United States District Court, W.D. Virginia, Roanoke Division
James P. Jones United States District Judge
Bratcher, Pro Se Plaintiff.
plaintiff, Joseph Bratcher, a Virginia inmate proceeding pro
se, filed this civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C.
§ 1983, the Americans with Disabilities Act, and the
Rehabilitation Act. Bratcher alleges that the Virginia
Department of Corrections (“VDOC”), a “John
Doe” VDOC classification official, and officials at two
VDOC prisons have violated his constitutional rights in
various ways in the last three weeks. After review of the
record, I conclude that the complaint must be summarily
dismissed, because Bratcher admits that he failed to exhaust
available administrative remedies, as required under 42
U.S.C. § 1997e(a).
lengthy Complaint, signed and dated on April 17, 2017,
alleges that on March 31, 2017, a VDOC classification
official retaliated against Bratcher for past lawsuits by
transferring him against the advice of Bratcher's
treating mental health professionals from Buckingham
Correctional Center (“BKCC”) to St. Brides
Correctional Center (“SBCC”). Bratcher also
alleges, among other things, that SBCC officials have failed
to provide him with adequate treatment and accommodation of
his mental health needs; access to his legal materials and
adequate legal research facilities; the ability to continue
providing legal assistance to disabled inmates at BKCC;
appropriate medication for his migraine headaches; and
assistance in identifying inmates who pose a threat to him.
Bratcher has moved for a temporary restraining order and/or
preliminary injunction directing SBCC officials to correct
Prison Litigation Reform Act, 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(a),
mandates that a prisoner cannot bring a civil action
concerning prison conditions until he has first exhausted
available administrative remedies. See Ross v.
Blake, 136 S.Ct. 1850, 1856 (2016). Failure to follow
the required procedures of the prison's administrative
remedy process, including time limits, or to exhaust all
levels of administrative review is not “proper
exhaustion” and will bar an inmate's action.
Woodford v. Ngo, 548 U.S. 81, 90 (2006). “A
court may sua sponte dismiss a complaint when the alleged
facts in the complaint, taken as true, prove that the inmate
failed to exhaust his administrative remedies.”
Custis v. Davis, 851 F.3d 358, 361 (4th Cir. 2017).
describes the grievance process at BKCC as beginning with
“an Informal Complaint, which is answered by the person
involved or responsible. The next step is a Regular
Grievance, which is sent to the Warden for the Warden's
review. The final step is to submit an appeal to the Regional
Administrator.” Compl. ¶ ¶ 10-12, ECF No. 1.
Bratcher states that while he was at BKCC, he made
“frequent use of the [grievance] system” when he
experienced a problem there. Id. ¶ 9. As to his
claims in this case, however, Bratcher states: “The
plaintiff has in good faith began [sic] the process, but the
procedure cannot and will not provide necessary relief. The
grievance system is such in name only, and has never afforded
the plaintiff relief, leaving the plaintiff without any real
remedies.” Id. ¶¶ 215-16.
these allegations as true, I can only conclude that Bratcher
did not complete all steps of the prison's grievance
procedure as required under § 1997e(a) before filing
this lawsuit. Instead, Bratcher decided that the procedure
did not offer the relief he himself believed necessary under
the circumstances and filed the lawsuit prematurely, without
even attempting to exhaust all levels of the grievance
procedure that he admits had been available to him on prior
occasions. The exhaustion requirement in § 1997e(a) is
mandatory, Ross, 136 S.Ct. at 1856, however, and
applies to all inmate suits, even if the particular form of
relief the inmate seeks in his lawsuit is not available
through the prison's grievance proceedings. Booth v.
Churner, 532 U.S. 731, 741 (2001). Bratcher does not
state any facts suggesting that the grievance procedures at
BKCC and SBCC were unavailable to him in any respect, or that
the procedures did not offer any relief.Ross, 136
S.Ct. at 1859. Moreover, the timing of the events described
in the Complaint indicates that Bratcher filed the lawsuit
before there had been time to utilize all steps of the
Bratcher's allegations indicate that he did not exhaust
administrative remedies as to the claims raised in this case
before coming to court, I will summarily dismiss the action
without prejudice under § 1997e(a). I will also
dismiss as moot the pending motion seeking interlocutory
separate Order will be entered herewith.
 I recognize that § 1997e(a) will
not bar an inmate's lawsuit if administrative remedies
are not “available.” Ross, 136 S.Ct. at
1856. In three rare circumstances, a prison grievance
procedure can be considered unavailable for purposes of
exhaustion under § 1997e(a) if: (1) “it operates
as a simple dead end - with officers unable or consistently
unwilling to provide any relief to aggrieved inmates”;
(2) its “rules are so confusing that . . . no
reasonable prisoner can use them”; or (3) “prison
administrators thwart inmates from taking advantage of a
grievance process through machination, misrepresentation, or
intimidation.” Id. at 1859-60 (internal
quotation marks and citations omitted). Bratcher does not
allege that any of these circumstances prevented him from
utilizing the available administrative remedies.
 I note that Bratcher's Complaint
also fails to comply with the Federal Rules of Civil
Procedure governing proper joinder of claims and defendants.
Fed.R.Civ.P. 18, 20. He improperly asserts in one lawsuit
claims against officials at two different prisons, concerning
completely unrelated events. Moreover, Bratcher is advised
that SBCC is located within the jurisdiction of the United
States District Court for the Eastern ...