Porter v. Nussle, 534 U.S. 516, 10 (2002)

Page:   Index   Previous  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10  11  12  13  14  15  16  17  Next

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

Opinion of the Court

purpose, Congress afforded corrections officials time and opportunity to address complaints internally 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. Booth, 532 U. S., at 737. In other instances, the internal review might "filter out some frivolous claims." Ibid. And for cases ultimately brought to court, adjudication could be facilitated by an administrative record that clarifies the contours of the controversy. See ibid.; see also Madigan, 503 U. S., at 146.

Congress described the cases covered by 1997e(a)'s exhaustion requirement as "action[s] . . . brought with respect to prison conditions." Nussle's case requires us to determine what the 1997e(a) term "prison conditions" means, given Congress' failure to define the term in the text of the exhaustion provision.3 We are guided in this endeavor by the PLRA's text and context, and by our prior decisions relating to "[s]uits by prisoners," 1997e.4

3 The parties dispute the meaning of a simultaneously enacted provision, 3626(g)(2), which concerns prospective relief, and for that purpose, defines the expression "civil action with respect to prison conditions." See supra, at 522, n. 2 (noting, inter alia, divergent constructions of Second and Third Circuits). We rest our decision on the meaning of "prison conditions" in the context of 1997e, and express no definitive opinion on the proper reading of 3626(g)(2).

4 In reaching its decision, the Second Circuit referred to its "obligation to construe statutory exceptions narrowly, in order to give full effect to the general rule of non-exhaustion in 1983." 224 F. 3d, at 106 (citing City of Edmonds v. Oxford House, Inc., 514 U. S. 725, 731-732 (1995), and Patsy v. Board of Regents of Fla., 457 U. S. 496, 508 (1982)). The Second Circuit did not then have available to it our subsequently rendered decision in Booth v. Churner, 532 U. S. 731 (2001). Booth held that 1997e(a) mandates initial recourse to the prison grievance process even when a prisoner seeks only money damages, a remedy not available in that process. See id., at 741. In so ruling, we observed that "Congress . . . may well have thought we were shortsighted" in failing adequately to


Page:   Index   Previous  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10  11  12  13  14  15  16  17  Next

Last modified: October 4, 2007