Battle v. Ledford (P)

The district court erred in concluding that a prisoner’s suit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, filed after exhausting administrative remedies under the Prison Litigation Reform Act, was time-barred.

Virginia provides an elaborate grievance process for prisoner complaints, but its no-tolling rule as applied to prisoners seeking to bring § 1983 claims frustrates the goals of the federal statute and is thus clearly “inconsistent” with settled federal policy. Congress did not endorse such a no-tolling rule or diminish the interests underlying § 1983 by enacting the PLRA.

Because Virginia’s no-tolling rule is inconsistent with § 1983, a proper remedy in this narrow context involves applying federal equitable tolling principles to account for the time lost during the plaintiff’s 83-day mandatory exhaustion period. The plaintiff showed reasonable diligence during the 83-day exhaustion period, promptly denying the disciplinary charge against him and undergoing two rounds of appeals.

Every circuit that has confronted a state no-tolling rule and reached this question has applied federal law to equitably toll § 1983 limitations during the PLRA exhaustion period.

The plaintiff’s § 1983 complaint is timely, filed within two years of the date he exhausted administrative remedies required by the PLRA.

Vacated and remanded.

Battle v. Ledford (P), No. 17-6287, Jan. 8, 2018. 4th Cir. (Motz) from WDVA at Roanoke (Dillon).

Categories: 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, Opinions, Published

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