W.D. Pennsylvania Notes Split Re: Whether Exhaustion Requirement of PLRA Includes a Procedural Default Component

Per Rodriguez v. Mallory, 2007 WL 320829 (W.D.Pa. Jan. 30, 2007):

The United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit has explicitly held that the exhaustion requirement of the PLRA includes a procedural default component, by analogizing it to the exhaustion doctrine (with its corollary procedural default component) in the habeas context. Spruill v. Gillis, 372 F.3d 218, 228-229 (3d Cir. June 18, 2004). [FN2] The Circuit explained:

We believe that Congress's policy objectives will be served by interpreting § 1997e(a)'s exhaustion requirement to include a procedural default component. Based on our earlier discussion of the PLRA's legislative history, [ ... ] Congress seems to have had three interrelated objectives relevant to our inquiry here: (1) to return control of the inmate grievance process to prison administrators; (2) to encourage development of an administrative record, and perhaps settlements, within the inmate grievance process; and (3) to reduce the burden on the federal courts by erecting barriers to frivolous prisoner lawsuits. Each of these goals is better served by interpreting § 1997e(a)'s exhaustion language to include a procedural default component than by interpreting it merely to require termination of all administrative grievance proceedings.

FN2. There is an emerging split of authority among the Circuits on this issue. Compare Ross v. County of Bernalillo, 365 F.3d 1181 (10th Cir.2004), and Pozo v. McCaughtry, 286 F.3d 1022 (7th Cir.2002), with Thomas v. Woolum, 337 F.3d 720 (6th Cir.2003).


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