United States District Court, E.D. Virginia, Alexandria Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION & ORDER
ANTHONY J. TRENGA UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Wood, Jr. has brought a civil-rights action against Officer
Jones, a correctional officer at Caroline Correctional Unit,
alleging that the officer unconstitutionally applied
excessive force. See 42 U.S.C. § 1983. [Dkt.
No. 1]. Jones has moved for summary judgment and has provided
Wood, a pro se litigant, with the notice required by
Local Rule 7(K) and Roseboro v. Garrison, 528 F.2d
309 (4th Cir. 1975). [Dkt. Nos. 15, 18]. Wood opposes that
motion. [Dkt. Nos. 19-20]. Because the undisputed evidence
demonstrates that Wood failed to exhaust his administrative
remedies, the Court will grant Jones's motion.
avers that Officer Jones, without provocation, physically
assaulted him in the chow hall at Caroline Correctional Unit
during breakfast on October 20, 2018. [Wood Aff. ¶¶
1, 4; Islam Aff. Enclosure B]. Wood filed an informal
complaint later that day, explaining that Jones "grabbed
and twisted" his arm when he was in line. [Islam Aff.
Enclosure B]. Sergeant Maldonado reviewed the informal
complaint and determined that it was unfounded. [Islam Aff.
¶ 11 & Enclosure B]. Wood then reiterated his
complaint about Jones in a regular grievance submitted
October 31. [Islam Aff. Enclosure B]. He added that
"because the staff here is turning a blind eye to this
matter," he "fear[ed] for [his] well-being."
[Id]. Superintendent James White provided a Level I
response on December 4. [Id.]. He found that the
"grievance has been resolved at its lowest level and
therefore unfounded." [Id]. White further
memorialized that he had met with Wood concerning the
incident and decided to transfer him to a different
correctional institution to "eliminate [Wood's]
concerns for [his] safety." [Id.]. Because Wood
had been transferred to Haynesville Correctional Unit on
November 6-a month before the written response was
completed-the grievance response was sent to him there.
[Islam Aff. ¶ 14 & Enclosure B]. A. Islam, the Human
Rights Advocate responsible for maintaining grievance files
for offenders at Caroline Correctional Unit, avers that Wood
did not appeal the Level I response to Level II review.
[Islam Aff. ¶¶ 15-16]. Wood does not dispute that
he failed to appeal, but declares that he "was
transferred before [he] could receive a response at Caroline
Correctional Unit." [Wood Aff. ¶ 5].
VDOC Grievance Procedures
§ 866.1 sets forth the procedures that inmates must
follow to resolve offender complaints. [Islam Aff. Enclosure
A]. Before submitting a formal grievance, an inmate must
demonstrate that he made a good-faith effort to resolve the
issue informally first, and that may be accomplished by
submitting an informal complaint. VDOC OP § 866.1(V)(B).
[Islam Aff. ¶ 6]. Once the informal complaint is
resolved (or after the time limit to respond expires), the
offender may submit a regular grievance. VDOC OP §
866.1(V), (VI). The initial response is considered Level I
review. VDOC OP § 866.1(VI)(C)(1). The Level I response
may be appealed to Level II review, and some Level II
decisions are appealable to Level III review. VDOC OP §
866.1(VI)(C)(2), (VI)(C)(3). [Islam Aff. ¶ 8]. At each
level, once the time limit to respond expires (30 calendar
days for Level I and 20 calendar days for Levels II and III),
the grievance becomes appealable. VDOC OP §
Standard of Review
Court will grant a motion for 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." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). "[T]he relevant
inquiry is 'whether the evidence presents a sufficient
disagreement to require submission to a jury or whether it is
so one-sided that one party must prevail as a matter of
law.'" Gordon v. Schilling, 937 F.3d 348,
356 (4th Cir. 2019) (quoting Anderson v. Liberty Lobby.
Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 251-52 (1986)).
Jones argues that he is entitled to summary judgment because
the undisputed evidence demonstrates that Wood failed to
exhaust his administrative remedies. The Court agrees.
Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA) requires prisoners to
exhaust all available administrative remedies before
initiating a lawsuit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. 42 U.S.C.
§ 1997e(a); Wilcox v. Brown, 877 F.3d 161, 167
(4th Cir. 2017). This requirement mandates "proper
exhaustion." Woodford v. Ngo, 548 U.S. 81, 84
(2006). In other words, to exhaust administrative remedies
"a prisoner must complete the administrative review
process in accordance with the applicable procedural rules
... as a precondition to bringing suit in federal
court." Id. at 88; see also Moore
v. Bennette, 517 F.3d 717, 725 (4th Cir. 2008). Because
Wood did not appeal the Level I decision to Level II review,
he failed to comply with the applicable procedural rules and,
thus, did not properly exhaust.
raises two arguments attempting to overcome the
defendant's exhaustion defense, neither of which enable
him to surmount the PLRA's gatekeeping function. First,
Wood contends that he never received the Level I response. To
the extent that Wood is arguing that, because he never
received the response, he exhausted all available remedies,
that argument is unavailing. If an inmate does not receive a
Level I response within thirty calendar days, the grievance
is automatically appealable. VDOC OP § 866.1(VI)(D). So
Wood could have appealed to Level II review-even if he never
received the Level I response-but he did not; this much is
undisputed. Second, Wood contends that he satisfied the
PLRA's underlying purpose by putting the prison on notice
of the problem so that it could address it. True enough, one
purpose of the PLRA's exhaustion requirement is to
"afford corrections officials time and opportunity to
address complaints internally." See Woodford,
548 U.S. at 93 (internal quotation marks, brackets, and
citation omitted). But proper exhaustion fulfills that goal
by "giv[ing] prisoners an effective incentive to make
full use of the prison grievance process" and
"provid[ing] prisons with a fair opportunity to correct
their own errors." Id. at 94 (emphasis added).
All told, because Wood did not properly exhaust according to
the VDOC's established procedures, Officer Jones is
entitled to summary judgment.
it is hereby
that defendant Officer Jones's motion for summary
judgment [Dkt. No. 15] be and is GRANTED, and he is DISMISSED