From Casetext: Smarter Legal Research

Gonzalez v. Seal

United States Court of Appeals, Fifth Circuit.
Dec 12, 2012
702 F.3d 785 (5th Cir. 2012)

Summary

holding that Underwood v. Wilson, 151 F.3d 292 (5th Cir. 1998), which Johnson relied on, was "tacitly overruled and is no longer good law to the extent it permits prisoner lawsuits challenging prison conditions to proceed in the absence of pre-filing administrative exhaustion"

Summary of this case from Gumns v. Edwards

Opinion

No. 11–31068.

2012-12-12

Angelo A. GONZALEZ, Plaintiff–Appellee, v. Ronnie SEAL, Lieutenant; Blandon Vernon Smith, Lieutenant; Doug Brooks, CSM; Jonathan Tynes, CSM; Robert C. Tanner, Warden, in his individual capacity; Darrell Peters, Lieutenant; Larry Weary, CSM, in his individual capacity; Bruce Forbes, EMT, in his individual capacity; Jerry P. Miller, Assistant Warden, in his individual capacity; Mike Harrell, in his individual capacity; James M. Leblanc, Department of Corrections, Secretary, in his individual capacity; Keith Bickham, Deputy Warden; Ronald Branch, Assistant Warden, Defendants–Appellants.

Angelo A. Gonzalez, Homer, LA, pro se. Phyllis Esther Glazer, Michael Courtney Keller, Asst. Attys. Gen., New Orleans, LA, for Defendants–Appellants.



Angelo A. Gonzalez, Homer, LA, pro se. Phyllis Esther Glazer, Michael Courtney Keller, Asst. Attys. Gen., New Orleans, LA, for Defendants–Appellants.
Appeals from the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana.
Before JOLLY, JONES and GRAVES, Circuit Judges.

PER CURIAM:

In December 2009, Angelo Gonzalez, Louisiana prisoner # 114052, filed a pro se, in forma pauperis civil rights complaint against employees of the Louisiana Department of Corrections. His original and several amended complaints asserted that threats and harassment had occurred periodically since July 2006; that he had suffered an excessive use of force in July 2006 and on November 11, 2009; that he had suffered a denial of medical care, a due process denial resulting from an extended stay in lockdown status; and state law assault and battery. He sought monetary damages and a declaratory judgment relieving him from the unconstitutional prison practices. The defendants moved for summary judgment, asserting that Gonzalez filed his federal lawsuit before exhausting the prison grievance process in violation of the Prison Litigation Reform Act (“PLRA”). The district court denied the motion. Because we find that pre-filing administrative exhaustion is required, we REVERSE the district court's order and REMAND for entry of judgment dismissing the complaint.

I.

We have jurisdiction over interlocutory appeals pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1292(b). Our jurisdiction, however, “extends only to controlling questions of law” based on the legal issues certified by the district court. Fisher v. Halliburton, 667 F.3d 602, 609 (5th Cir.2012). The district court certified two issues, and we accepted certification for interlocutory appeal. The issues certified to us are:

(1) In light of the PLRA's mandatory exhaustion requirement, and the Supreme Court's decision in [Ngo], does the rule of Underwood still stand, which rule permits a district court to allow a prisoner's claims to go forward, where he had not exhausted remedies prior to filing suit, but has since exhausted such remedies; and where dismissal (1) would be inefficient and (2) would not further either (a) the interests of justice, or (b) the Congressional purposes behind the PLRA?

(2) Assuming that the aforementioned rule of Underwood is still extant, may the district court apply the “interests of justice” exception to the exhaustion-of-remedies requirement, as it did in this case, to find that dismissal need not occur, on the basis that (1) the state has completed its administrative review process and rejected the prisoner's claims as meritless, and (2) the prisoner alleges continuous harm that the administrative review process has failed to address; without also determining under ... § 1997e(c)(2) whether the prisoner's claim is frivolous, malicious, or otherwise legally meritless?

II.

We review the district court's denial of summary judgment de novo. Fisher, 667 F.3d at 609. Because we find that the PLRA pre-filing exhaustion requirement is mandatory and non-discretionary, we do not reach the second question.

42 U.S.C. § 1997e(a) states that:

No action shall be brought with respect to prison conditions under section 1983 of this title, or any other Federal law, by a prisoner confined in any jail, prison, or other correctional facility until such administrative remedies as are available are exhausted.
Id. There is no dispute that Gonzalez filed his section 1983 complaint before exhausting the prison grievance process available to him. The district court, however, declined to dismiss the complaint; instead exercising its discretion to excuse Gonzalez's failure to exhaust based on our decision in Underwood v. Wilson, 151 F.3d 292 (5th Cir.1998). In Underwood, we stated that “a non-jurisdictional exhaustion requirement may, in certain rare instances, be excused.” Id. at 296. Like Gonzalez, Underwood did not exhaust the available administrative remedies until after he filed his section 1983 complaint. We rejected a “strict” reading of 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(a); instead adopting a discretionary test because “dismissing the suit and requiring [Underwood] to refile is inefficient,” and mandatory pre-filing exhaustion “would not further the interests of justice or the Congressional purposes behind the PLRA.” Underwood, 151 F.3d at 296.

Although Underwood was decided based on the text of section 1997e(a), the decision predates the Supreme Court decisions in Woodford v. Ngo, 548 U.S. 81, 126 S.Ct. 2378, 165 L.Ed.2d 368 (2006), and Jones v. Bock, 549 U.S. 199, 127 S.Ct. 910, 166 L.Ed.2d 798 (2007). Because Woodford and Jones addressed the PLRA pre-filing exhaustion requirement, we must revisit our decision in Underwood in the light of those decisions. See, e.g., Trizec Properties, Inc. v. U.S. Mineral Prods. Co., 974 F.2d 602, 604 n. 9 (5th Cir.1992) (“We are bound to prior panel opinions absent en banc reconsideration or a superseding contrary Supreme Court case ....”).

In Woodford, the Supreme Court applied section 1997e(a) to a prisoner's federal complaint, filed after he missed prison grievance process deadlines. 548 U.S. at 87–88, 126 S.Ct. 2378. The Court held that the prisoner had not properly exhausted his administrative remedies and ordered the case dismissed. In doing so, the Court concluded that “[e]xhaustion is no longer left to the discretion of the district court, but is mandatory.” Id. at 85, 126 S.Ct. 2378. “The PLRA attempts to eliminate unwarranted federal-court interference with the administration of prisons, and thus seeks to ‘affor [d] corrections officials time and opportunity to address complaints internally before allowing the initiation of a federal case.’ ” Id. at 93, 126 S.Ct. 2378 (quoting Porter v. Nussle, 534 U.S. 516, 525, 122 S.Ct. 983, 152 L.Ed.2d 12 (2002)) (footnote omitted). Furthermore, in Jones, the Court instructed that, “There is no question that exhaustion is mandatory under the PLRA and that unexhausted claims cannot be brought in court.” Jones, 549 U.S. at 211, 127 S.Ct. 910 (citing Porter, 534 U.S. at 524, 122 S.Ct. 983). The Court stated, “All agree that no unexhausted claim may be considered.” Id. at 219–20, 127 S.Ct. 910.

After Woodford and Jones, there can be no doubt that pre-filing exhaustion of prison grievance processes is mandatory. We thus hold that Underwood has been tacitly overruled and is no longer good law to the extent it permits prisoner lawsuits challenging prison conditions to proceed in the absence of pre-filing administrative exhaustion. District courts have no discretion to excuse a prisoner's failure to properly exhaust the prison grievance process before filing their complaint. It is irrelevant whether exhaustion is achieved during the federal proceeding. Pre-filing exhaustion is mandatory, and the case must be dismissed if available administrative remedies were not exhausted.

We note that our decision only applies in the case where the defendant moves to dismiss for failure to exhaust administrative remedies. The issue of whether the court can raise the exhaustion issue sua sponte is not before us. But, Jones states, “failure to exhaust is an affirmative defense under the PLRA, and that inmates are not required to specially plead or demonstrate exhaustion in their complaints.” 549 U.S. at 216, 127 S.Ct. 910.

III.

Gonzalez admittedly did not exhaust his available administrative remedies until after his section 1983 lawsuit was well underway. Under Woodford and Jones, district courts have no discretion to waive the PLRA's pre-filing exhaustion requirement. Accordingly, the district court's denial of summary judgment is REVERSED and the case is REMANDED for entry of judgment dismissing the complaint.

REVERSED and REMANDED.




Summaries of

Gonzalez v. Seal

United States Court of Appeals, Fifth Circuit.
Dec 12, 2012
702 F.3d 785 (5th Cir. 2012)

holding that Underwood v. Wilson, 151 F.3d 292 (5th Cir. 1998), which Johnson relied on, was "tacitly overruled and is no longer good law to the extent it permits prisoner lawsuits challenging prison conditions to proceed in the absence of pre-filing administrative exhaustion"

Summary of this case from Gumns v. Edwards

holding that dismissal is required even where a prisoner has exhausted remedies after his suit was underway

Summary of this case from Flaming v. Univ. of Tex. Med. Branch

concluding that "there can be no doubt that pre-filing exhaustion of prison grievance processes is mandatory" and that "[d]istrict courts have no discretion to excuse a prisoner's failure to properly exhaust the prison grievance process before filing their complaint. It is irrelevant whether exhaustion is achieved during the federal proceeding. Pre-filing exhaustion is mandatory, and the case must be dismissed if available administrative remedies were not exhausted"

Summary of this case from Parker v. Barbie

ruling that after the Supreme Court's rulings in Woodford v. Ngo, 548 U.S. 81 and Jones v. Bock, 549 U.S. 199, "there can be no doubt that pre-filing exhaustion of prison grievance processes is mandatory. We thus hold that Underwood has been tacitly overruled and is no longer good law to the extent it permits prisoner lawsuits challenging prison conditions to proceed in the absence of pre-filing administrative exhaustion."

Summary of this case from Nail v. Collado

In Gonzales v. Seal, 702 F.3d 785 (5th Cir. 2012), the Fifth Circuit recognized that exhaustion of administrative remedies prior to suit is mandatory, and that district courts have no discretion to stay § 1983 prisoner cases when they are filed before prisoners have exhausted administrative remedies.

Summary of this case from Lane v. Bonder

noting further that "[d]istrict courts have no discretion to excuse a prisoner's failure to properly exhaust the prison grievance process before filing their complaint"

Summary of this case from Young v. TDCJ

remanding to district court with instruction to grant defendant's motion for summary judgment because pre-filing exhaustion of prison grievance processes is mandatory

Summary of this case from Grayer v. Butler

noting further that "[d]istrict courts have no discretion to excuse a prisoner's failure to properly exhaust the prison grievance process before filing their complaint"

Summary of this case from Sain v. Collier

emphasizing that "pre-filing exhaustion of prior grievance process is mandatory" and that district courts lack discretion to excuse a prisoner's failure to exhaust his administrative remedies

Summary of this case from Hampton v. Brindley

emphasizing that "pre-filing exhaustion of prior grievance process is mandatory" and that district courts lack discretion to excuse a prisoner's failure to exhaust administrative remedies

Summary of this case from Brown v. HG Faculty

In Gonzales v. Seal, 702 F.3d 785 (5th Cir. 2012), the Fifth Circuit recognized that exhaustion of administrative remedies prior to suit is mandatory, and that district courts have no discretion to stay § 1983 prisoner cases when they are filed before prisoners have exhausted administrative remedies.

Summary of this case from Chappell v. Perry

noting further that "[d]istrict courts have no discretion to excuse a prisoner's failure to properly exhaust the prison grievance process before filing their complaint"

Summary of this case from Atomanczyk v. Tex. Dep't of Criminal Justice

In Gonzales v. Seal, 702 F.3d 785 (5th Cir. 2012), the Fifth Circuit recognized that exhaustion of administrative remedies prior to suit is mandatory, and that district courts have no discretion to stay § 1983 prisoner cases when they are filed before prisoners have exhausted administrative remedies.

Summary of this case from Holloway v. Fisher

pre-filing exhaustion is mandatory and the case must be dismissed if available administrative remedies were not exhausted

Summary of this case from Davis v. Taylor

In Gonzales v. Seal, 702 F.3d 785 (5th Cir. 2012), the Fifth Circuit recognized that exhaustion of administrative remedies prior to suit is mandatory, and that district courts have no discretion to stay § 1983 prisoner cases when they are filed before prisoners have exhausted administrative remedies.

Summary of this case from Bowen v. Lewis

In Gonzales v. Seal, 702 F.3d 785 (5th Cir. 2012), the Fifth Circuit recognized that exhaustion of administrative remedies prior to suit is mandatory, and that district courts have no discretion to stay § 1983 prisoner cases when they are filed before prisoners have exhausted administrative remedies.

Summary of this case from Richards v. Hogans

In Gonzales v. Seal, 702 F.3d 785 (5th Cir. 2012), the Fifth Circuit recognized that exhaustion of administrative remedies prior to suit is mandatory, and that district courts have no discretion to stay § 1983 prisoner cases when they are filed before prisoners have exhausted administrative remedies.

Summary of this case from Richards v. Hogans

In Gonzales v. Seal, 702 F.3d 785 (5th Cir. 2012), the Fifth Circuit recognized that exhaustion of administrative remedies prior to suit is mandatory, and that district courts have no discretion to stay § 1983 prisoner cases when they are filed before prisoners have exhausted administrative remedies.

Summary of this case from Goldsmith v. Strickland

pre-filing exhaustion of administrative remedies is mandatory and district courts lack discretion to excuse the failure to exhaust

Summary of this case from Moore v. Director

In Gonzales v. Seal, 702 F.3d 785 (5th Cir. 2012), the Fifth Circuit recognized that exhaustion of administrative remedies prior to suit is mandatory, and that district courts have no discretion to stay § 1983 prisoner cases when they are filed before prisoners have exhausted administrative remedies.

Summary of this case from Bonner v. Hinds Cnty.

In Gonzales v. Seal, 702 F.3d 785 (5th Cir. 2012), the Fifth Circuit recognized that exhaustion of administrative remedies prior to suit is mandatory, and that district courts have no discretion to stay § 1983 prisoner cases when they are filed before prisoners have exhausted administrative remedies.

Summary of this case from Goldsmith v. Strickland

In Gonzales v. Seal, 702 F.3d 785 (5th Cir. 2012), the Fifth Circuit recognized that exhaustion of administrative remedies prior to suit is mandatory, and that district courts have no discretion to stay § 1983 prisoner cases when they are filed before prisoners have exhausted administrative remedies.

Summary of this case from Craft v. John Does

overruling Underwood v. Wilson, 151 F.3d 292 (5th Cir. 1998) where the Fifth Circuit held that complete exhaustion is required for compliance with the administrative grievance process

Summary of this case from McBride v. Llovet

In Gonzalez v. Seal, 702 F.3d 785, 788 (5th Cir. 2012), the Fifth Circuit made it absolutely clear that a prisoner must exhaust the ARP before filing his lawsuit.

Summary of this case from Esteen v. Leblanc

In Gonzales v. Seal, 702 F.3d 785 (5th Cir. 2012), the Fifth Circuit recognized that exhaustion of administrative remedies prior to suit is mandatory, and that district courts have no discretion to stay § 1983 prisoner cases when they are filed before prisoners have exhausted administrative remedies.

Summary of this case from Lee v. Rice
Case details for

Gonzalez v. Seal

Case Details

Full title:Angelo A. GONZALEZ, Plaintiff–Appellee, v. Ronnie SEAL, Lieutenant…

Court:United States Court of Appeals, Fifth Circuit.

Date published: Dec 12, 2012

Citations

702 F.3d 785 (5th Cir. 2012)

Citing Cases

Graham v. Hodge

This exhaustion requirement applies to all inmate suits about prison life. Porter v. Nussle, 534 U.S. 516…

Goldmon v. Epps

The PLRA states, in pertinent part: "[n]o action shall be brought with respect to prison conditions under…