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Monday, January 22, 2007

Jones v. Bock: PLRA Exhaustion

Jones v. Bock, 127 S. Ct. ___ (Jan. 22, 2007). Local circuit rules that require an inmate to plead and prove exhaustion in his initial complaint are not required by the Prison Litigation Reform Act. Indeed, Chief Justice Roberts wrote for a unanimous Court, such rules exceed the permissible scope of the PLRA because the exhaustion question is not a pleading requirement, but rather it is an affirmative defense to be raised first by the respondent. Also, the Court held, exhaustion does not require that the inmate name the offending official, nor does the person named in the lawsuit have to have been named at each stage of the exhaustion process. In addition, the Court held that when a petitioner brings a mixed petition with only some exhausted claims, the trial court may not simply dismiss the petition; it must entertain the exhausted claims, while setting the unexhausted claims aside.