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Statute of Limitations May Toll While Prisoner Exhausts Administrative Remedies

In 2003, William Howell, a state prisoner, sued jail guards in federal district court under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for an incident that occurred over two years before he filed suit. Since the applicable statute of limitations was two years, the district court dismissed the case as time-barred.

On appeal, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit considered Howell’s argument that the statute of limitations should be tolled because the jail guards had precluded him from exhausting his administrative remedies by not answering his grievances. Since exhaustion was a prerequisite to filing suit, Howell argued that the statute of limitations should be tolled for the time it took him to do so. The 11th Circuit found the record to be inadequate to decide the issue and remanded the case to the district for fact finding. See: Howell v. Proctor, 136 Fed.Appx. 267 (11th Cir. 2005) (unpublished).

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