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Judge Holds Arizona Grievance Procedures “unavailable” under PLRA.

The Arizona Department of Corrections’ (ADOC) grievance procedures were “unavailable” to a prisoner who could not file within the required ten days due to his hospitalization and traumatic brain damage, U.S. District Judge Frederick J. Martone decided November 22, 2010.

The Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA) requires prisoners to exhaust their administrative remedies, but this command is not absolute – Prisoners do not have to exhaust remedies that are “unavailable” to them.

Jeremy Sexton sued the ADOC alleging deliberate indifference after he was attacked. The ADOC moved to dismiss arguing that sexton had failed to exhaust his administrative remedies because Sexton did not file a grievance about his mistreatment within ten days of the incident as required by ADOC grievance procedures.

Judge Martone denied the ADOC’s motion to dismiss holding that the grievance procedures were “unavailable” to Martone because he was hospitalized and had significant brain injury during the time when he was required to file his grievance. Key to the judge’s decision was the fact that DOC’s grievance rules did not permit the filing of grievances outside the ten day window under any circumstances.
See: Sexton v. Richards, No. CV-09-2218-PHX-FJM, (MEA).

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Related legal case

Sexton v. Richards