Ross involves a Maryland inmate, Shaidon Blake, who was beaten by a guard while handcuffed and held against a wall by another guard (Ross), resulting in nerve damage and persistent headaches. Blake requested an investigation of the incident, which led to the resignation of the guard who beat him. In federal court, Blake won at trial against that guard, but his claims against Ross were dismissed because the court concluded he had failed to exhaust his administrative remedies as required by the Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA). Although Blake had requested an investigation, the court held, he should also have filed a complaint through the internal prison grievance system.
The court of appeals reversed, concluding that any error by Blake was objectively reasonable given the investigation, and that (consistent with federal precedent) such mistakes do not bar prisoners from bringing claims in federal court. The guard took his case to the Supreme Court, where he argued for a new legal standard that would preclude lawsuits by prisoners who make mistakes about the grievance system, no matter how reasonable.
Emergent's brief in support of the inmate, which outlines the practical impacts of the guard's proposed rule on prisoners with serious grievances, the purpose of the PLRA, and the mentally ill (who are particularly likely to violate grievance system rules), is here. The brief of the guard is here; the inmate's is here.
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