United States District Court, N.D. Iowa, Western Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER REGARDING MAGISTRATE'S REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION CONCERNING DEFENDANTS' MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT
MARK W. BENNETT, District Judge.
I. INTRODUCTION AND BACKGROUND
A. Procedural Background
On June 25, 2014, plaintiff Richard Trevino filed a pro se complaint in the Northern District of Texas. In his complaint, Trevino, an inmate at Federal Correctional Institute Fort Worth, names as defendants the Woodbury County Jail ("the Jail"), Lieutenant Phillips, and Officer Carlos Last Name Unknown (collectively, "defendants, " unless otherwise indicated). Trevino claims that defendants violated his constitutional rights while he was incarcerated at the Jail and that defendants violated Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), 42 U.S.C. §§ 12131-12133.
This case was referred to United States Magistrate Judge Leonard T. Strand pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B). Defendants filed a motion for summary judgment in which they seek dismissal of all claims against them. In their motion, defendants argue that: (1) Trevino failed to exhaust all available administrative remedies as required by the Prisoner Litigation Reform Act, 42 U.S.C. § 1997e (PLRA), causing his claims to fail as a matter of law; (2) there is no genuine issue of material fact regarding Trevino's ADA claim and the summary judgment record shows that Trevino was not excluded from a service, program, or activity or otherwise discriminated against because of his disability, and (3) the Jail and the individual defendants, in their personal capacities, are immune from suit for actions brought pursuant to Title II. Trevino did not file a resistance.
Judge Strand issued a Report and Recommendation in which he recommends granting defendants' motion for summary judgment. Judge Strand found that Trevino failed to properly exhaust all available remedies for the allegations described in his complaint and addendum. Thus, Judge Strand recommends that Trevino's claims be dismissed for failure to exhaust available administrative remedies. Report and Recommendation at 9. Judge Strand further concludes that Trevino failed to show that any genuine issues of material fact existed with regard to the third element of his ADA claim, that defendants discriminated against him on the basis of his disability. Thus, Judge Strand recommends that defendants' motion for summary judgment also be granted on that ground. Report and Recommendation at 14. Judge Strand also concludes that the individual defendants (Lieutenant Phillips and Officer Carlos) cannot be sued for damages in their individual capacities because Title II permits such actions only as against public entities, not individuals. Therefore, Judge Strand recommends that, to the extent Trevino seeks damages from Phillips and Carlos in their individual capacities based on alleged violations of Title II, the motion for summary judgment be granted. Report and Recommendation at 15. Finally, in light of his earlier conclusions, Judge Strand finds it unnecessary to determine whether Title II validly abrogates Eleventh Amendment immunity to the extent Trevino seeks damages from Phillips and Carlos in their individual capacities based on alleged violations of Title II. Therefore, Judge Strand recommends that defendants' motion for summary judgment be granted.
Trevino filed objections to Judge Strand's Report and Recommendation. Trevino objects to Judge Strand's finding that he did not exhaust all available administrative remedies. He argues, for the first time, that defendants prevented him from utilizing the jail's grievance procedure and/or defendants failed to comply with the grievance procedure. Trevino also objects to Judge Strand's finding that defendants did not discriminate against him on the basis of his disability. Trevino argues Lieutenant Phillips's affidavit is deficient and, thererfore, cannot support the motion for summary judgment. Defendants filed a timely response to Trevino's objections.
B. Factual Background
In his Report and Recommendation, Judge Strand found the following facts were undisputed:
On August 30, 2012, Trevino was indicted in the Northern District of Iowa on federal charges of conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine (Count 1) and possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime (Count 2). On September 10, 2012, he was detained at the Jail while awaiting resolution of those charges. He was transferred to Linn County Correctional Center on November 20, 2012, but returned to the Jail on December 22, 2012. Trevino remained at the Jail until he was transferred to the custody of the Federal Bureau of Prisons on February 25, 2014, at the conclusion of the Criminal Case. He is now serving his sentence at a federal prison in Texas.
Throughout Trevino's incarceration at the Jail, he suffered from a spinal disease which caused paralysis, rendering him wheelchair bound and incontinent. For his safety and the safety of his fellow inmates, Trevino was housed in a private cell, away from the Jail's general population. Because of his wheelchair and medical needs, Trevino was at risk of harm from other inmates. If permitted to join the Jail's general inmate population, Trevino would have needed to be supervised anytime he was outside his cell, which would have required hiring additional Jail staff. Phillips believed Trevino's isolated cell was in compliance with all ADA guidelines. Additionally, at one point during his confinement, Trevino intentionally cut his arms and, in accordance with Jail policy, was placed in an isolated mental health cell, secluded from the Jail's general population.
The Jail maintained an inmate rule book (the Rule Book) which included an inmate grievance policy that was in effect throughout Trevino's incarceration. The policy outlined the process for inmates to alert Jail administration to violations of civil rights, criminal acts, unjust denials or restrictions of inmate privileges and prohibited acts. An inmate could either file an informal grievance by discussing the issue with Jail staff or submit a formal written grievance within seven days of the alleged misconduct. The written grievance was required to clearly define the situation, state the facts upon which the grievance was based, describe the harm done and request a remedy within the power and control of Jail administration. All formal written grievances were to include the inmate's cell number and signature. Copies of the Rule Book were provided in each cell block, to which Trevino had access during his incarceration.
The Jail maintains a record of all letters, grievances and correspondence from inmates. Each item of correspondence is known as a "kite, " and a copy of each kite is placed in the inmate's personal file. Trevino's personal file contains kites relating to his allegations of isolation for inappropriate reasons. However, none of his kites mention other allegations set forth in his complaint and addendum in this case, such as harassment, deprivation of clean clothes, a shower or a sealed container for his soiled ...