Porter v. Nussle, 534 U.S. 516, 2 (2002)

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Cite as: 534 U. S. 516 (2002)


before allowing the initiation of a federal case. In some instances, corrective action taken in response to an inmate's grievance might improve prison administration and satisfy the inmate, thereby obviating the need for litigation. Id., at 737. In other instances, the internal review might filter out some frivolous claims. Ibid. And for cases ultimately brought to court, an administrative record clarifying the controversy's contours could facilitate adjudication. See, e. g., ibid. Pp. 523-525.

(b) Determination of the meaning of 1997e(a)'s "prison conditions" phrase is guided by the PLRA's text and context, and by this Court's prior decisions relating to "[s]uits by prisoners," as 1997e is titled. The pathmarking opinion is McCarthy v. Bronson, 500 U. S. 136, in which the Court construed the Federal Magistrates Act's authorization to district judges to refer "prisoner petitions challenging conditions of confinement" to magistrate judges. This Court concluded in McCarthy that, read in its proper context, the phrase "challenging conditions of confinement" authorizes the nonconsensual reference of all prisoner petitions to a magistrate, id., at 139. The McCarthy Court emphasized that Preiser v. Rodriguez, 411 U. S. 475, had unambiguously placed cases involving single episodes of unconstitutional conduct within the broad category of prisoner petitions challenging conditions of confinement, 500 U. S., at 141; found it telling that Congress, in composing the Magistrates Act, chose language that so clearly paralleled the Preiser opinion, 500 U. S., at 142; and considered it significant that the latter Act's purpose—to lighten overworked district judges' caseload—would be thwarted by allowing satellite litigation over the precise contours of an exception for single episode cases, id., at 143. The general presumption that Congress expects its statutes to be read in conformity with this Court's precedents, United States v. Wells, 519 U. S. 482, 495, and the PLRA's dominant concern to promote administrative redress, filter out groundless claims, and foster better prepared litigation of claims aired in court, see Booth v. Churner, 532 U. S., at 737, persuade the Court that 1997e(a)'s key words "prison conditions" are properly read through the lens of McCarthy and Preiser. Those decisions tug strongly away from classifying suits about prison guards' use of excessive force, one or many times, as anything other than actions "with respect to prison conditions." Nussle misplaces principal reliance on Hudson v. McMillian, 503 U. S. 1, 8-9, and Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U. S. 825, 835-836. Although those cases did distinguish excessive force claims from conditions of confinement claims, they did so in the context of proof requirements: what injury must a plaintiff allege and show; what mental state must a plaintiff plead and prove. Proof requirements, once a case is in court, however, do not touch or concern


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