Monday, January 22, 2007
In Cunningham v. California, No. 05-6551, the court struck down California's determinate sentencing scheme, which authorized judges to find facts that exposed defendants to "upper term" sentences above the presumptive term of imprisonment, on the ground that it violated the Sixth Amendment right to a jury trial as interpreted in Apprendi v. New Jersey, Blakely v. Washington, and United States v. Booker. See related posts here and here.
In Jones v. Bock, No. 05-7058, the court answered several questions concerning the Prison Litigation Reform Act's requirement that prisoners exhaust administrative grievance procedures before seeking redress in a civil rights action under 42 U.S.C. §1983. The court ruled that the PLRA's exhaustion requirement does not demand that inmates plead and demonstrate exhaustion in their complaints, but instead obliges defendants to raise a failure to exhaust as an affirmative defense. Nor, said the court, does the exhaustion requirement permit suit only against defendants who had been identified by the prisoner in the earlier grievance. Finally, the court held that a prisoner's failure to exhaust as to any single claim in the complaint does not require dismissal of the entire action.