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Smith v. Spaulding

United States District Court, D. Massachusetts

December 9, 2019

GARNETT SMITH, Petitioner,
v.
CAPTAIN S. SPAULDING, WARDEN Respondent.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER REGARDING RESPONDENT'S MOTION TO DISMISS PETITION UNDER 28 U.S.C. § 2241 (DKT. NO. 11)

          KATHERINE A. ROBERTSON UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         I. Introduction

         Petitioner Garnett Smith (“Smith” or “Petitioner”) brought this action pro se against Captain Spaulding (“Respondent”), Warden of the Federal Medical Center in Devens, Massachusetts (“FMC Devens”). Smith alleges in his petition that he is the subject of an incident report in his file finding him responsible for assaulting an officer while he was incarcerated at the Federal Correctional Institute in Fort Dix, New Jersey (“FCI Ft. Dix”) that should have been expunged. He has filed a petition pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2241 seeking expungement of incident report number 2939842 (Dkt. No. 1 at 5). Respondent has filed a motion to dismiss on the grounds that Smith failed to exhaust his administrative remedies (Dkt. No. 11). For the reasons set forth below, the court GRANTS Respondent's motion to dismiss without prejudice.

         II. Allegations in Smith's Petition

         Smith alleges that on or about January 15, 2017, he and two other inmates housed at FCI Ft. Dix were charged with “assaulting any person” and with “assaulting any person/correctional officer” (Dkt. No. 1 at 2). Smith was found responsible for the offenses and transferred to F.C.I. McDowell. When Smith reached this destination, he filed an appeal of the guilty findings, alleging violations of his due process rights. The Mid-Atlantic Regional Director granted Smith a re-hearing on “the incident report” (Dkt. No. 1 at 2). After the hearing, the discipline hearing officer (“DHO”) expunged incident report number 2939840 from Smith's Sentry file (Dkt. No. 2 at 2). Thereafter, Smith was transferred to FMC Devens. In early August 2018, staff at FMC Devens informed Smith that incident report number 2939842 finding him responsible for assaulting an officer remained in his file (Dkt. No. 1 at 3).

         Smith filed an appeal with the Mid-Atlantic Regional Office. According to Smith, this appeal was rejected on the grounds that Smith's appeal had to be to the Northern Regional Office because of his residence at FMC Devens (Dkt. No. 1 at 3). Smith's appeal to the Northern Regional Office was rejected on the grounds that the appeal should have been filed at the Central Office level. The appeal Smith filed at the Central Office level was rejected on the grounds that: (1) it was untimely; (2) there was no staff verification excusing the untimeliness; (3) the petition raised more than one issue; and (4) if Smith was appealing incident report number 2939842, he had to start a new appeal (Dkt. No 1 at 3; Dkt. No. 1-1).

         Smith acknowledges that his administrative appeal was denied on procedural grounds (Dkt. No. 1 at 4). He contends that the denial was arbitrary and capricious in violation of the Administrative Procedures Act, 5 U.S.C. §§ 551 et seq.

         III. Analysis

         Respondent moves to dismiss the petition for failure to state a claim pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6), arguing that Smith has failed to exhaust his administrative remedies as required under the Prison Litigation Reform Act, 42 U.S.C. §1997(e)(a) (“PLRA”).

         A. Standard of Review

         To survive a motion to dismiss, a “'complaint must contain enough factual material to raise a right to relief above the speculative level … and state a facially plausible legal claim, '” Guerra-Delgado v. Popular, Inc., 774 F.3d 776, 780 (1st Cir. 2014) (quoting Ocasio-Hernández v. Fortuño-Burset, 640 F.3d 1, 12 (1st Cir. 2011)), “accept[ing] as true well-pleaded facts in the complaint and draw[ing] all reasonable inferences in the pleader's favor.” Id. (citing Tasker v. DHL Ret. Sav. Plan, 621 F.3d 34, 38 (1st Cir. 2010)). When, as in this case, the petitioner is self-represented, “this court will ‘liberally construe[]' his complaint, ‘however inartfully pleaded.'” Facey v. Dickhaut, 892 F.Supp.2d 347, 351 (D. Mass. 2012) (quoting Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007) (quoting Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 106 (1976))) (alteration in original); see also, e.g., Rios v. United States, Civil Action No. 14-40171-IT, 2016 WL 1212530, at *3 (D. Mass. Feb. 26, 2016), adopted, 2016 WL 1228570 (D. Mass. Mar. 28, 2016) (“pro se pleadings are to be liberally construed”). “'However, pro se status does not insulate a party from complying with procedural and substantive law.'” Facey, 892 F.Supp.2d at 351 (quoting Ahmed v. Rosenblatt, 118 F.3d 886, 890 (1st Cir. 1997)).

         “Ordinarily, a court will not consider documents outside of the pleadings in a motion to dismiss.” Id. Instead, in weighing a motion to dismiss, the court may consider the allegations in the petition, the documents attached to, or expressly incorporated into, the petition, and relevant public records. See Foley v. Wells Fargo Bank, N.A., 772 F.3d 63, 68, 73 (1st Cir. 2014). While a district court is permitted, in some instances, to consider documents that were not attached to the complaint or petition without converting the motion to one for summary judgment, this is a “narrow exception” that only covers documents the authenticity of which are not disputed by the parties, that are central to the petitioner's claims, or that are sufficiently referred to in the petition. See Id. at 74.

         B. Exhaustion Requirement

         The PLRA provides, in relevant part, 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.'” Facey, 892 F.Supp.2d at 352 (quoting 42 U.S.C. §1997e(a)). “[E]xhaustion of available administrative remedies is required for any suit challenging prison conditions, not just for suits under § 1983, ” Woodford v. Ngo, 548 U.S. 81, 85 (2006) (citing Porter v. Nussle, 534 U.S. 516, 524 (2002)), including “all inmate suits about prison life, whether they involve general circumstances or particular episodes and whether they allege excessive force or some other wrong.” Porter, 534 U.S. at 532. “The exhaustion requirement is one of ‘proper exhaustion,' rather than ‘exhaustion simpliciter.'” Facey, 892 F.Supp.2d at 352 (citing Woodford, 548 U.S. at 88, 93). “In other words, it is not enough for prisoners to have presented their claims through administrative channels, if ‘grievances were dismissed because prisoners had missed deadlines set by the grievance policy.'” Id. (quoting Jones v. Bock, 549 U.S. 199, 217-18 (2007), quoting Woodford, 548 U.S. at 88, 93). ‚ÄúProper exhaustion demands compliance with an agency's deadlines and other critical procedural rules because no ...


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