Porter v. Nussle, 534 U.S. 516, 6 (2002)

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

Opinion of the Court

leged that the attack was unprovoked and unjustified, and that the officers told him they would kill him if he reported the beating. Ibid.

Then, as now, the Connecticut Department of Correction provided a grievance system for prisoners. See id., at 5-18. Under that system, grievances must be filed within 30 days of the "occurrence." Id., at 11. Rules governing the grievance process include provisions on confidentiality and against reprisals. Id., at 17-18.

Without filing a grievance, on June 10, 1999, Nussle commenced an action in Federal District Court under 42 U. S. C. 1983; he filed suit days before the three-year statute of limitations ran out on the 1983 claim.1 Nussle charged, principally, that the corrections officers' assault violated his right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment under the Eighth Amendment, as made applicable to the States by the Fourteenth Amendment. App. 38. The District Court, relying on 1997e(a), dismissed Nussle's complaint for failure to exhaust administrative remedies. Nussle v. Willette, 3:99CV1091(AHN) (D. Conn., Nov. 22, 1999), App. 43.

Construing 1997e(a) narrowly because it is an exception "to the general rule of non-exhaustion in 1983 cases," the Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit reversed the District Court's judgment; the appeals court held that "exhaustion of administrative remedies is not required for [prisoner] claims of assault or excessive force brought under 1983." Nussle v. Willette, 224 F. 3d 95, 106 (2000). Section 1997e(a) requires administrative exhaustion of inmates' claims "with respect to prison conditions," but contains no definition of the words "prison conditions." The appeals court found

1 The Second Circuit has held that 1983 actions in Connecticut are governed by that State's three-year statute of limitations for tort actions. Williams v. Walsh, 558 F. 2d 667, 670 (1977).

521

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