assistant and Corrections Case Manager during the time of Taylor's allegations. Doc. 23 ¶¶ 15- 16. Defendant Crawford was the Property Room Sergeant. Id. ¶ 67. Defendants Johnson and Gravett were Corrections Officers, and defendant Pruett was a Corrections Casework Manager. Id ¶¶ 4-6.

         On September 26, 2011, Taylor filed a lawsuit against Miller and other defendants not named in this suit. See Taylor v. Miller, Case No. 1:11 CV 174 SNLJ (E.D. Mo.). On May 16, 2012, Pruett notarized Taylor's signature on a settlement agreement in another case, Taylor v. Combs, Case No. 2:07 CV 4060 NKL (W.D. Mo.). Doc. 27 and Doc. 38 ¶ 4. Taylor alleges Pruett must have told Miller about the settlement, which led Miller to retaliate against him and direct other officials to retaliate against him to dissuade him from continuing his lawsuit against Miller. Doc. 26 at 5. Taylor claims the retaliation began in August 2012 and included the following incidents:

• In August 2012, Taylor was assigned to Housing Unit 3. Doc. 23 ¶ 12. On August 13, 2012, Jason Lee, a corrections officer in Housing Unit 3 and a nonparty to this suit, confiscated Taylor's television. Doc. 23 ¶ 18. Taylor testified that Lee told Taylor that classification staff instructed him to confiscate the television, so Taylor believes that because Miller was in classification, Miller told Lee to take the television. Id ¶ 19; Doc. 23-1, Ex. A, 14:10-15:7; Doc. 27 ¶ 8. Miller was assigned to Housing Unit 4 at the time. Doc. 23 ¶ 15. Lee did not mention the lawsuit. Doc. 23-1 at 15:18- 21. Taylor claims the television was taken to Crawford in the property room and Taylor was told his television was confiscated because his property list showed he had two televisions when he was only permitted to have one. See id 23:5-17; Doc. 31-2, Exs. 13-14. Taylor claims this was error because his previous television had been damaged and confiscated and should have been removed from his property list. Doc. 27 ¶¶ 5, 8. Taylor got his television back within a few weeks. Doc. 23-1 at 13; Doc. 27 ¶ 9.
• On August 14, 2012, Taylor alleges Crawford confiscated his Koss headphones. Doc. 23 ¶ 20; Doc. 27 ¶ 10. Taylor claims the headphones were taken at Miller's direction, in retaliation for the lawsuit against him. Taylor claims Crawford told Taylor that classification instructed him to confiscate the headphones, but Crawford did not say who gave him the directive. Doc. 23 ¶ 21; Doc. 27 ¶ 10. Taylor asserts “[i]t would stand to reason that Miller directed Crawford to confiscate Koss Headphones as Crawford and Miller admitted knowing each other.” Doc. 27 ¶ 10. Prison officials had mistakenly engraved Taylor's headphones with another inmate's number. Doc. 23 ¶ 23; Doc. 31-2, Ex. 17. The headphones were confiscated and corrected, and in September 2012, Taylor agreed to receive the returned headphones with the mistaken and corrected engraving on them. Doc. 23 ¶ 24; Doc. 27 ¶ 11.
• On October 2, 2012, Taylor claims Gravett searched his cell (3A-26), confiscated some of his legal documents pertaining to Case No. 1:11 CV 174 SNLJ, and damaged his watch. Doc. 23 ¶ 26. Gravett denies removing legal documents from Taylor's cell during a search or damaging his property. Doc. 23 ¶ 28; Doc. 38 ¶ 13. The Potosi cell search log Taylor submitted does not show cell 3A-26 was searched on October 2, 2012. Doc. 27 ¶12; Doc. 31-2, Ex. 19.
• On October 29, 2012, Taylor alleges Gravett and Johnson searched his cell (3B-29). Taylor claims Johnson intentionally dropped and broke his typewriter and the defendants took seventy 46-cent stamps during the search to impede Taylor's lawsuit against Miller. Doc. 9 at 8; Doc. 23 ¶ 39. Taylor claims he saw Johnson speaking with Miller's wife, also a Potosi employee, a couple of days before Johnson and Gravett searched his cell. Doc. 22 at 12 n.1; Doc. 23 ¶ 50-51. He believes this shows that the cell search was done at the direction of Miller or his wife. Doc. 23-1 at 41-42.
• Taylor filed an Informal Resolution Request (IRR) reporting his typewriter damaged. During the discussion of the IRR, Taylor alleges Pruett ordered him to bring his typewriter to the classification office for confiscation and that he has not seen the typewriter again. He also claims Miller was present when he delivered the typewriter. Doc. 9 at 9; Doc. 23 ¶ 52.
• On December 7, 2012, Taylor alleges Gravett called Taylor out of his cell to report to the canteen, where another staff member issued Taylor two conduct violations. Doc. 23 ¶ 55. As a result of the conduct violations, Taylor was confined to administrative segregation. Doc. 9 at 10; Doc. 23 ¶ 64-65. According to prison records, these events occurred around and after 12:55 pm on December 7, 2012. Doc 23 ¶ 58; Doc. 23-14 at 13, Ex. M. Taylor was in Housing Unit 3. Doc. 23 ¶ 60. On December 7, 2012, Gravett was working first shift (11 pm to 7 am) in Housing Unit 4 and left the facility at 7:30 am, after his scheduled shift. Id ¶¶ 61-62. Taylor also claims his cellmate told him Gravett had another prisoner pack up Taylor's personal property and allowed the prisoner to steal some of it, though it is unclear when this alleged incident occurred.
• Taylor alleges he was released from administrative segregation in January 2013. Doc. 9 at 11. He claims his crockpot and 49ers coat were confiscated from his cell while he was in administrative segregation.[1] Doc. 23 ¶ 63. Taylor filed an IRR, and the response explained that an offender is not permitted to retain “grandfathered” items per MDOC policy if he commits a violation that results in assignment to administrative segregation. Id ¶ 69- 71; Doc. 23-15 Ex. N; PCC SOP/IS22-1.1, Offender Property Control Procedures; Doc. 23-16 Ex. O. Taylor gave Crawford, the property room sergeant, postage to mail out the crockpot and coat, but he alleges he was not allowed to send these items out per MDOC policy. Docs. 27 and 38 ¶ 47; see Doc. 23 ¶ 67. Taylor also alleges Crawford refused to allow him to send his typewriter out for repairs. Doc. 27 ¶ 30; Doc. 38 ¶ 30-31.
• Taylor claims that in either January or March 2013, he asked Miller to send him to clothing issue to replace his winter coat that had been confiscated, but Miller denied the request. Doc. 9 at 12; Doc. 27 ¶ 49. On March 18, 2013, Johnson issued Taylor a conduct violation for disobeying an order by wearing a sweatshirt under state-issued clothing. Doc. 23 ¶ 72. Taylor was found guilty of the conduct violation. Id. ¶ 73.

         On February 12, 2015, Taylor filed this suit, and on March 25, 2015, and June 17, 2015, he filed amended complaints. On preliminary review, I dismissed all of Taylor's claims except his First Amendment retaliation claims against the defendants in their individual capacities. See Mem. & Order, ECF No. 11; 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B). Defendants now move for summary judgment, arguing Taylor failed to exhaust administrative remedies and failed to provide affirmative evidence they took adverse actions against him or acted with a retaliatory motive.[2]

         Standard: Exhaustion

         The Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA) provides that “[n]o action shall be brought with respect to prison conditions under section 1983 of this title, 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.” 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(a). Exhaustion is mandatory under the PLRA. Ross v. Blake, 136 S.Ct. 1850, 1856 (2016). If an inmate fails to exhaust before filing suit in federal court, unexhausted claims must be dismissed. Johnson v. Jones, 340 F.3d 624, 627 (8th Cir. 2003). The PLRA contains one textual exception to mandatory exhaustion: availability, meaning an inmate is only required to exhaust administrative remedies that are actually available to him. Ross, 136 S.Ct. at 1858. “[T]he PLRA ...

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