United States District Court, D. Idaho
Lynn Winmill, Chief Judge
Court has before it Defendant's Motion for Summary
Judgment (Dkt. No. 34). The motion is fully briefed and at
issue. For the reasons explained below, the Court will grant
Daniels, an inmate in the custody of the Idaho Department of
Correction (IDOC), has sued several current and former
employees of IDOC claiming they failed to protect him from
assaults that occurred in 2014. More specifically, Daniels
has sued (1) Warden Blades; (2) Deputy Warden Bennett; (3)
Deputy Warden Wessels; (4) Sgt. Dobler; (5) Corporal Trana;
(6) Sgt. LaRochelle; and (7) Officer Brooks.
alleges that he was placed in a section of the prison -
identified as the D-2 tier - that also housed members of a
violent gang, the Aryan Knights (AK). Daniels alleges that it
was well-known among these gang members - and among prison
staff - that he had dropped out of that gang and hence was
targeted for retribution. He alleges that because the prison
staff ignored this danger, he was assaulted twice and
sustained injuries to the tendons and ligaments of his hand.
brought this lawsuit under § 1983 seeking damages for
the injuries he suffered to his hand. See Amended
Complaint (Dkt. No. 10). The defendants have moved for
summary judgment, arguing that Daniels failed to exhaust his
judgment is the proper procedural vehicle to raise the
affirmative defense of exhaustion. Albino v. Baca,
747 F.3d 1162, 1166 (9th Cir. 2014). Summary judgment is
appropriate where a party can show that, as to any claim or
defense, “there is no genuine dispute as to any
material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a
matter of law.” See Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(a). A
principal purpose of summary judgment “is to isolate
and dispose of factually unsupported claims . . . .”
Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323-24
(1986). It is “not a disfavored procedural shortcut,
” but instead is the “principal tool[ ] by which
factually insufficient claims or defenses [can] be isolated
and prevented from going to trial with the attendant
unwarranted consumption of public and private
resources.” Id. at 327. “[T]he mere
existence of some alleged factual dispute between the parties
will not defeat an otherwise properly supported motion for
summary judgment; the requirement is that there be no genuine
issue of material fact.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby,
Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 247-48 (1986).
Court must view the evidence in the light most favorable to
the non-moving party and must not make credibility findings.
Id. at 255. The moving party bears the initial
burden of demonstrating the absence of a genuine issue of
material fact. Devereaux v. Abbey, 263 F.3d 1070,
1076 (9th Cir. 2001) (en banc). To carry this burden, the
moving party need not introduce any affirmative evidence,
like affidavits or deposition excerpts, but may simply point
out the absence of evidence to support the non-moving
party's case. Fairbank v. Wunderman Cato
Johnson, 212 F.3d 528, 532 (9th Cir. 2000). The burden
then shifts to the non-moving party to produce evidence
sufficient to support a jury verdict in his favor.
Id. at 256-57. The non-moving party must go beyond
the pleadings and, by “affidavits, or by the
depositions, answers to interrogatories, or admissions on
file, ” point to the existence of a genuine issue of
material fact. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 324.
Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA) provides that “[n]o
action shall be brought with respect to prison conditions
under section 1983 of this title . . . until such
administrative remedies as are available are
exhausted.” See 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(a).
“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). Exhaustion is intended to give “prison
officials an opportunity to resolve disputes concerning the
exercise of their responsibilities before being haled into
court.” Id. at 204. By its plain terms,
however, the PLRA requires prisoners to exhaust only those
avenues of relief that are “available” to them.
See 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(a).
defendant bears the burden of proving failure to exhaust.
See Brown v. Valoff, 422 F.3d 926, 936 (9th Cir. 2005).
If the defendant does so, “the burden shifts to the
plaintiff to show that the administrative remedies were
unavailable.” Albino, 697 F.3d at 1031.
Confusing or contradictory information given to a prisoner
“informs [the] determination of whether relief was, as
a practical matter, ‘available.'”
Brown, 422 F.3d at 937. Administrative remedies are
deemed unavailable if the prisoner shows the required
procedural steps were “not known and unknowable with
reasonable effort.” Albino, 697 F.3d at 1037.
It is not enough that the prisoner was subjectively unaware
of the proper administrative procedures; exhaustion may be
excused only if that lack of awareness was also
“objectively reasonable.” Id. at 1038.
the IDOC has set up a three-step process for inmates to
pursue grievances concerning their treatment at the jail. The
inmate with a concern is required to seek an informal
resolution of the matter by completing an Offender Concern
Form (OCF), addressed to the staff member most directly
involved with the inmate's issue. See Verhage
Affidavit (Dkt. No. 34-13) at ¶ 4. If the OCF does
not resolve the matter, the inmate must file a grievance form
within 30 days of the incident giving rise to the grievance.
Id. at ¶ 6. Finally, IDOC's decision on ...