University of Michigan Law School
Civil Rights Litigation Clearinghouse
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Case Name Ngo v. Woodford PC-CA-0039
Docket / Court 5:01-cv-20674-JF ( N.D. Cal. )
State/Territory California
Case Type(s) Prison Conditions
Attorney Organization ACLU National (all projects)
Case Summary
On July 18, 2001, a California state inmate serving a life sentence for murder filed a § 1983 action in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, challenging restrictions placed on his participation in special prison programs, including a variety of religious activities. The ... read more >
On July 18, 2001, a California state inmate serving a life sentence for murder filed a § 1983 action in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, challenging restrictions placed on his participation in special prison programs, including a variety of religious activities. The restrictions followed a period of administrative segregation for allegedly engaging in "inappropriate activity" in the prison chapel. Plaintiff initially filed a grievance with California prison officials about his prison conditions, but it was rejected as untimely under state law. His federal court suit followed.

Plaintiff claimed that the restrictions violated his First Amendment rights to free speech and the free exercise of his religion. He also claimed that the restrictions lessened his chances for parole eligibility.

The District Court (Judge Jeremy Fogel) dismissed the case for failure to exhaust all of his administrative remedies as required by the Prison Litigation Reform Act (''PLRA'') 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(a). Plaintiff appealed.

The Ninth Circuit Court of appeals reversed, holding that plaintiff had exhausted administrative remedies simply because no such remedies remained available to him. Ngo v. Woodford, 403 F.3d 620 (9th Cir. 2005). Defendants' petition for certiorari was granted.

The U.S. Supreme Court (Justice Samuel Alito) reversed and remanded the case, holding that the PLRA exhaustion requirement required proper exhaustion and that plaintiff's filing an untimely or otherwise procedurally defective administrative grievance did not satisfy the exhaustion requirement. Woodford v. Ngo, 126 S.Ct. 2378 (2006).

Dan Dalton - 10/16/2007

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Issues and Causes of Action
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Affected Gender
Constitutional Clause
Free Exercise Clause
Freedom of speech/association
Disciplinary procedures
Grievance Procedures
Religious programs / policies
Plaintiff Type
Private Plaintiff
Type of Facility
Causes of Action 42 U.S.C. § 1983
Defendant(s) California Department of Corrections
Plaintiff Description California state prisoner challenging restrictions on his participation in special programs.
Indexed Lawyer Organizations ACLU National (all projects)
Class action status sought No
Class action status granted No
Filed Pro Se Yes
Prevailing Party Defendant
Public Int. Lawyer No
Nature of Relief None yet
Source of Relief None yet
Filing Year 2001
Case Ongoing Yes
Additional Resources
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  The Oyez Project, Woodford v. Ngo, 548 U.S. ___ (2006).
Date: Jun. 22, 2006
By: Oyez Project (IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law)
[ Detail ] [ External Link ]

  Civil Rights Injunctions Over Time: A Case Study of Jail and Prison Court Orders
N.Y.U. Law Review
Date: May 2006
By: Margo Schlanger (Washington University Faculty)
Citation: 81 N.Y.U. L. Rev. 550 (2006)
[ Detail ] [ PDF ] [ External Link ]

  Judicial Policy Making and the Modern State: How the Courts Reformed America's Prisons
Date: Jan. 1, 1998
By: Malcolm M. Feeley & Edward Rubin (UC Berkeley Boalt Hall School of Law & Vanderbilt School of Law Faculty Faculty)
Citation: (1998)
[ Detail ]

05-416 (U.S. Supreme Court)
PC-CA-0039-9002.pdf | Detail
Date: 08/01/2006
Source: Supreme Court website
03-16042 (U.S. Court of Appeals)
PC-CA-0039-9001.pdf | Detail
Date: 09/12/2008
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
5:01-cv-20674-JF (N.D. Cal.)
PC-CA-0039-9000.pdf | Detail
Date: 02/06/2009
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
Appellate Opinion (Ninth Circuit) (403 F.3d 620)
PC-CA-0039-0011.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 03/24/2005
Source: Google Scholar
Petition for a Writ of Certiorari Granted (546 U.S. 1015)
PC-CA-0039-0013.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 11/14/2005
Source: Westlaw
Brief for Petitioners
PC-CA-0039-0001.pdf | Detail
Date: 12/29/2005
Brief of the States of New York, Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Delaware, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, et al. as Amici Curiae in Support of the Petitioners
PC-CA-0039-0010.pdf | Detail
Date: 12/29/2005
Brief for the United States as Amicus Curiae Supporting Petitioners
PC-CA-0039-0004.pdf | Detail
Date: 02/01/2006
Brief for Amici Curiae Law Professors in Support of Respondent
PC-CA-0039-0005.pdf | Detail
Date: 02/01/2006
Brief of the American Bar Association as Amicus Curiae in Support of Respondent
PC-CA-0039-0007.pdf | Detail
Date: 02/01/2006
Brief for Respondent Viet Mike Ngo
PC-CA-0039-0002.pdf | Detail
Date: 02/02/2006
Brief for the Jerome N. Frank Legal Services Organization of the Yale Law School as Amicus Curiae in Support of Respondent
PC-CA-0039-0006.pdf | Detail
Date: 02/02/2006
Brief of the ACLU, ACLU of Northern California, Legal Aid Society of the City of New York, Ohio Justice and Policy Center, Prison Law Office, Prisoners' Legal Services of New York, and the Uptown People's Law Center as Amici Curiae
PC-CA-0039-0008.pdf | Detail
Date: 02/02/2006
Order: Leave to Participate in Oral Argument Granted (546 U.S. 1167)
PC-CA-0039-0012.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 02/21/2006
Reply Brief for Petitioners
PC-CA-0039-0003.pdf | Detail
Date: 03/09/2006
Oral Argument Before the U.S. Supreme Court
PC-CA-0039-0009.pdf | Detail
Date: 03/22/2006
Supreme Court Opinion (548 U.S. 81)
PC-CA-0039-0014.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 06/22/2006
Source: Westlaw
Judges Alito, Samuel A. Jr. (Third Circuit, SCOTUS)
Breyer, Stephen Gerald (First Circuit, SCOTUS)
Fogel, Jeremy D. (N.D. Cal.)
Ginsburg, Ruth Bader (SCOTUS, D.C. Circuit)
Kennedy, Anthony McLeod (Ninth Circuit, SCOTUS)
Kozinski, Alex (Ninth Circuit)
Pregerson, Harry (C.D. Cal., Ninth Circuit)
Rhoades, John Skylstead Sr. (S.D. Cal.)
Roberts, John Glover Jr. (D.C. Circuit, SCOTUS)
Scalia, Antonin (D.C. Circuit, SCOTUS)
Souter, David Hackett (First Circuit, SCOTUS)
Stevens, John Paul (Seventh Circuit, SCOTUS)
Thomas, Clarence (D.C. Circuit, SCOTUS)
Plaintiff's Lawyers Ayer, Donald B. (District of Columbia)
PC-CA-0039-0002 | PC-CA-0039-0014
Bushman, Kate (New York)
PC-CA-0039-0002 | PC-CA-0039-0014
Davis, Thomas J. (District of Columbia)
PC-CA-0039-0002 | PC-CA-0039-0014
Feder, Meir (District of Columbia)
PC-CA-0039-0002 | PC-CA-0039-0009 | PC-CA-0039-0011 | PC-CA-0039-0014 | PC-CA-0039-9000 | PC-CA-0039-9001 | PC-CA-0039-9002
Morse, Charles R. A. (New York)
PC-CA-0039-0002 | PC-CA-0039-0014
Defendant's Lawyers Grunder, Frances T. (California)
PC-CA-0039-0001 | PC-CA-0039-0003 | PC-CA-0039-0014
Humes, James M. (California)
PC-CA-0039-0001 | PC-CA-0039-0003 | PC-CA-0039-0014
Lockyer, Bill (California)
PC-CA-0039-0001 | PC-CA-0039-0003 | PC-CA-0039-0014
Madeiros, Manuel M. (California)
PC-CA-0039-0001 | PC-CA-0039-0003 | PC-CA-0039-0014
Patterson, Thomas S. (California)
PC-CA-0039-0001 | PC-CA-0039-0003 | PC-CA-0039-0014
Perkell, Jennifer G. (California)
PC-CA-0039-0001 | PC-CA-0039-0003 | PC-CA-0039-0009 | PC-CA-0039-0011 | PC-CA-0039-0014 | PC-CA-0039-9000 | PC-CA-0039-9001 | PC-CA-0039-9002
Roost, Kenneth (California)
Other Lawyers Alexander, Elizabeth R. (District of Columbia)
Banks, Steven (New York)
Clement, Paul D. (District of Columbia)
PC-CA-0039-0004 | PC-CA-0039-9002
Dearing, Richard (New York)
Easton, Robert H. (New York)
Fathi, David Cyrus (District of Columbia)
Garre, Gregory G. (District of Columbia)
Greco, Michael S. (Illinois)
PC-CA-0039-0007 | PC-CA-0039-9002
Halligan, Caitlin J. (New York)
PC-CA-0039-0010 | PC-CA-0039-9002
Herwig, Barbara L. (District of Columbia)
Himmelfarb, Dan (District of Columbia)
PC-CA-0039-0004 | PC-CA-0039-0009 | PC-CA-0039-0014 | PC-CA-0039-9002
Keisler, Peter D. (District of Columbia)
Lidsky, Isaac J. (District of Columbia)
Roosevelt, Kermit (Pennsylvania)
PC-CA-0039-0005 | PC-CA-0039-9002
Schlanger, Margo (Missouri)
PC-CA-0039-0008 | PC-CA-0039-9002
Shapiro, Steven R. (New York)
Shay, Giovanna (District of Columbia)
PC-CA-0039-0006 | PC-CA-0039-9002
Spitzer, Eliot (New York)

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