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Booth v. Churner

Supreme Court of the United States

March 20, 2001, Argued ; May 29, 2001, Decided

No. 99-1964

Opinion

 [**1821]   [***962]   [*733]  JUSTICE SOUTER delivered the opinion of the Court.

 ] The Prison Litigation Reform Act of 1995 amended 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(a), which now requires a prisoner to exhaust  [*734]  "such administrative remedies as are available" before suing over prison conditions. The question is whether an inmate seeking only money damages must complete a prison administrative process that could provide some sort of relief on the complaint stated, but no money. We hold that he must.

Petitioner, Timothy Booth, was an inmate at the State Correctional Institution at Smithfield, Pennsylvania, when he began this action under Rev. Stat. § 1979, 42 U.S.C. § 1983, in the United States District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania. He claimed that respondent corrections officers at Smithfield violated his Eighth Amendment right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment by assaulting him, bruising his wrists in tightening and twisting handcuffs [****6]  placed upon him, throwing cleaning material in his face, and denying him medical attention to treat ensuing injuries. Booth sought various forms of injunctive relief, including transfer to another prison, as well as several hundred thousand dollars in money damages.

 The Pennsylvania Department of Corrections provided an administrative grievance system at the time. It called for a written charge within 15 days of an event prompting an inmate's complaint, which was referred to a grievance officer for investigation and resolution. If any action  [**1822]  taken or recommended was unsatisfactory to the inmate, he could appeal to an intermediate reviewing authority, with the possibility of a further and final appeal to a central review committee. App. 46-50. While the grievance system addressed complaints of the abuse and excessive force Booth alleged, it had no provision for recovery of money damages. 1 

Before resorting to federal court,  [****7]  Booth filed an administrative grievance charging at least some of the acts of  [*735]  abuse he later alleged in his action. Id. at 10-14. He did not, however, go beyond the first step, and never sought intermediate or final administrative review after the prison authority denied relief.

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532 U.S. 731 *; 121 S. Ct. 1819 **; 149 L. Ed. 2d 958 ***; 2001 U.S. LEXIS 3982 ****; 69 U.S.L.W. 4387; 2001 Cal. Daily Op. Service 4277; 2001 Daily Journal DAR 5257; 2001 Colo. J. C.A.R. 2679; 14 Fla. L. Weekly Fed. S 281

TIMOTHY BOOTH v. C. O. CHURNER, ET AL.

Prior History:  [****1]  ON WRIT OF CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE THIRD CIRCUIT.

Disposition: 206 F.3d 289, affirmed.

CORE TERMS

exhaustion, inmate, grievance, administrative remedy, money damages, redress, administrative process, required to exhaust, effective, monetary relief, Dictionary, remedies, parties

Administrative Law, Judicial Review, Reviewability, Exhaustion of Remedies, Civil Rights Law, Prisoner Rights, Prison Litigation Reform Act, Scope, Criminal Law & Procedure, Postconviction Proceedings, Imprisonment, Civil Procedure, Justiciability, Exhaustion of Remedies, General Overview, Administrative Remedies, Exhaustion of Administrative Remedies, Remedies, Protection of Rights, Section 1983 Actions, Remedies, Damages, Monetary Damages