McCarthy v. Madigan

RESPONDENT:Madigan et al.
LOCATION:Dougherty Superior Court

DOCKET NO.: 90-6861
DECIDED BY: Rehnquist Court (1991-1993)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit

CITATION: 503 US 140 (1992)
ARGUED: Dec 09, 1991
DECIDED: Mar 04, 1992

Maureen E. Mahoney – on behalf of the Respondents
Paul M. Smith – on behalf of the Petitioner

Facts of the case


Media for McCarthy v. Madigan

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument – December 09, 1991 in McCarthy v. Madigan

Audio Transcription for Opinion Announcement – March 04, 1992 in McCarthy v. Madigan

William H. Rehnquist:

The opinion of the Court in No. 90-6861, Mccarthy against Madigan will be announced by Justice Blackmun.

Harry A. Blackmun:

This case comes to us from the Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit.

Petitioner, Mccarthy, when he was a federal prisoner sued the respondent, prison officials, for damages for alleged violations of his Eighth Amendment rights due, it was said, to deliberate indifference to his needs in medical condition resulting from a back operation and psychiatric problems.

And this was a case of the kind represented by what we call the Bivens decision here a few years ago.

The District Court dismissed the compliant on the ground that petitioner had failed to exhaust his administrative remedies provided by the Bureau of Prisons, and that included rapid filing and response time tables with no provision for a hearing on the granting of any particular type of relief.

Petitioner further argued that the exhaustion was not required because he sought only money damages which the Bureau could not provide anyway.

The Court of Appeals affirmed.

In an opinion filed with the Clerk today, we reverse that judgment.

We hold that exhaustion of the Bureau’s administrative procedures not required before a federal prisoner can initiate a Bivens action solely for money damages.

Federal Courts must exercise sound judicial discretion in these circumstances by balancing the plaintiff’s interest in prompt access to a federal judicial forum against institutional interest favoring exhaustion.

Here, Congress does not require exhaustion and Mccarthy’s individual interest outweigh the institutional interest.

The Chief Justice has filed a separate opinion concurring in the judgment and is joined therein by Justice Scalia and Justice Thomas.