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July 24, 2012 / Admin

Freedom Has Its Rewards!!!!

Recently, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit reversed and remanded a decision rendered by the United States District Court for the Central District of California in Talamantes v. Leyva. .  Plaintiff, formerly a jail inmate, sought review of a judgment from the United States District Court for the Central District of California which dismissed his 42 U.S.C. §1983 action against defendant Los Angeles County, the sheriff’s department, and other employees and officials, on the grounds that  the plaintiff did not exhaust his administrative remedies under the Prison Litigation Reform Act (hereinafter PRLA) under U.S.C. § 1997e(a).

Plaintiff had been held in the county jail for eight weeks. He alleged that certain events violated his constitutional rights, and he filed a complaint more than one year after his release from the county jail. The district court held that Plaintiff was required to exhaust his remedies under U.S.C.S. §1997e (a) even though he was no longer in custody.

The Ninth Circuit, however, found that the plain and unambiguous language of the statute made it clear that the exhaustion requirement applied only to “prisoners.” “It is well settled that in a statutory construction case, analysis must begin with the language of the statute itself; when the statute is clear, ‘judicial inquiry into [its] meaning, in all but the most extraordinary circumstance, is finished.” United States v. Carter, 421, F.3d 9-09, 911 (9th Cir. 2005), quoting Estate of Cowart v. Nicklos Drilling Co., (1992) 505 U.S. 469, 475, 112 S.Ct. 2589, 120 L.Ed.2d 379. The PLRA provides that: “No action shall be brought with respect to prison conditions under 42 U.S.C. §1983 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.” 42 U.S.C.1997e(a). The Court joined its sister circuits and held that only individuals who were prisoners as defined by §1997e (h) at the time the lawsuit is filed were required to comply with the exhaustion requirement of U.S.C.S. §1997e (a).

At least for individuals on parole, the often daunting provisions of the PRLA as to exhaustion of internal grievance remedies are now sidelined by the ruling of the Ninth Circuit. Prisoners complained of grievance complaints being lost, destroyed or ignored during the grievance and appeals procedures of the prison and were frustrated leading them to give up on the process. Parolees no longer have to deal with the bureaucratic process, unless Congress decides to change the rules.



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