McCray v. Burrell

Decision Date10 April 1975
Docket Number74-1634,No. 153,Nos. 74-1042,74-1456,74-1043,153,s. 74-1042
Citation516 F.2d 357
PartiesMilton McCRAY, Appellant, v. Robert BURRELL, Appellee. Milton McCRAY, Appellant, v. Sergeant V. D. SMITH (Badge) Md. Penitentiary, Appellee. James E. X. STOKES, Appellant, v. Gerald McCLELLAN, Individually and in his official capacity as Warden of theMaryland Penitentiary, and the Mail Censor, Individually, and in his officialcapacity as mail censor of the Maryland Department of Corrections, Appellees. John WASHINGTON, Appellant, v. Dr. Harold M. BOSLOW, Director, Patuxent Institution, and Dr. Domingo C.Sorongon, M.D., Patuxent Institution, Appellees.
CourtU.S. Court of Appeals — Fourth Circuit

Charles F. Morgan, Prisoner Assistance Project, Legal Aid Bureau, Inc., Baltimore, Md. (Michael S. Elder and Michael A. Millemann, Baltimore, Md., on brief), for appellants.

N. Frank Wiggins, National Legal Aid and Defender Association, Washington, D. C. (Robert Plotkin, National Legal Aid and Defender Association, Washington, D. C., on brief), for amicus curiae.

Barbara Gold, Baltimore, Md., American Civ. Liberties Union, Maryland Affiliate, on brief for amicus curiae.

Donald R. Stutman, Asst. Atty. Gen. of Maryland (Francis B. Burch, Atty. Gen. of Maryland, Clarence W. Sharp and Gilbert Rosenthal, Asst. Attys. Gen. of Maryland, on brief), for appellees.

Before HAYNSWORTH, Chief Judge, and WINTER, CRAVEN, BUTZNER, RUSSELL, FIELD and WIDENER, Circuit Judges, sitting in banc.

WINTER, Circuit Judge:

These appeals present the common question of whether a prisoner, incarcerated under state process, is required to exhaust available state remedies before the district court may or should exercise jurisdiction in a suit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for the redress of alleged deprivations of civil rights arising out of his incarceration. Some of these appeals were heard but not decided by a panel of the court. Because each presents the same question of exceptional importance we consolidated them and heard them in banc.

In No. 74-1042 and No. 74-1043, plaintiff McCray, an inmate of the Maryland Penitentiary, sought relief under § 1983 for deprivations of liberty without due process of law and for imposition of cruel and unusual punishment arising out of two separate incidents in which he was allegedly placed naked in an isolation cell for a period of 48 hours. In No. 74-1042, he sought only compensatory and punitive damages. In No. 74-1043, his inartfully drawn pro se complaint may be read to seek injunctive relief as well as damages. Both cases were consolidated in the district court and tried nonjury. The district court dismissed both complaints with prejudice. The district court found that before suing under § 1983, McCray was required to exhaust the state administrative remedy established by the Maryland Inmate Grievance Commission Act, 4A Ann.Code of Md., Art. 41, § 204F (1973 Cum.Supp.), through which he could have obtained relief for the deprivation of his constitutional rights; and that since McCray had not exhausted his remedies under that statute he was not entitled to federal relief. McCray v. Burrell, 367 F.Supp. 1191 (D.Md.1973). On the merits, it found that no constitutional violations had occurred in the incidents alleged; that each defendant in the incident in which he was concerned, had acted in good faith reliance upon standard operating procedures and, hence, was immune from liability in damages.

In No. 74-1456, plaintiff Stokes, another inmate of the Maryland Penitentiary, filed a pro se civil rights complaint in the district court alleging that prison officials had violated his first and fourteenth amendment rights by denying him permission to receive and read two national political newspapers, the Gay Liberator and Akwesasne Notes. He sought declaratory relief, injunctive relief and damages, both compensatory and punitive. On defendant's motion, the district court summarily dismissed the complaint for failure to exhaust the available state administrative remedy, relying on the alternative holding in the two McCray cases.

In No. 74-1634, plaintiff Washington, an inmate of the Maryland Patuxent Institution, filed a pro se complaint under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging that he suffered injuries and deprivations of his constitutional rights as a result of the failure of a prison doctor to provide him with necessary medical care. He demanded a trial by jury, and he sought declaratory relief and compensatory and punitive damages. On the defendant's motion, his complaint was dismissed for failure to exhaust state administrative remedies. The ruling was more in the nature of a summary judgment because the district court received evidence concerning the adequacy of the administrative remedy under the Maryland Inmate Grievance Commission Act as a state administrative remedy for the purpose of exhaustion. The district court found that the Inmate Grievance Commission Act provided plaintiff with a fair and adequate remedy, notwithstanding the inability of the Commission to award damages in an appropriate case. Washington v. Boslow, 375 F.Supp. 1298 (D.Md.1974).

We keenly appreciate the force of the factors identified by the district court in McCray and Washington as supporting a policy determination that exhaustion of available administrative remedies should be required of prisoners of correctional institutions in Maryland as a prerequisite to a suit under § 1983. We recognize the burden which the increasing flood of prisoner complaint litigation places upon the already overtaxed district courts as well as ourselves. Nevertheless, we are constrained to conclude that the holding that exhaustion is required may be reached only by either legislation conditioning resort to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 upon the exhaustion of available administrative remedies, or by the Supreme Court's re-examination and modification of its controlling adjudications on the subject. Congress has not enacted such legislation. The Supreme Court has not yet begun a re-examination of its previous holdings and we have no basis on which to predict that it will, or, if so, with what result. We think that we have no alternative but to hold that exhaustion may not be required.

Accordingly, we reverse in Nos. 74-1456 and 74-1634 and remand the cases for determination on the merits. In Nos. 74-1042 and 74-1043, we reach the merits and conclude for reasons hereafter stated that reversal and remand for further proceedings are indicated there also.


We consider first the question common to all four appeals whether a prisoner must exhaust available state administrative remedies before a district court may exercise its jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1343 to adjudicate the merits of a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 that there has been a deprivation of civil rights in prison treatment.

The doctrine of exhaustion of federal administrative remedies has broad application in the law. McKart v. United States, 395 U.S. 185, 193, 89 S.Ct. 1657, 23 L.Ed.2d 194 (1969). Exhaustion of state administrative and judicial remedies is also a familiar doctrine. It is a part of the law of federal habeas corpus both by adjudication, Ex parte Hawk, 321 U.S. 114, 64 S.Ct. 448, 88 L.Ed. 572 (1944), and cases cited therein, and by statute, 28 U.S.C. § 2254(b). 1 Prior to enactment of the Johnson Act, 28 U.S.C. § 1342, when federal courts reviewed the reasonableness of state rate orders with some frequency, it was held that state judicial remedies must be exhausted before a railroad company could seek to enjoin the enforcement of a rate order of the Virginia State Corporation Commission in a district court. Prentis v. Atlantic Coast Line Co., 211 U.S. 210, 29 S.Ct. 67, 53 L.Ed. 150 (1908). Exhaustion of state administrative remedies is many times required as a prerequisite to suits against state officers. See, e. g., Illinois Commerce Commission v. Thomson, 318 U.S. 675, 63 S.Ct. 834, 87 L.Ed. 1075 (1943); First National Bank v. Board of County Commissioners, 264 U.S. 450, 44 S.Ct. 385, 68 L.Ed. 784 (1924).

Monroe v. Pape, 365 U.S. 167, 81 S.Ct. 473, 5 L.Ed.2d 492 (1961), is the seminal decision with respect to the need for exhaustion in actions brought under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. There, in a suit under § 1983 to redress shocking violations of fourth amendment rights, the claim was made that plaintiffs should have exhausted their state judicial remedies before suing in a federal court, but the argument was rejected:

It is no answer that the State has a law which if enforced would give relief. The federal remedy (§ 1983) is supplementary to the state remedy, and the latter need not be first sought and refused before the federal one is invoked. Hence the fact that Illinois by its constitution and laws outlaws unreasonable searches and seizures is no barrier to the present suit in the federal court. 365 U.S. at 183, 81 S.Ct. at 482.

While Monroe v. Pape constituted no radical departure from the preexisting doctrine of exhaustion of state judicial remedies, it was applied two years later in McNeese v. Board of Education, 373 U.S. 668, 83 S.Ct. 1433, 10 L.Ed.2d 622 (1963), as authority for the proposition that in suits under § 1983 there was also no need to exhaust state administrative remedies. In McNeese, plaintiffs sought to enjoin racial segregation in an Illinois public school system. The district court granted a motion to dismiss the complaint on the ground that plaintiffs had not exhausted the administrative remedies provided by Illinois law, and the Court of Appeals affirmed on the same theory. In reversing, the Supreme Court called attention to its holding in Monroe v. Pape that one purpose of § 1983 was "to provide a remedy in the federal courts supplementary to any remedy any State might have." 373 U.S. at 672, 83 S.Ct. at 1435. Specifically, it said, "(i)t is immaterial whether respondents' conduct is legal or illegal as a matter of state law. Such claims are...

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