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Ondek v. Ranatza

United States District Court, M.D. Louisiana

March 16, 2018




         This matter comes before the Court on the Motion for Summary Judgment filed by Defendants the Louisiana Department of Public Safety and Corrections (“the DOC”) and James M. Leblanc, Secretary of the DOC (“Mr. Leblanc”). (Doc. 24.) Plaintiff Michael A. Ondek (“Mr. Ondek”) opposes this motion. (Docs. 28, 33.) Defendants filed a reply memorandum in support of their motion. (Doc. 29.) Oral argument is not necessary. The Court has carefully considered the law, the facts in the record, and the arguments and submissions of the parties and is prepared to rule. For the following reasons, the motion is GRANTED.

         I. Factual Background

         Mr. Ondek is an inmate in the custody of the DOC, serving a life sentence for Second Degree Murder. (Doc. 24-2 at 1.) This conviction renders Mr. Ondek ineligible for diminution of sentence and parole, leaving his only avenue for release from custody a pardon or commutation granted by the Governor. (Id. at 1-2.) On November 2, 2015, the Louisiana Board of Pardons (“the Board”) unanimously voted to deny Mr. Ondek's request for clemency. (Id. at 2.) Upon this denial, Mr. Ondek filed the instant law suit pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §1983, claiming Defendants violated his constitutional rights by failing to properly supervise and train the Board. (Id.)[1] It is uncontested that Mr. Odnek failed to submit these claims through the DOC's administrative grievance procedure prior to filing the instant suit. (Doc. 28 at 2.)

         II. Summary Judgment Standard

         “The court shall 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.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). If the mover bears his burden of showing that there is no genuine issue of fact, “its opponent must do more than simply show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts . . . [T]he nonmoving party must come forward with ‘specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.'” See Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586-587, 106 S.Ct. 1348, 89 L.Ed.2d 538 (1986) (internal citations omitted). The nonmover's burden is not satisfied by “conclusory allegations, by unsubstantiated assertions, or by only a ‘scintilla' of evidence.” Little v. Liquid Air Corp., 37 F.3d 1069, 1075 (5th Cir. 1994) (citations and internal quotations omitted). “Where the record taken as a whole could not lead a rational trier of fact to find for the non-moving party, there is no ‘genuine issue for trial.'” Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co., 475 U.S. at 587. Further:

In resolving the motion, the court may not undertake to evaluate the credibility of the witnesses, weigh the evidence, or resolve factual disputes; so long as the evidence in the record is such that a reasonable jury drawing all inferences in favor of the nonmoving party could arrive at a verdict in that party's favor, the court must deny the motion.

Int'l Shortstop, Inc. v. Rally's, Inc., 939 F.2d 1257, 1263 (5th Cir. 1991).

         III. Discussion

         A. Parties' arguments

         1. Defendants' Memorandum in Support of its Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. 24-1)

         Defendants, Mr. Leblanc and the DOC, assert that the Prison Litigation Reform Act (“PLRA”) requires an inmate to exhaust administrative remedies before filing a law suit with respect to prison conditions under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. (Doc. 24-1 at 2 (citing 42 U.S.C. §1997e(a); Richardson v. Suprlock, 260 F.3d 495 (5th Cir. 2001).)) Based on this requirement, Defendants argue Mr. Ondek's claims against them alleging their failure to supervise and train the Board must be dismissed because Plaintiff brought this lawsuit without first exhausting his claims through the Administrative Remedy Procedure (“ARP”). (Id. at 1.)[2] Defendants contend that the PLRA's exhaustion requirement applies to all inmate suits about prison life, whether they involve general circumstances or particular episodes, and whether they allege excessive force or some other wrong. (Id. (citing Porter v. Nussle, 534 U.S. 516, 122 S.Ct. 983, 992 (2002).)) Defendants argue that because “[a]ctions by prison officials are precisely the reason for the grievance procedure, ” Mr. Odnek's claims against them concerning the alleged negligent action of prison officials must be dismissed. (Id. at 5.)

         2. Plaintiff's Memorandum in Opposition to Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. 28)

         Mr. Ondek concedes that he did not seek any form of administrative remedy before filing the instant law suit against Defendants, but he argues Defendants reliance on the PLRA is misplaced because his complaint is not about prison conditions or an aspect of prison life. (Doc. 28 at 3.) Mr. Ondek distinguishes his case from those cited by Defendants in support of their motion, arguing those cases involved either inmate complaints about damages that were allegedly sustained in connection with some aspect of prison life or challenges to the fact or the length of an inmate's confinement, while his case involves a challenge to “the Board's fairness in executing its statutory duties, powers, and procedures, the Board's adherence to the evidence-based principles by which the Board states it is guided, and the adequacy and propriety of LeBlanc and DOC's supervision and training of the Board to guard against ...

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