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Frank Crabtree v. Wendy Gephart

April 11, 2012

FRANK CRABTREE, PLAINTIFF,
v.
WENDY GEPHART, DARCELL STAMMER, AND JASON LICHTI, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Honorable Ronald E. Bush U. S. Magistrate Judge

MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER

Now pending is Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment. (Dkt. 24.) All parties appearing before the Court have consented to the jurisdiction of a United States Magistrate Judge to enter final orders in this case. (Dkt. 20.) Fed. R. Civ. P. 72.

Defendants assert entitlement to summary judgment under Rule 56 on the merits of Plaintiff's claims. They also assert that Plaintiff's claims are subject to dismissal for his failure to exhaust administrative remedies, which the Court will treat as an unenumerated Rule 12b motion. (Dkt. 24.) Plaintiff did not file a response to Defendants' Motion by his deadline of March 19, 2012. Therefore, the Court will decide the pending motion on the record before it. After reviewing Plaintiff's Complaint, Defendants' Motion and supporting evidence, and the record in this matter, the Court will grant Defendants' motion on the threshold issue of failure to exhaust, for the following reasons.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiff is a prisoner in the custody of the Idaho Department of Correction (IDOC). His claims arise from his incarceration at the Idaho Correctional Institution in Orofino (ICI-O).(Complaint, Dkt. 3). Plaintiff was designated a sexual predator due to his institutional behavior. However, that designation had recently been removed, which allowed Plaintiff to be moved into the protective custody unit at ICI-O. (Defendants' Statement of Facts (SOF) ¶ 15.) Defendant Stammer was Plaintiff's assigned case worker (SOF ¶ 5); Defendant Gebhart (referred to as "Gephart" by Plaintiff) was his clinician (id.); and Corporal Lichti was the IDOC official who sat in on sexual assault interviews conducted by the Clearwater County Sheriff's Office after Plaintiff reported that his cellmate sexually abused and raped him. (SOF ¶ 23.)

When Plaintiff was transferred to ICI-O, Defendants Stammer and Gebhart met about Plaintiff's residential placement to ensure that his housing was appropriate. Plaintiff was told that he had been designated a sexual predator, but that label was removed to permit him to be housed in protective custody. (SOF ¶ 15.) However, the Plaintiff was also told he was expected to refrain from engaging in sexual activity in prison. (Id.) During the time at issue, Plaintiff was being transitioned from administrative segregation, to protective custody and then to general population with the goal of placing him into sex offender treatment, a pre-requisite to parole. (SOF ¶ ¶ 6-7.)

Defendants contend that Defendant Gebhart met with Plaintiff in December 2010, at which time Plaintiff told Gebhart for the first time that a fellow inmate named Barber had hit him, called him names, and bossed him around. (SOF ¶ 19.) The Plaintiff also said that Inmate Barber had forced him into sexual activity. (Id.) Defendant Gebhart immediately reported Plaintiff's allegations of having been sexually assaulted to the shift commander, who contacted the Clearwater County Sheriff's office. (SOF ¶ 19, 20.) However, during the Clearwater County Sheriff's office investigation, Plaintiff admitted that he had asked Inmate Barber to engage in sexual activity. (SOF ¶ 28.)

Plaintiff's allegations in the Complaint are somewhat different. He alleges that, when he reported the sexual assault to Defendant Gephart, she refused to believe him. (Complaint, Dkt. 3.) Plaintiff alleges that Defendants Gephart and Stammer threatened him with the possibility of relocating him to "facilities where I'd be in severe danger for my life" if he did not state that the sexual activity was consensual. (Id.) According to Plaintiff, Defendants harassed him by telling him he was a liar and told him that "if I didn't change my story," they would place Plaintiff in the prison's general population. (Id.) Plaintiff claims that because of the pressure from Defendants and in fear for his own safety, he then falsely stated that he had requested sexual favors from Inmate Barber. (Id.) Plaintiff says that after he made that statement, he was issued a Disciplinary Offense Report (DOR) for sexual harassment, which he claims was an attempt to cover-up the inaction of prison officials. (Id.)

At Plaintiff's DOR hearing, Defendant Lichti and a non-defendant officer informed Plaintiff on the record that he could appeal the DOR finding. (Id.) However, Plaintiff claims that once the tape recorder at the hearing was turned off, the officers told him that he could not appeal and suggested that he would be sent back to the Idaho Maximum Security Institution if he made trouble for everyone. (Id.)

This Court's Order dated May 19, 2011 permitted Plaintiff to proceed with First and Eighth Amendment claims against Defendants Gephart, Stammer, and Lichti only. (Dkt. 9.) The Court now addresses whether Plaintiff exhausted his administrative remedies in regard to the factual basis for those claims, which he would be required to do as a general matter before bringing such claims in a lawsuit.

EXHAUSTION OF ADMINISTRATIVE REMEDIES

1. Standard of Law

Under federal law, "[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). Where an inmate seeks money damages for a prison conditions claim, he or she must complete the prison administrative process for the claims, even if the process does not provide for money damages. Booth v. Churner, 532 U.S. 731 (2001). The prison administrative process is a sufficient remedy if it "could provide some sort of relief on the complaint." Id. at 734. In Porter v. Nussle, 534 U.S. 516 (2002), the Supreme Court confirmed that "the PLRA's exhaustion requirement applies to all inmate suits about prison life, whether they involve general circumstances or particular episodes, and whether they allege excessive force or some other wrong." Id. at 532.

"There is no question that exhaustion is mandatory under the PLRA and that unexhausted claims cannot be brought in court." Jones v. Bock, 549 U.S. 199, 211 (2007). Thisrequirement allows "prison officials an opportunity to resolve disputes concerning the exercise ...


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