Porter v. Nussle, 534 U.S. 516, 15 (2002)

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Opinion of the Court

Furthermore, the asserted distinction between excessive force claims that need not be exhausted, on the one hand, and exhaustion-mandatory "frivolous" claims on the other, see id., at 2, 26-27, is untenable, for "[e]xcessive force claims can be frivolous," Smith, 255 F. 3d, at 452 ("Inmates can allege they were subject to vicious nudges."), and exhaustion serves purposes beyond weeding out frivolous allegations, see supra, at 524-525.

Other infirmities inhere in the Second Circuit's disposition. See McCarthy, 500 U. S., at 143 ("Petitioner's definition would generate additional work for the district courts because the distinction between cases challenging ongoing conditions and those challenging specific acts of alleged misconduct will often be difficult to identify."). As McCarthy emphasized, in the prison environment a specific incident may be symptomatic rather than aberrational. Id., at 143- 144. An unwarranted assault by a corrections officer may be reflective of a systemic problem traceable to poor hiring practices, inadequate training, or insufficient supervision. See Smith, 255 F. 3d, at 449. Nussle himself alleged in this very case not only the beating he suffered on June 15, 1996; he also alleged, extending before and after that date, "a prolonged and sustained pattern of harassment and intimidation by corrections officers." App. 39. Nussle urges that his case could be placed in the isolated episode category, but he might equally urge that his complaint describes a pattern or practice of harassment climaxing in the alleged beating. It seems unlikely that Congress, when it included in the PLRA a firm exhaustion requirement, meant to leave the need to exhaust to the pleader's option. Cf. Preiser, 411 U. S., at 489-490 ("It would wholly frustrate explicit congressional intent to hold that [prisoners] could evade this [exhaustion] requirement by the simple expedient of putting a different label on their pleadings.").

Under Nussle's view and that of the Second Circuit, moreover, bifurcation would be normal when a prisoner sues both

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