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Broken Gate? A Study of the PLRA Exhaustion Requirement Past, Present, and Future
Unformatted Document Text:  Broken Gate? Though limited, the statistical data available regarding use of the IFP screening function also indicates that a cooption of that process for use in PLRA exhaustion considerations would be successful (Smith, 2002). Again considering the responses of state assistant attorneys general and federal district judges to an October, 1999 survey, it appears that the courts do, indeed, conduct pre-filing evaluations of inmate accounts in accordance with section 1915 (Smith, 2002). Of the assistant attorneys general polled, 93.1% and of the federal district judges polled 85.4%, believed that the pre-filing screening of accounts was, in fact, occurring (Smith, 2002, p. 301). There appears no reason to believe that a similarly high rate of pre-filing screening regarding exhaustion issues might not also be achievable. Another alternative means for pre-screening inmate litigation with regard to the exhaustion component would be to employ United States federal Magistrate Judges. The office of United States Magistrate was created via legislation passed in 1968 as a replacement for United States Commissioners (Smith, 1988). Their powers were considerably expanded through amendments to the legislation in both 1976 and 1979 (Smith, 1988). It was generally hoped that the creation of Magistrate Judges would improve the efficiency of the efficiency of the federal district courts (Smith, 1988). The newly-created Magistrate Judges were quickly identified as a way to deal with the increased volume of prisoner litigation also occurring at that time (Smith, 1988). Assigned to cases by their United States District Judge counterparts, United States magistrate judges have the authority to fully conduct hearings, including evidentiary hearings, in section 1983 inmate litigation (Smith, 1988). There have been, to date, essentially three (3) models of magistrate judge use observed in the federal district courts 24

Authors: Passarelli, Mariah.
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Broken Gate?
Though limited, the statistical data available regarding use of the IFP screening 
function also indicates that a cooption of that process for use in PLRA exhaustion 
considerations would be successful (Smith, 2002).  Again considering the responses of 
state assistant attorneys general and federal district judges to an October, 1999 survey, it 
appears that the courts do, indeed, conduct pre-filing evaluations of inmate accounts in 
accordance with section 1915 (Smith, 2002).  Of the assistant attorneys general polled, 
93.1% and of the federal district judges polled 85.4%, believed that the pre-filing 
screening of accounts was, in fact, occurring (Smith, 2002, p. 301).  There appears no 
reason to believe that a similarly high rate of pre-filing screening regarding exhaustion 
issues might not also be achievable.   
Another alternative means for pre-screening inmate litigation with regard to the 
exhaustion component would be to employ United States federal Magistrate Judges.  The 
office of United States Magistrate was created via legislation passed in 1968 as a 
replacement for United States Commissioners (Smith, 1988).  Their powers were 
considerably expanded through amendments to the legislation in both 1976 and 1979 
(Smith, 1988).  It was generally hoped that the creation of Magistrate Judges would 
improve the efficiency of the efficiency of the federal district courts (Smith, 1988).  The 
newly-created Magistrate Judges were quickly identified as a way to deal with the 
increased volume of prisoner litigation also occurring at that time (Smith, 1988).  
Assigned to cases by their United States District Judge counterparts, United States 
magistrate judges have the authority to fully conduct hearings, including evidentiary 
hearings, in section 1983 inmate litigation (Smith, 1988).  There have been, to date, 
essentially three (3) models of magistrate judge use observed in the federal district courts 
24


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