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Edwards v. Scarberry

United States District Court, W.D. Virginia, Roanoke Division

August 12, 2019

P. SCARBERRY, Defendant.



         Michael Derrick Edwards, a Virginia inmate proceeding pro se, filed this civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, [1] alleging that defendant P. Scarberry violated his First Amendment rights by retaliating against him for filing grievances. Scarberry has filed a motion for summary judgment arguing that Edwards failed to exhaust available administrative remedies before filing this action, in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(a). Edwards has responded, making this matter ripe for disposition. After review of the record, the court concludes that the defendant's motion for summary judgment must be granted.

         I. Background.

         The uncontroverted record indicates that Edwards, at all times pertinent, was housed at Red Onion State Prison ("Red Onion") and Scarberry was the Director of Food Service at Red Onion. Edwards worked in the kitchen at Red Onion, under the supervision of Scarberry. Edwards was fired from his kitchen job on November 22, 2017.

         On November 18, 2017, Edwards filed an informal complaint alleging that "kitchen supervisors" were falsifying documents related to his job description and pay.[2] V.S. 3, ECF No. 3. On November 22, 2017, Scarberry wrote her response, stating her intent to fire Edwards. Edwards alleges that Scarberry "showed [him] the informal complaint... [and] told [him he] was fired." Compl.4, ECF No. 1.

         On December 5, 2017, Edwards submitted an informal complaint regarding being fired from his kitchen job. In the informal complaint, Edwards alleged that he "was retaliated against by P. Scarberry in the form of a job termination for writing an informal complaint on 11-18-17." Mem. Supp. Summ. J., Encl. E, ECF No. 17-1. Scarberry responded to the informal complaint on December 23, 2017.[3] Edwards explains that he waited until December 5, 2017 to file his informal complaint "because no mail was running due to the Thanksgiving holiday and [at] Red Onion State Prison [an inmate has] to ask a [sergeant] or above for complaint forms who rarely give them out." Edwards Decl. 2, ECF No. 23-1.

         Edwards alleges that he filed regular grievances on December 27, 2017, January 4, 2018, and January 16, 2018. According to Edwards, he did not receive a receipt or response for the December 27, 2017, and January 4, 2018, grievances. Edwards sent the January 16, 2018, regular grievance to the Regional Office, not the Red Onion grievance office. The Regional Office received the grievance on January 19, 2018, and returned it to Red Onion, noting: "return to inmate to file @ [Red Onion] for intake review." Mem. Supp. Summ. J. 5, ECF No. 17. The Red Onion grievance office received the regular grievance on February 12, 2018 and denied intake because the thirty-day filing period had expired. Edwards appealed the intake decision and the Regional Ombudsman upheld the decision, noting that the incident occurred on November 22, 2017.

         Edwards filed additional regular grievances on February 2, 2018, February 4, 2018, and February 9, 2018, [4] sending them to the Regional Office instead of the Red Onion grievance office. These regular grievances were all summarily rejected for being time-barred or repetitive, or for Edwards' failure to use the informal grievance process.

         Edwards then filed the present action. Edwards' sole claim is that Scarberry fired him in retaliation for his informal complaint about her employees, in violation of his First Amendment rights.

         II. Discussion

         A. Standards of Review

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(a) provides that a court should grant summary judgment "if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." "As to materiality, . . . [o]nly disputes over facts that might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law will properly preclude the entry of summary judgment." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). The dispute over a material fact must be genuine, "such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party." Id; see also JKC Holding Co. v. Wash. Sports Ventures, Inc., 264 F.3d 459, 465 (4th Cir. 2001). As such, the moving party is entitled to summary judgment if the evidence supporting a genuine issue of material fact "is merely colorable or is not significantly probative." Anderson, 477 U.S. at 249.

         The moving party bears the burden of proving that judgment on the pleadings is appropriate. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett,477 U.S. 317, 322-23 (1986). If the moving party meets this burden, then the nonmoving party must set forth specific, admissible facts to demonstrate a genuine issue of fact for trial. Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986). In considering a motion for summary judgment, the court must view the record as a whole and draw all reasonable inferences in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 322-24; Shaw v. Stroud. 13 F.3d 791, 798 (4th Cir. 1994). However, the nonmoving party may not rely on beliefs, conjecture, speculation, or conclusory allegations to defeat a motion for summary judgment. Baber v. Hosp. Corp. of Am.,977 F.2d 872, 874-75 (4th Cir. 1992). Instead, the nonmoving party must ...

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