Submitted: April 11, 2018
from United States District Court for the Eastern District of
Arkansas - Pine Bluff
COLLOTON, SHEPHERD, and STRAS, Circuit Judges.
Townsend, an inmate at Arkansas's Tucker Unit prison,
sued three prison officials for requiring him to work with
deadly chlorine gas without proper training and safety gear.
The district court granted summary judgment to the officials
based on Townsend's failure to exhaust his administrative
remedies. Because an administrative remedy was unavailable
against one of the officials, we affirm in part, reverse in
part, and remand.
comply with the first step of the prison's administrative
procedures, Townsend submitted an informal written complaint
to Sergeant Jeavon Perry, one of the prison's assigned
"problem solvers." Townsend alleged that Terry
Murphy, his supervisor at the prison's water-treatment
plant, had required him to work with chlorine gas without
safety training and equipment. Six weeks later, after having
not received a response to his informal complaint, Townsend
filed a formal grievance.
prison rejected Townsend's filing, which according to an
administrative directive was due six business days after he
submitted his informal complaint. Because Townsend missed the
six-day deadline by over five weeks, the prison refused to
consider the merits of his grievance.
failing to obtain administrative relief, Townsend filed a
lawsuit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 alleging that prison
officials had violated his constitutional rights by requiring
him to work under dangerous conditions. The three officials
he named as defendants were Murphy, his direct supervisor;
Richard Romine, the plant's outside maintenance
supervisor; and David White, the warden. The defendants moved
for summary judgment on the theory that Townsend failed to
exhaust his administrative remedies because he filed his
grievance after the six-day deadline had expired. In
addition, Romine and White argued that Townsend's failure
to specifically identify them in his informal written
complaint required dismissal of the claims against them,
separate and apart from Townsend's delay in filing a
response to the defendants' summary-judgment motion,
Townsend submitted a sworn declaration stating that Sergeant
Perry repeatedly told him, including just three days after he
filed his informal complaint, not to file a formal grievance
until he received a response to his informal complaint.
According to the declaration, the prison also ignored his
serial requests to visit the prison's library to review
the only available copy of the administrative directive, the
contents of which were not "common knowledge."
Townsend claimed that his inability to access the
prison's library and Perry's misleading advice
rendered the formal-grievance procedure
"unavailable." The defendants did not respond to
Townsend's declaration with their own evidence.
district court granted summary judgment to all three
defendants, concluding that Townsend's failure to follow
the administrative directive was fatal to his lawsuit.
Townsend appeals the court's summary-judgment ruling,
specifically the conclusion that he failed to exhaust his
review a grant of summary judgment de novo. See Porter v.
Sturm, 781 F.3d 448, 451 (8th Cir. 2015). Summary
judgment is appropriate "if the movant shows that there
is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant