Porter v. Nussle, 534 U.S. 516, 12 (2002)

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

Opinion of the Court

prisoner petitions "into subcategories." Ibid. "On the contrary," we observed, "when the relevant section is read in its entirety, it suggests that Congress intended to authorize the nonconsensual reference of all prisoner petitions to a magistrate." Ibid. The Federal Magistrates Act, we noted, covers actions of two kinds: challenges to "conditions of confinement"; and "applications for habeas corpus relief." Id., at 140. Congress, we concluded, "intended to include in their entirety th[ose] two primary categories of suits brought by prisoners." Ibid.

"Just three years before [ 636(b)(1)(B)] was drafted," we explained in McCarthy, "our opinion in Preiser v. Rodriguez, 411 U. S. 475 (1973), had described [the] two broad categories of prisoner petitions: (1) those challenging the fact or duration of confinement itself; and (2) those challenging the conditions of confinement." Ibid. Preiser v. Rodriguez, 411 U. S. 475 (1973), left no doubt, we further stated in McCarthy, that "the latter category unambiguously embraced the kind of single episode cases that petitioner's construction would exclude." 500 U. S., at 141. We found it telling that Congress, in composing the Magistrates Act, chose language "that so clearly parallel[ed] our Preiser opinion." Id., at 142. We considered it significant as well that the purpose of the Magistrates Act—to lighten the caseload of overworked district judges—would be thwarted by opening the door to satellite litigation over "the precise contours of [the] suggested exception for single episode cases." Id., at 143.

As in McCarthy, we here read the term "prison conditions" not in isolation, but "in its proper context." Id., at 139. The PLRA exhaustion provision is captioned "Suits by prisoners," see 1997e; this unqualified heading scarcely aids the argument that Congress meant to bisect the universe of prisoner suits. See ibid.; see also AlmendarezTorres v. United States, 523 U. S. 224, 234 (1998) ("[T]he title


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