February 22, 2010

Federal Court Holds That Complaint to FBI Ombuds Does Not Satisfy Prisoner's Exhaustion Requirement

Last week, a Federal trial court in California ruled that a prisoner cannot satisfy a requirement to exhaust administrative remedies by sending a letter to the Federal Bureau of Investigation Ombudsman. The plaintiff in the case, Christopher S. Rider, complained that California prison officials violated his civil rights while in custody. In order to satisfy the legal requirement that he had previously sought and exhausted all forms of informal or formal relief from the proper administrative officials, Rider alleged that he had written to the FBI Ombudsman asking for an investigation of the defendants' alleged conduct. A Magistrate Judge for the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California rejected Rider's argument:
[S]ending a letter to an internal affairs department or to an FBI ombudsman does not satisfy the exhaustion requirement. As noted above, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation has an established administrative grievance system and a prescribed grievance process that plaintiff must complete prior to bringing a [Civil Rights Act] § 1983 action on his claims. (Rider v. Goldy, 2010 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 12360 (E.D. Cal. Feb. 11, 2010), *4 [subscription required].)

The decision on this issue is reassuringly predictable because the FBI Ombudsman deals only with work-related concerns of FBI employees and has no connection to prisoners, especially those in state custody. However, as the decision of a trial court, this case creates no legal precedent. (Office of Personnel Management, ADR Resource Guide.)

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