E, Exhaustion of Remedies
Edited By: Kermit L. Hall, James W. Ely Jr., Joel B. Grossman
Edited By: Kermit L. Hall
is a judicially created doctrine that often requires a litigant to seek relief elsewhere before bringing an action in federal court. A state prisoner, for example, normally may not obtain federal *habeas corpus without exhausting state remedies. Similarly, a federal court will frequently deny judicial relief if the plaintiff has not exhausted available administrative remedies.
The Court recognized the habeas corpus version of the doctrine in Ex parte Royall (1886); in 1948 Congress codified it in section 2254(b) of the Judicial Code. Since then, the Court has focused on such issues as how a prisoner satisfies the exhaustion requirement, which claims must be presented to *state courts, and whether a state may waive the requirement.
The leading case in the administrative context is Myers v. Bethlehem Shipbuilding Corp. (1938), where the Court imposed an unqualified exhaustion requirement. The Court has nevertheless recognized many exceptions. In Patsy v. Board of Regents (1982), for example, the Court held that the requirement does not apply in federal *civil rights actions. In Mathews v. Eldridge (1976), the Court held that the plaintiffs need not exhaust a remedy that they challenged as inadequate. Indeed, there are so many exceptions, and the cases are so difficult to reconcile, that exhaustion of administrative remedies is a confusing maze for even the most sophisticated observer.
In habeas corpus cases, the Court has explained that the exhaustion of remedies doctrine is based on notions of *comity, and the concerns are similar to those faced in *abstention doctrine cases. In administrative cases, the doctrine is closely related to the doctrines of finality and *ripeness.
Michael F. Sturley