Porter v. Nussle, 534 U.S. 516, 13 (2002)

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Opinion of the Court

of a statute and the heading of a section are tools available for the resolution of a doubt about the meaning of a statute." (internal quotation marks omitted)).

This Court generally "presume[s] that Congress expects its statutes to be read in conformity with th[e] Court's precedents." United States v. Wells, 519 U. S. 482, 495 (1997). That presumption, and the PLRA's dominant concern to promote administrative redress, filter out groundless claims, and foster better prepared litigation of claims aired in court, see Booth, 532 U. S., at 737, persuade us that 1997e(a)'s key words "prison conditions" are properly read through the lens of McCarthy and Preiser. Those decisions tug strongly away from classifying suits about prison guards' use of excessive force, one or many times, as anything other than actions "with respect to prison conditions."

Nussle places principal reliance on Hudson v. McMillian, 503 U. S. 1 (1992), and Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U. S. 825, 835-836 (1994), and the Second Circuit found support for its position in those cases as well, 224 F. 3d, at 106. Hudson held that to sustain a claim of excessive force, a prisoner need not show significant injury. 503 U. S., at 9. In so ruling, the Court did indeed distinguish excessive force claims from "conditions of confinement" claims; to sustain a claim of the latter kind "significant injury" must be shown. Id., at 8-9. Hudson also observed that a "conditions of confinement" claim may succeed if a prisoner demonstrates that prison officials acted with "deliberate indifference," id., at 8 (citing Wilson v. Seiter, 501 U. S. 294, 298 (1991)), while a prisoner alleging excessive force must demonstrate that the defendant acted "maliciously and sadistically to cause harm," Hudson, 503 U. S., at 7. Farmer similarly distinguished the mental state that must be shown to prevail on an excessive force claim, i. e., "purposeful or knowing conduct," from the lesser mens rea requirement governing "conditions of confinement" claims, i. e., "deliberate indifference." 511 U. S., at 835-836. We do not question those decisions

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