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Total Exhaustion Rule Should Apply Separately to Each Plaintiff

The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals has held that when multiple prisoners join in a civil rights complaint, but only one of those prisoners has exhausted administrative remedies on all of the claims asserted, it is error to dismiss the action for failure to exhaust against all the prisoners.

In this action, four Kansas prisoners filed a lawsuit against prison officials to challenge rules that ban sexually explicit materials and that require ten percent of all monies a prisoner receives be placed in a mandatory prison savings account.

Only one prisoner had exhausted his administrative remedies on both claims while the other three had exhausted only one of the claims. The Kansas federal district court applied the "total exhaustion rule" and dismissed the action against all prisoners without prejudice. The prisoners appealed.

The Tenth Circuit held it was proper to dismiss the action against the prisoners who had not administratively exhausted all claims in the complaint. The other prisoner, however, should not have been penalized for his fellow plaintiffs' failure. The district court should have applied the total exhaustion rule separately.

Accordingly, the district court's order was affirmed in part and reversed in part. See: McGoldrick v. Werholtz, 185 Fed.Appx. 741 (10th Cir 2006) (unpublished).

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Related legal case

McGoldrick v. Werholtz