Porter v. Nussle, 534 U.S. 516, 16 (2002)

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

Opinion of the Court

a corrections officer alleged to have used excessive force and the supervisor who allegedly failed adequately to monitor those in his charge. Tr. of Oral Arg. 31. The officer alone could be taken directly to court; the charge against the supervisor would proceed first through the internal grievance process. Similarly split proceedings apparently would be in order, under the Second Circuit's decision, when the prisoner elects to pursue against the same officers both discrete instance and ongoing conduct charges.

Finally, we emphasize a concern over and above the complexity augured by the Second Circuit's disposition: Scant sense supports the single occurrence, prevailing circumstance dichotomy. Why should a prisoner have immediate access to court when a guard assaults him on one occasion, but not when beatings are widespread or routine? See Smith, 255 F. 3d, at 450. Nussle's distinction between excessive force claims and all other prisoner suits, see supra, at 520, presents a similar anomaly. Do prison authorities have an interest in receiving prompt notice of, and opportunity to take action against, guard brutality that is somehow less compelling than their interest in receiving notice and an opportunity to stop other types of staff wrongdoing? See Preiser, 411 U. S., at 492 ("Since [the] internal problems of state prisons involve issues so peculiarly within state authority and expertise, the States have an important interest in not being bypassed in the correction of those problems.").6

6 Other provisions of 1997e that refer to "prison conditions" would have less scope under the Second Circuit's construction of the term. Section 1997e(c)(1) provides for dismissal on the court's own initiative of "any action brought with respect to prison conditions" that is "frivolous [or] malicious." No specific incident complaint would be subject to that prescription under the view that such suits do not implicate "prison conditions." Further, 1997e(f)(1) provides that pretrial proceedings in "any action brought with respect to prison conditions" may be held at the prison via telephone, video conference, or other telecommunications technology so that the prisoner need not be physically transferred to participate. Surely such arrangements would be appropriate in Nussle's case and


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