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.