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Broken Gate? A Study of the PLRA Exhaustion Requirement Past, Present, and Future
Unformatted Document Text:  Broken Gate? could conceivably have merit” (Fradella, 1998, p. 468). Thus, heretofore, the IFP screening provision has eliminated only a very small number of section 1983 inmate civil rights cases from the federal docket (Fradella, 1998). Still, the IFP statute’s pre-filing screening procedure – performed not just once, but twice, in the beginning of every pro se section 1983 indigent inmate case – seems easily adaptable to the additional purpose of considering whether an inmate should be deemed to have complied with the PLRA’s exhaustion requirement. For one thing, such a preliminary consideration is constitutionally permissible in that the PLRA’s exhaustion requirement is not jurisdictional (Miller, 2008, pp. 190-194). In other words, the federal courts are considered to have jurisdiction over section 1983 inmate civil rights cases even prior to the prisoner exhausting administrative remedies (Miller, 2008, pp. 190-194). Moreover, the Supreme Court has alluded to factors that might well be considered during the course of a pre-filing consideration of a prisoner’s exhaustion. To wit, Justice John Paul Stevens, writing for the three (3) dissenting members of the Court in Woodford v. Ngo, argued that concerns regarding inmate attempts to side-step the PLRA’s exhaustion requirement could be addressed more equitably by simply pre-screening the complaints of individuals whose avoidance of the grievance system appeared deliberate (Maddex, 2006, p. 422). He considered this approach favorable to what the dissent viewed as the “proper” exhaustion requirement that had never be expressly authorized by the PLRA, and which often required observation of an incredibly short 15-day limitations period (Maddex, 2006, p. 422). The inclusion of such subjective considerations in the analysis of an inmate’s “proper” exhaustion was suggested again by the Supreme Court in their more recent 22

Authors: Passarelli, Mariah.
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Broken Gate?
could conceivably have merit” (Fradella, 1998, p. 468).  Thus, heretofore, the IFP 
screening provision has eliminated only a very small number of section 1983 inmate civil 
rights cases from the federal docket (Fradella, 1998).
Still, the IFP statute’s pre-filing screening procedure – performed not just once, 
but twice, in the beginning of every pro se section 1983 indigent inmate case – seems 
easily adaptable to the additional purpose of considering whether an inmate should be 
deemed to have complied with the PLRA’s exhaustion requirement.  For one thing, such 
a preliminary consideration is constitutionally permissible in that the PLRA’s exhaustion 
requirement is not jurisdictional (Miller, 2008, pp. 190-194).  In other words, the federal 
courts are considered to have jurisdiction over section 1983 inmate civil rights cases even 
prior to the prisoner exhausting administrative remedies (Miller, 2008, pp. 190-194). 
Moreover, the Supreme Court has alluded to factors that might well be considered 
during the course of a pre-filing consideration of a prisoner’s exhaustion.  To wit, Justice 
John Paul Stevens, writing for the three (3) dissenting members of the Court in Woodford 
v. Ngo, argued that concerns regarding inmate attempts to side-step the PLRA’s 
exhaustion requirement could be addressed more equitably by simply pre-screening the 
complaints of individuals whose avoidance of the grievance system appeared deliberate 
(Maddex, 2006, p. 422).  He considered this approach favorable to what the dissent 
viewed as the “proper” exhaustion requirement that had never be expressly authorized by 
the PLRA, and which often required observation of an incredibly short 15-day limitations 
period (Maddex, 2006, p. 422).    
The inclusion of such subjective considerations in the analysis of an inmate’s 
“proper” exhaustion was suggested again by the Supreme Court in their more recent 

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