Porter v. Nussle, 534 U.S. 516, 3 (2002)

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518

PORTER v. NUSSLE

Syllabus

the threshold inquiry at issue here: whether resort to a prison grievance process must precede resort to a court. There is no reason to believe that Congress meant to release the evidentiary distinctions drawn in Hudson and Farmer from their moorings and extend their application to 1997e(a)'s otherwise invigorated exhaustion requirement. It is at least equally plausible that Congress inserted "prison conditions" into the exhaustion provision simply to make it clear that preincarceration claims fall outside 1997e(a), for example, a 1983 claim against the prisoner's arresting officer. Furthermore, the asserted distinction between excessive force claims and exhaustion-mandatory "frivolous" claims is untenable, for excessive force claims can be frivolous, and exhaustion serves purposes beyond weeding out frivolous allegations. Pp. 525-530.

(c) Other infirmities inhere in the Second Circuit's disposition. See McCarthy, 500 U. S., at 143. In the prison environment, a specific incident may be symptomatic of a systemic problem, rather than aberrational. Id., at 143-144. Nussle urges that his case could be placed in the isolated episode category, but he might equally urge that his complaint describes a pattern or practice of harassment climaxing in the alleged beating. It seems unlikely that Congress, when it included in the PLRA a firm exhaustion requirement, meant to leave the need to exhaust to the pleader's option. Cf. Preiser, 411 U. S., at 489-490. Moreover, the appeals court's disposition augurs complexity; bifurcated proceedings would be normal thereunder when, for example, a prisoner sues both the corrections officer alleged to have used excessive force and the supervisor who allegedly failed adequately to monitor those in his charge. Finally, scant sense supports the single occurrence, prevailing circumstance dichotomy. For example, prison authorities' interest in receiving prompt notice of, and opportunity to take action against, guard brutality is no less compelling than their interest in receiving notice and an opportunity to stop other types of staff wrong-doing. See id., at 492. Pp. 530-531.

224 F. 3d 95, reversed and remanded.

Ginsburg, J., delivered the opinion for a unanimous Court.

Richard Blumenthal, Attorney General of Connecticut, argued the cause for petitioners. With him on the briefs were Gregory T. D'Auria, Robert B. Fiske III, Perry ZinnRowthorn, Steven R. Strom, and Mark F. Kohler, Assistant Attorneys General.

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