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Brantley v. Nickrenz

United States District Court, D. Minnesota

June 14, 2018

Olan Brantley, Plaintiff,
v.
Christopher Nickrenz, et al., Defendants.

          Plaintiff, pro se.

          Chad Blumenfield, Assistant United States Attorney, for Defendants.

          REPORT & RECOMMENDATION AND ORDER

          FRANKLIN L. NOEL UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         THIS MATTER came before the undersigned United States Magistrate Judge on Defendants' motion to dismiss (ECF No. 50), and Plaintiff's motion for discovery and inspection (ECF No. 59). Defendants' motion to dismiss has been referred to the undersigned for report and recommendation pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636 and Local Rule 72.1. For the reasons set forth below, the Court recommends that Defendants' motion to dismiss (ECF No. 50) be GRANTED, and orders that Plaintiff's motion for discovery and inspection (ECF No. 59) is DENIED as moot.

         A. Background [1]

         Plaintiff is currently an inmate at the Federal Prison Camp (“FPC”) Duluth. ECF No. 54. Plaintiff is disabled, and has been wheelchair bound for the past twelve years. ECF No. 1. This case stems from Plaintiff's contention that his transfer to a federal correctional facility in Louisiana, originally scheduled for November 18, 2015, was impermissibly delayed and canceled because Defendants were unable to properly accommodate his disability when processing his transfer request. See generally Id. On March 23, 2016, Plaintiff initiated this suit, raising assorted claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”), 42 U.S.C. § 12101, and rights secured by the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments. See Id. at 2. Plaintiff's Complaint seeks declaratory judgement and monetary damages. See Id. at 4.

         1. Inmate Policies and Plaintiff's Administrative Appeals

         The Federal Bureau of Prisons' (“BOP”) nearer release policy provides that when a federal inmate is incarcerated at a correctional institution 500 miles or more from either their eventual release destination or legal residence, it will consider transferring them to either a facility nearer to their release destination or legal residence. ECF No. 54 at 11. The nearer release policy requires that the inmate serve “18 consecutive months of clear conduct in a general population” before they are eligible for transfer to a nearer facility. Id. On October 28, 2015, Defendant Christopher Nickrenz, the Warden at FPC Duluth, approved Plaintiff's request to be transferred to a federal correctional institution in Louisiana, which is closer to his family and eventual release destination. ECF No. 54, Ex. C. On November 18, 2015, Plaintiff was scheduled to be transported that morning, by bus, from FCP Duluth to Terre Haute, Indiana, for subsequent airlift to the Louisiana facility. ECF No. 54 ¶ 6.

         According to Plaintiff's Complaint, “when it came time to go on the bus, [Defendant Lieutenant Bus] said that he was not going to allow [Plaintiff to board] . . . because he was wheelchair bound, and the transfer was cancelled.” ECF No. 1 at 2. Afterwards, “[the Warden] and [Lieutenant Bus] concurred that Plaintiff would not be transferred” until alternative transportation could be arranged. Id. Plaintiff alleges that another inmate, James Sarber, who is also wheelchair bound, was allowed to board the bus at the same time Plaintiff was denied. See Id. at 4.

         Before FPC Duluth could schedule an alternate means of transportation, Plaintiff received an incident report on January 14, 2016, for having an unauthorized turkey roast in his cell. ECF No. 54, Ex. D. On September 12, 2016, Plaintiff received a second incident report for possessing gambling paraphernalia. See Id. These incident reports rendered Plaintiff ineligible for immediate transfer to Louisiana under the BOP's nearer release policy. See id.

         Plaintiff has filed thirty-four administrative complaints during his federal incarceration, two of which are germane to this case. See ECF No. 52. On April 14, 2014, Plaintiff was transferred to FPC Duluth. See ECF No. 52, Ex. C at 6. At some point in mid-2014, Plaintiff informally asked the Warden if he could be transferred to Louisiana to be close to his family, which the Warden denied. See Id. On September 16, 2014, Plaintiff formally filed Administrative Remedy 794221-F1, requesting that the Warden grant immediate transfer to Louisiana. See Id. at 7. On September 22, 2014, the Warden informed Plaintiff that, pursuant to the BOP's nearer release policy, he would be considered for transfer to Louisiana in October 2015, and provisionally denied Plaintiff's transfer request at that time. See Id. at 6. On October 1, 2014, Plaintiff appealed the Warden's decision to the BOP Regional Director. See Id. at 5. On October 9, 2014, the Regional Director affirmed the Warden's October 2015 provisional transfer date, and denied Plaintiff's request for immediate transfer. See Id. at 4. On October 24, 2014, Plaintiff appealed the Regional Director's affirmance to the BOP's Central Office. See Id. at 3. Due to a backlog in responding to administrative remedies, the Central Office did not respond to Plaintiff's appeal until December 9, 2015; which by then, the Warden had already arranged for Plaintiff's November 18, 2015, transfer. See Id. at 1. To that end, the Central Office's December 9, 2015, response explained that both the Warden and Regional Director had adequately addressed Plaintiff's request and noted that Plaintiff had already been approved for a 2015 transfer. See Id. Significantly, because the incident complained of here had not yet happened, Administrative Remedy 794221-F1, which Plaintiff filed in September 2014, could not have referenced Defendants' November 18, 2015, decision to not permit Plaintiff to board the bus and their failure to secure alternative transportation to facilitate his transfer to Louisiana. See Id. at 7.

         On February 12, 2016, Plaintiff filed Administrative Remedy 851725-R1, challenging the January 14, 2016, incident report that he received for having an unauthorized turkey roast in his cell. ECF No. 52, Ex. G at 5. Plaintiff claimed that this incident report was motivated by Defendants' plan to block his transfer to Louisiana, see id., and generally argued that Defendants' transfer policy regarding disabled inmates violated the ADA. See Id. On April 8, 2016, the Regional Director affirmed the issuance of the January 14, 2016, incident report, and informed Plaintiff that, with respect to his general claim of ADA non-compliance, this matter must first be presented to FPC Duluth staff for informal resolution before the matter could be raised on appeal to his office. See Id. at 4. On May 2, 2016, Plaintiff appealed the Regional Director's affirmance of the January 14, 2016, incident report to the BOP's Central Office. See Id. at 3. However, Plaintiff did not re-raise his ADA challenge and limited his appeal to challenging the January 14, 2016, incident report. See Id. Again, due to a backlog in responding to administrative remedies, the BOP Central Office did not respond to Administrative Remedy 851725-A1 until March 6, 2017, when it denied Plaintiff's appeal and upheld the January 14, 2016, incident report. See Id. at 2.

         2. Motion to Dismiss

         In the instant motion, Defendants move to dismiss Plaintiff's Complaint pursuant to Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) and 12(b)(1). ECF No. 50. Defendants argue that Plaintiff's Complaint must be dismissed because: (1) he has failed to exhaust his administrative remedies under the Prisoner Litigation Reform Act (“PLRA”); and (2) the doctrine of sovereign immunity serves as an absolute defense to Plaintiff's ...


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