University of Michigan Law School
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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
Case Summary
On July 18, 2001, a California state inmate housed at San Quentin filed a § 1983 action in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California that challenged restrictions placed on his participation in special prison programs, including religious programs. The restrictions followed a ... read more >
On July 18, 2001, a California state inmate housed at San Quentin filed a § 1983 action in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California that challenged restrictions placed on his participation in special prison programs, including religious programs. The restrictions followed a period of administrative segregation for allegedly engaging in "inappropriate activity" in the prison chapel. The plaintiff initially filed a grievance with California prison officials, but it was rejected as untimely under state law, as it was filed eight months after the restrictions were placed into effect. His federal court suit followed. The 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 defendants filed to dismiss the case on January 27, 2003. On May 5, the district court granted dismissal of the case for failure to exhaust all administrative remedies as required by the Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA) 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(a). The plaintiff appealed.

On March 24, 2005, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed (Judges Pregerson, Kozinski, and Rhoades). The court held that the plaintiff had exhausted administrative remedies simply because no remedies remained available to him. Ngo v. Woodford, 403 F.3d 620 (9th Cir. 2005). The defendant's petition for rehearing en banc was denied. But, the defendants' filed a petition for certiorari to the Supreme Court, which was granted in November 2005.

The U.S. Supreme Court (Justice Samuel Alito) reversed and remanded the case to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, 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. Mere unavailability of remedies is insufficient to exhaust under the PLRA. Woodford v. Ngo, 126 S.Ct. 2378 (2006).

On remand, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals (Judges Pregerson, Kozinski, and Bybee) held that, because the plaintiff did not appeal his restriction within the fifteen-day statute of limitations, he had not exhausted the administrative remedies available to him. As a result, the plaintiff could not sue in federal court. The Ninth Circuit also rejected the plaintiff's argument that fifteen days did not provide him with a meaningful opportunity to to exhaust his administrative remedies, stating that, even if they were to "double or triple the 15-day period, [the plaintiff] would still come nowhere close to meeting the deadline."

The case is now closed.

Dan Dalton - 10/16/2007
Cianan Lesley - 02/25/2019


compress summary

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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
Constitutional Clause
Free Exercise Clause
Freedom of speech/association
Defendant-type
Corrections
General
Administrative segregation
Disciplinary procedures
Grievance Procedures
Rehabilitation
Religious programs / policies
Plaintiff Type
Private Plaintiff
Type of Facility
Government-run
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.
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
Source of Relief None
Filing Year 2001
Case Closing Year 2008
Case Ongoing No
Additional Resources
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  The Oyez Project, Woodford v. Ngo, 548 U.S. ___ (2006).
www.oyez.org
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
Book
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 ]

Docket(s)
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
Opinion [ECF# 35] (539 F.3d 1108) (N.D. Cal.)
PC-CA-0039-0015.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 09/12/2008
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
show all people docs
Judges Alito, Samuel A. Jr. (Third Circuit, SCOTUS) show/hide docs
PC-CA-0039-0014
Breyer, Stephen Gerald (First Circuit, SCOTUS) show/hide docs
PC-CA-0039-0014
Bybee, Jay S Court not on record show/hide docs
PC-CA-0039-0015
Fogel, Jeremy D. (N.D. Cal.) show/hide docs
PC-CA-0039-9000
Ginsburg, Ruth Bader (D.C. Circuit, SCOTUS) show/hide docs
PC-CA-0039-0014
Kennedy, Anthony McLeod (Ninth Circuit, SCOTUS) show/hide docs
PC-CA-0039-0014
Kozinski, Alex (Ninth Circuit) show/hide docs
PC-CA-0039-0011 | PC-CA-0039-0015
Pregerson, Harry (C.D. Cal., Ninth Circuit) show/hide docs
PC-CA-0039-0011 | PC-CA-0039-0015
Rhoades, John Skylstead Sr. (S.D. Cal.) show/hide docs
PC-CA-0039-0011
Roberts, John Glover Jr. (D.C. Circuit, SCOTUS) show/hide docs
PC-CA-0039-0014
Scalia, Antonin (D.C. Circuit, SCOTUS) show/hide docs
PC-CA-0039-0014
Souter, David Hackett (First Circuit, SCOTUS) show/hide docs
PC-CA-0039-0014
Stevens, John Paul (Seventh Circuit, SCOTUS) show/hide docs
PC-CA-0039-0014
Thomas, Clarence (D.C. Circuit, SCOTUS) show/hide docs
PC-CA-0039-0014
Plaintiff's Lawyers Ayer, Donald B. (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
PC-CA-0039-0002 | PC-CA-0039-0014
Bushman, Kate (New York) show/hide docs
PC-CA-0039-0002 | PC-CA-0039-0014
Davis, Thomas J. (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
PC-CA-0039-0002 | PC-CA-0039-0014
Feder, Meir (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
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) show/hide docs
PC-CA-0039-0002 | PC-CA-0039-0014
Defendant's Lawyers Grunder, Frances T. (California) show/hide docs
PC-CA-0039-0001 | PC-CA-0039-0003 | PC-CA-0039-0014
Humes, James M. (California) show/hide docs
PC-CA-0039-0001 | PC-CA-0039-0003 | PC-CA-0039-0014
Lockyer, Bill (California) show/hide docs
PC-CA-0039-0001 | PC-CA-0039-0003 | PC-CA-0039-0014
Madeiros, Manuel M. (California) show/hide docs
PC-CA-0039-0001 | PC-CA-0039-0003 | PC-CA-0039-0014
Patterson, Thomas S. (California) show/hide docs
PC-CA-0039-0001 | PC-CA-0039-0003 | PC-CA-0039-0014
Perkell, Jennifer G. (California) show/hide docs
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) show/hide docs
PC-CA-0039-9001
Other Lawyers Alexander, Elizabeth R. (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
PC-CA-0039-0008
Banks, Steven (New York) show/hide docs
PC-CA-0039-0008
Clement, Paul D. (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
PC-CA-0039-0004 | PC-CA-0039-9002
Dearing, Richard (New York) show/hide docs
PC-CA-0039-0010
Easton, Robert H. (New York) show/hide docs
PC-CA-0039-0010
Fathi, David Cyrus (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
PC-CA-0039-0008
Garre, Gregory G. (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
PC-CA-0039-0004
Greco, Michael S. (Illinois) show/hide docs
PC-CA-0039-0007 | PC-CA-0039-9002
Halligan, Caitlin J. (New York) show/hide docs
PC-CA-0039-0010 | PC-CA-0039-9002
Herwig, Barbara L. (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
PC-CA-0039-0004
Himmelfarb, Dan (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
PC-CA-0039-0004 | PC-CA-0039-0009 | PC-CA-0039-0014 | PC-CA-0039-9002
Keisler, Peter D. (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
PC-CA-0039-0004
Lidsky, Isaac J. (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
PC-CA-0039-0004
Roosevelt, Kermit (Pennsylvania) show/hide docs
PC-CA-0039-0005 | PC-CA-0039-9002
Schlanger, Margo (Missouri) show/hide docs
PC-CA-0039-0008 | PC-CA-0039-9002
Shapiro, Steven R. (New York) show/hide docs
PC-CA-0039-0008
Shay, Giovanna (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
PC-CA-0039-0006 | PC-CA-0039-9002
Spitzer, Eliot (New York) show/hide docs
PC-CA-0039-0010

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