Porter v. Nussle, 534 U.S. 516, 8 (2002)

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

Opinion of the Court

as to distinguish [for proof of injury and mens rea purposes] between 'excessive force' claims, on the one hand, and 'conditions of confinement' claims, on the other." Id., at 106 (citing Hudson v. McMillian, 503 U. S. 1 (1992), and Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U. S. 825 (1994)).

In conflict with the Second Circuit, other Federal Courts of Appeals have determined that prisoners alleging assaults by prison guards must meet 1997e(a)'s exhaustion requirement before commencing a civil rights action. See Smith v. Zachary, 255 F. 3d 446 (CA7 2001); Higginbottom v. Carter, 223 F. 3d 1259 (CA11 2000); Booth v. Churner, 206 F. 3d 289 (CA3 2000); Freeman v. Francis, 196 F. 3d 641 (CA6 1999). We granted certiorari to resolve the intercircuit conflict, 532 U. S. 1065 (2001), and now reverse the Second Circuit's judgment.

II

Ordinarily, plaintiffs pursuing civil rights claims under 42 U. S. C. 1983 need not exhaust administrative remedies before filing suit in court. See Patsy v. Board of Regents of Fla., 457 U. S. 496, 516 (1982). Prisoner suits alleging constitutional deprivations while incarcerated once fell within this general rule. See Wilwording v. Swenson, 404 U. S. 249, 251 (1971) (per curiam).

In 1980, however, Congress introduced an exhaustion prescription for suits initiated by state prisoners. See Civil Rights of Institutionalized Persons Act, 94 Stat. 352, as amended, 42 U. S. C. 1997e (1994 ed.). This measure authorized district courts to stay a state prisoner's 1983 action "for a period of not to exceed 180 days" while the prisoner exhausted available "plain, speedy, and effective administrative remedies." 1997e(a)(1). Exhaustion under the 1980 prescription was in large part discretionary; it could be ordered only if the State's prison grievance system met specified federal standards, and even then, only if, in the particular case, the court believed the requirement "appropriate and in the interests of justice." 1997e(a) and (b). We de-

523

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