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Houghton v. Shafer

U.S.
Jun 17, 1968
392 U.S. 639 (1968)

Summary

holding that a prisoner is not entitled to maintain excessive legal material in a cell

Summary of this case from Abordo v. Department of Public Safety

Opinion

ON PETITION FOR WRIT OF CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE THIRD CIRCUIT.

No. 668, Misc.

Decided June 17, 1968.

Petitioner, a Pennsylvania state prisoner, brought this action in the District Court claiming that prison authorities had violated § 1 of the Civil Rights Act of 1871 by confiscating legal materials which petitioner had acquired for pursuing his appeal but which, in alleged violation of prison rules, were in another prisoner's possession. The District Court dismissed petitioner's complaint on the ground that petitioner had not exhausted certain state administrative remedies. Held: It was not necessary for petitioner to resort to these state remedies in light of this Court's decisions in Monroe v. Pape, 365 U.S. 167, 180-183, and other cases.

Certiorari granted; 379 F.2d 556, reversed and remanded.

William C. Sennett, Attorney General of Pennsylvania, Frank P. Lawley, Jr., Deputy Attorney General, and Edward Friedman for respondents.


Petitioner was convicted of burglary and is serving a sentence of four to 10 years in a Pennsylvania state prison. In pursuing his appeal pro se petitioner acquired law books, trial records, and other materials with the consent of prison authorities. Before petitioner had filed his appeal brief, prison authorities confiscated these materials because they were found in the possession of another inmate. Petitioner's efforts to obtain the return of the materials were not successful, and he commenced this action in the United States District Court, claiming that the prison authorities had violated § 1 of the Civil Rights Act of 1871, 17 Stat. 13, now 42 U.S.C. § 1983, by depriving him of his legal materials. The District Court dismissed the complaint on the sole ground that petitioner had not alleged exhaustion of state administrative remedies, citing Gaito v. Prasse, 312 F.2d 169 (C.A. 3d Cir.). The Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit affirmed without opinion. We grant the petition for certiorari and reverse the judgment of the Court of Appeals.

Petitioner's legal materials were confiscated pursuant to prison rules forbidding the possession of articles not sold through the canteen or approved by the authorities and forbidding the unauthorized loaning of books to another inmate. According to the inmates' handbook, petitioner could have taken his problem to the "Classification and Treatment Clinic"; it was also his privilege "to address a communication at any time to the Superintendent, the Deputy Commissioner of Correction, or the Commissioner of Correction, and as a final appeal, to the Attorney General." Petitioner did seek relief from the Deputy Superintendent of his prison, but without result. He was told, he says, to "leave well enough alone." His mother's telephone calls and correspondence with prison authorities were likewise unavailing. He has not, however, taken an appeal to the Deputy Commissioner of Correction, the Commissioner, or to the Attorney General.

As we understand the submission of the Attorney General of Pennsylvania in this Court, the rules of the prison were validly and correctly applied to petitioner; these rules are further said to be strictly enforced throughout the entire correctional system in Pennsylvania. In light of this it seems likely that to require petitioner to appeal to the Deputy Commissioner of Correction, the Commissioner, or to the Attorney General would be to demand a futile act. In any event, resort to these remedies is unnecessary in light of our decisions in Monroe v. Pape, 365 U.S. 167, 180-183; McNeese v. Board of Education, 373 U.S. 668, 671; and Damico v. California, 389 U.S. 416. On the basis of these decisions, but without intimating any opinion on the merits of the underlying controversy concerning the prison rules, the motion to proceed in forma pauperis and the petition for certiorari are granted, the judgment of the Court of Appeals is reversed and the case remanded for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

Reversed and remanded.


Summaries of

Houghton v. Shafer

U.S.
Jun 17, 1968
392 U.S. 639 (1968)

holding that a prisoner is not entitled to maintain excessive legal material in a cell

Summary of this case from Abordo v. Department of Public Safety

holding that requiring administrative review through process culminating with the Attorney General where Attorney General already submitted that the challenged rules of prison were "validly and correctly applied to petitoner" would be "to demand a futile act"

Summary of this case from Knish v. Stine

In Houghton, the prisoner's contention was that prison authorities had violated the Constitution by confiscating legal materials which he had acquired for pursuing his appeal, but which, in violation of prison rules, had been found in the possession of another prisoner.

Summary of this case from McCarthy v. Bronson

In Houghton, the prisoner's contention was that prison authorities had violated the Constitution by confiscating legal materials which he had acquired for pursuing his appeal, but which, in violation of prison rules, had been found in the possession of another prisoner.

Summary of this case from Preiser v. Rodriguez

In Houghton, the Supreme Court specifically noted that to require exhaustion of administrative remedies would be to demand a futile act.

Summary of this case from Patsy v. Florida Intern. University

In Houghton, the prisoner's contention was that prison authorities had violated the Constitution by confiscating legal materials which he had acquired for pursuing his appeal, but which, in violation of prison rules, had been found in the possession of another prisoner.

Summary of this case from Wright v. Cuyler

In Houghton v. Shafer, 392 U.S. 639, 88 S.Ct. 2119, 20 L.Ed.2d 1319 (1968), the Court in a per curiam opinion reversed the holding of this circuit that a state prisoner must allege exhaustion of state administrative remedies.

Summary of this case from United States ex Rel. Ricketts v. Lightcap

In Houghton, the state prisoner's § 1983 action was based upon the alleged deprivation of legal materials that he was using to prepare an appeal of his conviction.

Summary of this case from Hardwick v. Ault

In Houghton v. Shafer, 392 U.S. 639, 88 S.Ct. 2119, 20 L.Ed.2d 1319 (1968) (per curiam), a district court's dismissal of a prisoner's § 1983 suit was reversed on the dual grounds that the available administrative remedy was not adequate and that exhaustion was not required. Houghton's principal importance lies in (a) the fact that it was a § 1983 suit by a state prisoner complaining of allegedly illegal prison restrictions, and (b) the interpretation given it in Wilwording v. Swenson, 404 U.S. 249, 92 S.Ct. 407, 30 L.Ed.2d 418 (1971) (per curiam).

Summary of this case from McCray v. Burrell

In Houghton v. Shafer, 392 U.S. 639, 640, 88 S.Ct. 2119, 20 L.Ed.2d 1319 (1968), a per curiam opinion, where a prisoner claimed his civil rights were denied by state confiscation of legal materials, the Court stated that "resort to" remedies of state was unnecessary in the light of Pape, McNeese and Damico, Still another per curiam opinion, Carter v. Stanton, 405 U.S. 669, 92 S.Ct. 1232, 31 L.Ed.2d 569 (1972), held that a three-judge court improperly dismissed a complaint under § 1983 for failure to exhaust a state remedy.

Summary of this case from Brooks v. Center Township

In Houghton, supra, decided the same day as King, the judgment below was reversed for having required exhaustion of administrative remedies in a non-three-judge court case.

Summary of this case from Metcalf v. Swank

In Houghton v. Shafer, 1968, 392 U.S. 639, 88 S.Ct. 2119, 20 L.Ed.2d 1319, a state prisoner alleged that prison authorities had violated § 1983 by depriving him of legal materials which he was using to prepare an appeal. The district court dismissed the complaint on the ground that state administrative remedies had not been exhausted.

Summary of this case from Moreno v. Henckel

In Houghton[ v. Shafer, 392 U.S. 639, 88 S.Ct. 2119, 20 L.Ed.2d 1319 (1968)], the prisoner's contention was that prison authorities had violated the Constitution by confiscating legal materials which he had acquired for pursuing his appeal, but which, in violation of prison rules, had been found in the possession of another prisoner.

Summary of this case from Fritz v. Colorado

In Houghton, for example, the Court stated, 392 U.S. at 640, 88 S.Ct. at 2120, that "to require petitioner to appeal (through administrative proceedings) to the Deputy Commissioner of Correction, the Commissioner, or to the Attorney General, would be to demand a futile act.

Summary of this case from Lasco v. Koch

In Houghton, plaintiff and others on his behalf made substantial efforts to obtain relief within the administrative agency.

Summary of this case from Duffany v. Van Lare

In Houghton and McNeese, the Court either expressly or by clear implication found the state remedy to be inadequate. Damico involved welfare, an essentially federal subject matter.

Summary of this case from Egner v. Texas City Independent School District
Case details for

Houghton v. Shafer

Case Details

Full title:HOUGHTON v . SHAFER, GOVERNOR OF PENNSYLVANIA, ET AL

Court:U.S.

Date published: Jun 17, 1968

Citations

392 U.S. 639 (1968)
88 S. Ct. 2119

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