ARTICLE: NGO EXCUSES: PROVING, REBUTTING, AND EXCUSING FAILURE TO EXHAUST ADMINISTRATIVE REMEDIES IN PRISONER SUITS AFTER WOODFORD v. NGO AND JONES v. BOCK Skip over navigation
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Copyright (c) 2008 Hamline Law Review
Hamline Law Review

ARTICLE: NGO EXCUSES: PROVING, REBUTTING, AND EXCUSING FAILURE TO EXHAUST ADMINISTRATIVE REMEDIES IN PRISONER SUITS AFTER WOODFORD v. NGO AND JONES v. BOCK

Spring, 2008

Hamline Law Review

31 Hamline L. Rev. 471

Author

Gray Proctor 1

Excerpt

I. INTRODUCTION

Under the Prison Litigation Reform Act ("PLRA"), 2 prisoners must exhaust state administrative remedies before filing any federal lawsuit about prison life. 3 The Supreme Court recently made two important clarifications about the nature of the PLRA's exhaustion requirement. 4 In Woodford v. Ngo, the Court held that the PLRA requires proper exhaustion and includes a procedural default component. 5 To properly exhaust all administrative remedies, a prisoner must bring her complaint to every level of the state's prison grievance system and follow all of its procedures. 6 If the prisoner does not properly exhaust, her unexhausted claims will be dismissed without prejudice. 7 At this point, the fate of the prisoner's suit is in the state's hands: if the grievance system refuses to address the merits of the grievance on procedural grounds, the prisoner can never file a federal complaint on the underlying facts. 8

The Court subsequently held in Jones v. Bock that failure to exhaust is an affirmative defense, not a jurisdictional bar. 9 This gives defendants the burdens of pleading and proving the defense. 10 More importantly for the purposes of this article, the Jones decision confirmed that the PLRA's exhaustion requirement is prudential, not jurisdictional. 11 Courts therefore have at least some discretion in applying the PLRA's exhaustion requirement. Unfortunately, courts lack explicit guidance from the Supreme Court on how to balance the prisoner's interest in judicial review against the federalism and efficiency concerns on the ...
 
 
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