Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Minter v. Bartruff

United States Court of Appeals, Eighth Circuit

September 19, 2019

Rodney Minter; Anthony Bertolone Plaintiffs-Appellants
v.
Jerry Bartruff, in his official capacity as Director of the IDOC, et al. Defendants-Appellees

          Submitted: June 12, 2019

          Appeal from United States District Court for the Southern District of Iowa - Des Moines

          Before LOKEN, KELLY, and ERICKSON, Circuit Judges.

          LOKEN, CIRCUIT JUDGE.

         Iowa inmates Rodney Minter and Anthony Bertolone brought this § 1983 action against the Iowa Department of Corrections ("IDOC") and four IDOC officials acting in their official capacities, alleging that IDOC's administration of its Sex Offender Treatment Program violates their constitutional rights to equal protection, due process, and necessary medical care. The district court dismissed these federal claims without prejudice for failure to exhaust administrative remedies, as 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(a) requires, and as barred by Heck v. Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477 (1994). The court declined to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over Plaintiffs' state law claims and dismissed the entire action. Minter and Bertolone appeal. Reviewing the dismissal of their federal claims under Rule 12(b)(6) de novo, we reverse in part and remand. See Martin v. Iowa, 752 F.3d 725, 727 (8th Cir. 2014) (standard of review).

         I. Background.

         Minter and Bertolone were convicted of Iowa sexual abuse offenses in 2012 and 2013. Each was sentenced to serve a lengthy prison term. Their Complaint alleges: (i) they are required to complete Iowa's Sex Offender Treatment Program ("SOTP"), a six to eighteen month program; (ii) satisfactory completion of the SOTP program reduces an inmate's sentence by accruing earned-time credits that shorten his date of discharge; (iii) IDOC offers the SOTP program only at a single, overcrowded correctional facility; and (iv) plaintiffs are unable to participate in the program because of its limited capacity, which under Iowa Code § 903A.2(2) prevents any reduction of their sentences. They allege that exclusion from the SOTP program deprives them of their Fourteenth Amendment procedural and substantive due process liberty rights and to equal protection of the law, and their Eighth Amendment right to necessary psychological or psychiatric medical care. The Complaint seeks actual and punitive damages, attorneys' fees, and entry of a lengthy order that would mandate the recalculation of earned-time credits and effectively require the district court to micro-manage the IDOC's SOTP program.

         The district court granted Defendants' motion to dismiss without prejudice on two grounds. First, the court ruled that Plaintiffs failed to exhaust administrative remedies before bringing suit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, as 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(a) requires. Second, the court ruled that "success on their claims would necessarily implicate the invalidity of their lost earned-time credits," and therefore the suit was Heck-barred. Plaintiffs appeal, arguing Defendants have not met their burden to establish the affirmative defense of failure to exhaust, and their suit is not precluded under Heck. We agree with the first contention and, in part, with the second.

         II. Failure to Exhaust Administrative Remedies.

         We are once again called upon to interpret 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(a), part of the Prison Litigation Reform Act of 1995 ("PLRA"):

No action shall be brought with respect to prison conditions under section 1983 of this title, or any other Federal law, by a prisoner confined in any . . . correctional facility until such administrative remedies as are available are exhausted.

         In Belk v. State, the Supreme Court of Iowa held that an inmate may file an action for state post-conviction relief under Iowa Code § 822.2(1)(e) "when alleging an unconstitutional denial of his or her liberty interest based on the IDOC's failure to offer SOTP when SOTP is a necessary prerequisite to parole." 905 N.W.2d 185, 191 (Iowa 2017). The district court concluded that the federal claims must be dismissed without prejudice under 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(a) because "plaintiffs have not exhausted their available postconviction remedies" under Belk. We disagree.

         The district court's conclusion that state post-conviction judicial remedies are "administrative remedies" that must be exhausted under § 1997e(a) is contrary to the plain meaning of the statute. The term "administrative remedies" is not defined in the PLRA so we look to its plain meaning. Consistent with common understanding, Black's Law Dictionary defines "administrative remedy" as "[a] nonjudicial remedy provided by an administrative agency." Black's Law Dictionary 1320 (8th ed. 2004). In Iowa, as elsewhere, "[a] postconviction proceeding is a civil action." Belk, 905 N.W.2d at 188. Defendants cite no case holding that post-conviction judicial remedies are "administrative remedies" that must be exhausted under § 1997e(a). We have not found an opinion that even addresses the question.

         Moreover, requiring exhaustion of state judicial remedies under § 1997e(a) would modify the well-established principle that exhaustion of state remedies "is not a prerequisite to an action under § 1983," even an action by a state prisoner. Patsy v. Bd. of Regents of Fla., 457 U.S. 496, 501, 507 (1982) (emphasis added). This likely explains why Congress chose to limit ยง 1997e(a) exhaustion to "administrative remedies." As the ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.