Brooklyn Federal Judge Rules that PLRA Still Applies To Cases With Amended Complaints

42 U.S.C. §1997(e) more commonly known as the Prison Litigation Reform Act or the PLRA was enacted in 1996. Congress enacted the PLRA in response to a significant increase in prisoner litigation in the federal courts; the PLRA was designed to decrease the incidence of litigation within the court system. One of the key components of the PLRA is the requirement that a prisoner must exhaust all available administrative remedies before commencing a civil rights lawsuit against a correctional facility. The most common form of the administrative remedy is going through the facility’s grievance procedure.

On April 22, 2022, the Honorable Brian M. Cogan, United States District Judge for the Eastern District of New York, issued a decision answering a question that has not been addressed in the Second Circuit before, whether an individual who was incarcerated when they commenced their lawsuit could avoid the exhaustion requirement of the PLRA if they amended their complaint after they were released.

Ultimately, Judge Cogan ruled that it is the individual’s status at the time the lawsuit is commenced that matters, rejecting contrary holdings in the neighboring Third Circuit. The Court dismissed the case as the former inmate failed to file any grievances regarding the correction officers’ conduct prior to commencing his lawsuit. This case highlights the importance of following the grievance procedures set out by the particular correctional facility. These procedures generally set forth specific deadlines and a detailed appeal process which every individual must follow and exhaust prior to commencing any lawsuit. Otherwise, as demonstrated by Makell, you or your family member will be precluded from suing a responsible party.

Citation: 19-cv-6993(BMC) Makell v. County of Nassau, et al.

As a civil rights law firm, The Russell Friedman Law Group, LLP is paying close attention to developments in the law and what they mean for the rights of the people in our community. If you or a loved one have been the victim of abuse while incarcerated, please call us at (855) 465-4622 for a free consultation.