and Submitted May 17, 2017 San Francisco, California
from the United States District Court for the Northern
District of California Charles R. Breyer, Senior District
Judge, Presiding D.C. No. 3:12-cv-02516-CRB
Gregory S. Bok (argued), Carolyn S. Small, Jessica R.
Culpepper, Daniel R. Adler, and Blaine H. Evanson, Gibson
Dunn & Crutcher LLP, Los Angeles, California, for
A. Bower (argued), Deputy Attorney General; Thomas S.
Patterson, Supervising Deputy Attorney General; Jonathan L.
Wolff, Senior Assistant Attorney General; Office of the
Attorney General, San Francisco, California, for
Before: Sidney R. Thomas, Chief Judge, Mary H. Murguia,
Circuit Judge, and Jon P. McCalla, [*] District Judge.
panel reversed the district court's summary judgment
dismissal of a prisoner's action under 42 U.S.C. §
1983, and remanded for further proceedings.
filed his lawsuit while a prisoner at San Quentin State
Prison in California. After his release, he amended his
complaint with leave of court. The district court then
granted summary judgment to the defendants based on
plaintiff's failure to exhaust his administrative
remedies as a "prisoner" under the Prison
Litigation Reform Act of 1995, 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(a).
panel held that a plaintiff who was in custody at the time he
initiated his suit but was released from custody when he
filed his amended operative complaint is not a
"prisoner" subject to a Prison Litigation Reform
Act's exhaustion defense. Accordingly, in this case
plaintiff was not a prisoner when he filed his operative
third amended complaint, and the district court erred in
granting summary judgment to defendants.
in the judgment, Judge McCalla stated that the district court
improperly determined that plaintiff had not exhausted his
claims, not because the Prison Litigation Reform Act was
inapplicable to his post-release third amended complaint, but
because plaintiff's failure to exhaust was excusable
under § 1997e(a). Judge McCalla would find that
plaintiff exhausted his available administrative remedies
when the California Department of Corrections and
Rehabilitation closed his still-pending appeal due to his
MURGUIA, CIRCUIT JUDGE.
appeal arises from a prison's alleged indifference to an
inmate's medical needs. The plaintiff, Charles
"Charlie" Jackson, first filed suit while a
prisoner at San Quentin State Prison in California. After his
release, Jackson amended his complaint with leave of court.
The district court then granted summary judgment to the
defendants based on Jackson's failure to exhaust his
administrative remedies as a "prisoner" under the
Prison Litigation Reform Act of 1995 (PLRA), 42 U.S.C. §
1997e(a). The question on appeal is whether Jackson is
subject to the PLRA's exhaustion requirement because he
initiated his suit when he was a prisoner, or if instead
Jackson is not subject to the exhaustion requirement because
he filed the operative complaint after his release from
custody. We hold that a plaintiff who was in custody at the
time he initiated his suit but was free when he filed his
amended operative complaint is not a "prisoner"
subject to a PLRA exhaustion defense. We therefore reverse
2010, Jackson became a prisoner at San Quentin State Prison
(San Quentin) in San Quentin, California. He was serving a
term for second-degree burglary. On June 11, 2012, while
still incarcerated in San Quentin, Jackson filed a pro se
prisoner complaint in federal district court challenging the
conditions of his confinement under 42 U.S.C. § 1983.
Unless otherwise stated, the following facts assume the truth
of the allegations in Jackson's operative third amended
complaint, construed liberally.
2010, suffering from mental health problems, Jackson met with a
series of prison doctors (the Doctors). On June 15, he met
with Dr. R. Fong, who told Jackson that he did not qualify
for the prison's mental health program. On June 24,
Jackson sent a health services request. Responding to that
request on June 30, Dr. K. Freiha also met with Jackson and
denied his request for treatment, stating that Jackson could
not "dictate the program and would not be provided
August 27, 2010, Jackson met with Dr. P. Burton, and
requested administrative segregation (solitary confinement)
to help address his mental health issues. After Burton denied
his request, Jackson threatened violence unless prison
officials placed him in solitary confinement. Subsequently,
prison officials placed Jackson in solitary confinement from
August 27, 2010 to November 5, 2011. During that time,
Jackson's physical and mental health "deteriorated
significantly." He "would often miss numerous
medical appointments and classification hearings . . .
because he could not leave his cell [due] to severe social
phobia, panic attacks, and depression." He lost
good-time credits and spent "unnecessary time in
prison" because of his time in solitary confinement.
California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation
(CDCR) has an administrative review process with
well-established procedures and three levels of review.
On-site staff process health care appeals at the first and
second level. Third level appeals go to staff in the Inmate
Correspondence and Appeals Branch within the headquarters of
the California Correctional Health Care Services.
March 2012, Jackson filed an inmate health care appeal for
review of the Doctors' decisions and their alleged denial
of mental health treatment. San Quentin's Health Care
Appeals Office dismissed Jackson's appeal as untimely.
Jackson concedes his administrative appeal was untimely.
then submitted an appeal-effectively to the second level of
review-arguing that officials should excuse his untimeliness
in light of the mental health issues he had experienced. The
Health Care Appeals Office received the ...