Casteel v. Vaade

Decision Date17 March 1992
Docket NumberNo. 90-0103,90-0103
Citation481 N.W.2d 476,167 Wis.2d 1
PartiesJohn A. CASTEEL, a/k/a Tayr Kilaab Al Ghashiyah (Khan), Plaintiff-Appellant, v. Victor VAADE and Gregory Grams, Defendants-Respondents.
CourtWisconsin Supreme Court

For the plaintiff-appellant there were briefs by Curry First and Legal Aid Society of Milwaukee and Gretchen E. Miller and American Civil Liberties Union of Wisconsin Foundation, all of Milwaukee and oral argument by Curry First.

For the defendants-respondents the cause was argued by Jennifer Sloan Lattis, Asst. Gen., with whom on the briefs was Donald J. Hanaway, Atty. Gen.

Amicus Curiae was filed by Martha K. Askins, Madison, for the Office of the State Public Defender.

SHIRLEY S. ABRAHAMSON, Justice.

This is an appeal from an order of the Dane County Circuit Court, Michael Nowakowski, Circuit Judge, dismissing the complaint for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted because the plaintiff failed to exhaust his administrative remedies under the Inmate Complaint Review System, Wis.Admin.Code sec. Doc 310 (1990), and has an adequate remedy under state law. 1

The court of appeals certified the appeal to this court pursuant to sec. (Rule) 809.61, Stats.1989-90, "to determine whether an individual must exhaust administrative remedies before bringing a claim under 42 U.S.C. sec. 1983 in state court." In its written certification order, the court of appeals explained that in Kramer v. Horton, 128 Wis.2d 404, 418, 419, 383 N.W.2d 54 (1986), cert. denied, 479 U.S. 918, 107 S.Ct. 324, 93 L.Ed.2d 296 (1986), this court held that "[w]hen state administrative remedies are adequate and readily available, a plaintiff bringing a sec. 1983 claim in state court should exhaust his administrative remedies prior to commencing suit," but that exhaustion is not required "when the administrative remedies are patently inadequate or are adequate in theory but not in practice due to bias or delay." The court of appeals concluded in its certification order that the vitality of Kramer has been called into question by Felder v. Casey, 487 U.S. 131, 146-47, 108 S.Ct. 2302, 2310-11, 101 L.Ed.2d 123 (1988) (Felder II ). In Felder II the Supreme Court held that the Wisconsin notice of claim statute is inapplicable to sec. 1983 litigation.

In our order accepting certification we directed the parties to address "the question of whether an individual must exhaust administrative remedies before bringing a claim under 42 U.S.C. sec. 1983 in state court and ... the impact, if any, of the United States Supreme Court's decision in Felder v. Casey ... on this court's decision in Kramer v. Horton...."

Relying on Felder II, we conclude that the plaintiff need not exhaust his administrative remedies before bringing this sec. 1983 action in state court. Furthermore, although the federal Civil Rights of Institutionalized Persons Act of 1980 (CRIPA) requires adult prisoners to exhaust state administrative remedies if the remedies provided by the state comply with federal standards, Wisconsin's Inmate Complaint Review System does not on its face comply with these federal standards. We conclude that under these circumstances the plaintiff need not exhaust his state administrative remedies.

We further hold that the plaintiff's complaint may be interpreted as alleging a deprivation of property without due process caused by conduct pursuant to an established state procedure. We therefore remand the cause to the circuit court for further proceedings not inconsistent with this opinion, including allowing the plaintiff to amend his complaint to allege further facts (including those demonstrating the inadequacy of other postdeprivation remedies).

I.

For purposes of this appeal the facts are not disputed. On May 29, 1989, the plaintiff, John A Casteel, a/k/a Tayr Kilaab Al Ghashiyah (Khan), filed a pro se complaint alleging a civil rights cause of action under 42 U.S.C. sec. 1983. 2 He claimed damages for the alleged deprivation of his property without due process of law in violation of the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments of the United States Constitution. The plaintiff claims that the defendants, officials of the Waupun Correctional Institution, received through the mail a negotiable instrument that Reverend David E. Mrotek issued payable to the plaintiff. The complaint asserts that the defendants acknowledged receipt of the instrument but failed to credit the amount of the instrument to the plaintiff's inmate account as required by statute. In addition, according to the complaint, the defendants refused the plaintiff's request to forward the instrument to the plaintiff's attorney. The complaint does not allege that the plaintiff used the inmate complaint review system available to inmates at the Waupun Correctional Institution. The defendants moved to dismiss the complaint.

The circuit court relied on two independent grounds to dismiss the complaint for failure to state a claim. First, applying Kramer v. Horton, 128 Wis.2d 404, 383 N.W.2d 54, cert. denied, 479 U.S. 918, 107 S.Ct. 324, 93 L.Ed.2d 296 (1986), the circuit court ruled that the plaintiff must exhaust his state administrative remedies before bringing a sec. 1983 action in a Wisconsin circuit court. Second, the circuit court concluded that state law provides an adequate postdeprivation remedy for the plaintiff in the form of a common law conversion or negligence action and therefore state law satisfies the plaintiff's Fourteenth Amendment due process rights.

II.

The first issue we address is whether the plaintiff must exhaust his state administrative remedies before bringing a sec. 1983 action in state court. To answer this question we first analyze several decisions of the United States Supreme Court and of this court. If we determine that the general rule is "no exhaustion," we then must determine whether Congress, through the Civil Rights of Institutionalized Persons Act (CRIPA), has required the plaintiff in this case to exhaust the administrative remedies available under the Wisconsin Inmate Complaint Review System.

We begin our analysis with Patsy v. Board of Regents of the State of Florida, 457 U.S. 496, 102 S.Ct. 2557, 73 L.Ed.2d 172 (1982). In Patsy the Supreme Court reaffirmed numerous cases decided over the preceding 20 years in which the Court concluded that exhaustion of state administrative remedies was not a prerequisite to bringing a sec. 1983 action in federal court. While Patsy involved a sec. 1983 action begun in federal district court, not in state court, the United States Supreme Court laid the basis in Patsy for denying state courts the power to impose an exhaustion requirement in sec. 1983 actions.

Writing for the majority, Justice Thurgood Marshall relied on the legislative history of the Civil Rights Act of 1871, the precursor of sec. 1983. Members of the 1871 Congress did not expressly discuss the exhaustion issue, but the debates strongly suggest Congress's intent was not to require exhaustion of state administrative remedies. 457 U.S. at 503, 102 S.Ct. at 2561. Congress wished to place the primary responsibility for protecting civil rights in the federal courts and to provide injured parties with immediate access to the federal courts notwithstanding state law requirements. 457 U.S. at 503-04, 102 S.Ct. at 2561-62. The debates also reveal a mistrust of state fact-finding processes which often receive deference when courts review administrative remedies. 457 U.S. at 506, 102 S.Ct. at 2562. Finally, Congress conceived of the federal system as a forum for civil rights remedies concurrent with and independent of state systems. 457 U.S. at 506-07, 102 S.Ct. at 2562-63.

Justice Marshall also scrutinized in Patsy the legislative history of the more recently enacted Civil Rights of Institutionalized Persons Act of 1980 (CRIPA). 3 In CRIPA, Congress enacted a limited exhaustion requirement for adult inmates asserting sec. 1983 claims. 4 While debating the Act, several members of Congress recognized that generally exhaustion of state administrative remedies is not required in sec. 1983 suits. 457 U.S. at 509-10, 102 S.Ct. at 2564-65 (citations omitted). The Court concluded that Congress carefully carved out in CRIPA a limited exception to the general rule of "no exhaustion," in part to encourage states to adopt appropriate grievance procedures for adult inmates. 457 U.S. at 509, 102 S.Ct. at 2564. In carving out this exception, according to the Patsy decision, Congress implicitly preserved the general rule of "no exhaustion" in sec. 1983 suits that do not fall under CRIPA. 457 U.S. at 509, 102 S.Ct. at 2564. 5

This court interpreted Patsy in Kramer v. Horton, 128 Wis.2d 404, 417, 383 N.W.2d 54, cert. denied, 479 U.S. 918, 107 S.Ct. 324, 93 L.Ed.2d 296 (1986). This court concluded in Kramer that Patsy did not govern sec. 1983 actions brought in state courts. The Kramer court dismissed a sec. 1983 claim brought in our state court because the complainant failed to exhaust his state administrative remedies. The general rule, according to Kramer, is that exhaustion of administrative remedies is required "[a]bsent evidence that the administrative reviewing agency is inherently biased, or that the agency is unable or unwilling to hear the claim, or that the agency is delaying review unnecessarily...." 128 Wis.2d at 420, 383 N.W.2d 54.

The Kramer court reasoned that the federal Constitution reserves to the state legislatures and state courts the power to design the procedural scheme under which claims may be heard in state court. The court concluded that "[c]onsiderations of comity and federalism dictate that a state court faced with a sec. 1983 claim must weigh different interests than a federal court when deciding whether to apply the exhaustion doctrine." 128 Wis.2d at 417, 383 N.W.2d 54 (citing U.S. Const.Amend. X). 6 The interests that led the Kramer court to uphold the exhaustion...

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