United States District Court, W.D. Kentucky, Paducah
Michael Cooper, Pro Se
B. Russell Senior Judge United States district Court
matter is before the Court on Plaintiff Michael Cooper and
Defendants Troy Belt, Terry Peede, James Beeler, Neil
Gardner, and Michael Pillion's (“the
Defendants”) competing motions for summary judgment.
[R. 39; R. 36.] Cooper responded, [R. 38], and the deadline
for Defendants to respond has passed. This matter is now ripe
for adjudication. For the reasons discussed below, the
Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment, [R. 36], is
GRANTED, and Plaintiff Cooper's Motion for Summary
Judgment, [R. 39], is DENIED. An appropriate order shall
issue separately from this Memorandum Opinion.
Michael Cooper, pro se, is an inmate at the Kentucky State
Penitentiary (“KSP”). The facts of his complaint
were previously summarized in the Memorandum Opinion and
Order filed on June 7, 2016. [R. 10.] In short, Cooper claims
that the following employees of KSP retaliated against him,
mostly for filing grievances: Unit Administrator Troy Belt;
Lt. Terry Peede; Lt. James Beeler; and correctional officers
Neil Gardner and Michael Pillion. [R. 10 at 1; R. 1-1 at 7
(Complaint).] On March 15, 2018, Defendants filed a Motion
for Summary Judgment, [R. 36], and on March 26, 2018, Cooper
filed a competing Motion for Summary Judgment, [R. 39].
judgment is appropriate when the record, viewed in the light
most favorable to the nonmoving party, reveals “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). A genuine dispute of material fact exists
where “there is sufficient evidence favoring the
nonmoving party for a jury to return a verdict for that
party.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477
U.S. 242, 249 (1986). The Court “may not make
credibility determinations nor weigh the evidence when
determining whether an issue of fact remains for
trial.” Laster v. City of Kalamazoo,
746 F.3d 714, 726 (6th Cir. 2014) (citing Logan v.
Denny's, Inc., 259 F.3d 558, 566 (6th Cir. 2001);
Ahlers v. Schebil, 188 F.3d 365, 369 (6th Cir.
1999)). “The ultimate question 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.'” Back
v. Nestlé USA, Inc., 694 F.3d 571, 575 (6th Cir.
2012) (quoting Anderson, 477 U.S. at 251-52).
the parties have filed competing motions for summary
judgment, as is the case here, the Court “must evaluate
each motion on its own merits and view all facts and
inferences in the light most favorable to the nonmoving
party.” Hensley v. Grassman, 693 F.3d 681, 686
(6th Cir. 2012) (quoting Wiley v. United States, 20
F.3d 222, 224 (6th Cir. 1994)). The moving party must
shoulder the burden of showing the absence of a genuine
dispute of material fact as to at least one essential element
of the nonmovant's claim or defense. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c);
see also Laster, 746 F.3d at 726 (citing Celotex Corp. v.
Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 324 (1986)). Assuming the moving
party satisfies its burden of production, the nonmovant
“must-by deposition, answers to interrogatories,
affidavits, and admissions on file-show specific facts that
reveal a genuine issue for trial.” Laster, 746
F.3d at 726 (citing Celotex Corp., 477 U.S. at 324).
the Court acknowledges that pro se pleadings are to be held
to a less stringent standard than formal pleadings drafted by
attorneys. See Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519
(1972). The duty to be less stringent with pro se
complainants, however, “does not require [the Court] to
conjure up unpled allegations, ” McDonald v.
Hall, 610 F.2d 16, 19 (1st Cir.1979) (citation omitted),
nor to create a claim for a pro se plaintiff, Clark v.
Nat'l Travelers Life Ins. Co., 518 F.2d 1167, 1169
it should be noted that “‘a verified complaint .
. . satisfies the burden of the nonmovant to respond' to
a motion for summary judgment, unlike ‘mere allegations
or denials' in unverified pleadings.” King v.
Harwood, 852 F.3d 568, 578 (6th Cir. 2017) (quoting
Thaddeus-X v. Blatter, 175 F.3d 378, 385 (6th Cir.
1999)) (en banc).
Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment
Defendants argue that the Court should grant their Motion for
Summary Judgment on three separate grounds: (1) Cooper did
not exhaust administrative remedies, (2) Cooper did not
establish the required elements of a retaliation claim, and
(3) the Defendants are entitled to qualified immunity. [R. 36
at 4.] The Court agrees that Cooper failed to exhaust
administrative remedies. Thus, in the interest of efficiency
and judicial economy, the Court does not find it necessary to
analyze the Defendants' latter two arguments at this
Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA) bars a civil rights
action challenging prison conditions until the prisoner
exhausts “such administrative remedies as are
available.” 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(a); see also
Jones v. Bock,549 U.S. 199, 211 (2007) (“There is
no question that exhaustion is mandatory under the PLRA and
that unexhausted claims cannot be brought in court”).
In order to exhaust administrative remedies, prisoners must
complete the administrative review process in accordance with
the deadlines and other applicable procedural rules
established by state law. Jones v. Bock, 549 U.S. at
218-19.“Proper exhaustion demands compliance with an
agency's deadlines and other critical procedural
rules.” Woodford v. Ngo,548 U.S. 81, 90
(2006). However, “failure to ...