McBride v. Lopez

Summarized by:

  • Court: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Administrative Law
  • Date Filed: 06-30-2015
  • Case #: 12-17682
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Circuit Judge Schroeder for the Court; Circuit Judge N. Randy Smith and District Judge Benitez
  • Full Text Opinion

To make a showing that an administrative remedy is effectively unavailable to an aggrieved inmate due to fear of retaliation for lodging a complaint, and therefore need not exhaust the administrative remedy prior to filing a claim in federal court, the inmate must show that the threat of retaliation deterred him from filing a grievance and that the threat would deter a reasonable inmate from pursuing the grievance procedure.

James McBride was an inmate at Pleasant Valley State Prison in California. McBride began an altercation with prison guards, Lopez and Ruggles, by throwing an unknown liquid into Lopez’s eyes. Lopez and Ruggles punched and kicked McBride repeatedly in the head. The guards maintained they used appropriate force but McBride found the force excessive. McBride was relocated to an administrative segregation unit. Ruggles and Lopez visited McBride and told him he was lucky his injuries were not worse. McBride interpreted these statements and similar statements on different occasions to be threatening. McBride then filed a grievance form as required by prison regulations to begin the grievance procedure. Prison officials dismissed the grievance because it had not been filed within 15 days of the incident, as required by prison regulations. McBride explained the delay was due to fear of retaliation. Again, prison officials denied the grievance. McBride then filed a complaint in federal district court alleging the guards’ excessive use of force violated his Eighth Amendment rights. The district court dismissed the action and McBride appealed. On appeal, the Ninth Circuit reviewed whether McBride could circumvent exhausting the administrative remedies available to him. The panel held that to make a showing that an administrative remedy is effectively unavailable to an aggrieved inmate due to fear of retaliation for lodging a complaint, the inmate must show that the threat of retaliation deterred him from filing a grievance and that the threat would deter a reasonable inmate from pursuing the grievance procedure. The panel found that although McBride may have felt threatened by Lopez and Ruggles’ comments, no objective evidence showed their comments actually deterred McBride from filing a grievance. AFFIRMED.

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