Albino v. Baca

Summarized by:

  • Court: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Administrative Law
  • Date Filed: 09-21-2012
  • Case #: 10-55702
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Circuit Judge N.R. Smith for the Court; Circuit Judge Tallman, Circuit Judge Gilman dissenting
  • Full Text Opinion

In order for an inmate to claim unawareness of a grievance procedure, which would render the procedure effectively unavailable, the inmate must make an objective showing the procedure was unknown or could not be known with reasonable effort.

After being arrested for rape, Juan Albino was incarcerated in the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department's jail. Albino was placed in general population, and he orally requested to be placed in protective custody. He was physically assaulted and raped by fellow inmates in June, July, and September 2006, and he received medical treatment for injuries each time. The jail relocated Albino after the first incident. Albino alleges he asked for protective custody after the latter two incidents. Though the oral requests were denied, he was again relocated. The jails have a grievance procedure that allows for written complaints to be filed, and requires the complaints to be in writing. Albino filed suit against Sheriff Lee Baca for violation of his Constitutional rights, claiming failure to protect him and deliberate indifference to his medical needs. Baca filed a motion for summary judgment claiming Albino failed to exhaust his administrative remedies. Albino countered that the grievance procedure was “unavailable” to him because he was unaware of it. The district court concluded Albino failed to exhaust his administrative remedies, even though he was unaware of the grievance procedure. The Court ruled the Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA) establishes exhaustion as an affirmative defense in a prisoner suit. Once the defense has been raised and nonexhaustion has been proven, the burden of proving administrative remedies are not available shifts to the prisoner. The Court held Baca met his burden by showing the absence of exhaustion and Albino failed to prove remedies were unavailable. The Court ruled Albino's ignorance of the administrative remedies did not excuse exhaustion, and the prison's failure to inform him of the procedure does not make it unavailable. The Court further held an inmate must make reasonable, good faith efforts to discover the appropriate procedure before claiming unawareness. AFFIRMED.

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