MR. JUSTICE STEWART delivered the opinion of the Court.
The respondents in this case were state prisoners who were deprived of good-conduct-time credits by the New York State Department of Correctional Services as a result of disciplinary proceedings. They then brought actions in a federal district court, pursuant to the Civil Rights Act of 1871, 42 U. S. C. § 1983. Alleging that the Department had acted unconstitutionally in depriving them of the credits, they sought injunctive relief to compel restoration of the credits, which in each case would result in their immediate release from confinement in
The question is of considerable practical importance. For if a remedy under the Civil Rights Act is available, a plaintiff need not first seek redress in a state forum. Monroe v. Pape, 365 U.S. 167, 183 (1961); McNeese v. Board of Education, 373 U.S. 668, 671 (1963); Damico v. California, 389 U.S. 416 (1967); King v. Smith, 392 U.S. 309, 312 n. 4 (1968); Houghton v. Shafer, 392 U.S. 639 (1968). If, on the other hand, habeas corpus is the exclusive federal remedy in these circumstances, then a plaintiff cannot seek the intervention of a federal court until he has first sought and been denied relief in the state courts, if a state remedy is available and adequate. 28 U. S. C. § 2254(b).
The present consolidated case originated in three separate actions, brought individually by the three respondents. The respondent Rodriguez, having been convicted in a New York state court of perjury and attempted larceny, was sentenced to imprisonment for an indeterminate term of from one and one-half to four years. Under New York Correction Law § 803 and Penal Law §§ 70.30 (4) (a), 70.40 (1) (b), a prisoner serving an indeterminate sentence may elect to participate in a conditional-release program by which he may earn up to 10 days per month good-behavior-time credit toward reduction of the maximum term of his sentence. Rodriguez elected to participate in this program. Optimally, such a prisoner may be released on parole after having served approximately two-thirds of his maximum sentence (20 days out of every 30); but accrued good-behavior credits so earned may at any time be withdrawn, in whole
Rodriguez was charged in two separate disciplinary action reports with possession of contraband material in his cell. The deputy warden determined that as punishment, 120 days of Rodriguez' earned good-conduct-time credits should be canceled, and that Rodriguez should be placed in segregation, where he remained for more than 40 days. In the "Remarks" section of the deputy warden's determination was a statement that Rodriguez had refused to disclose how he had managed to obtain possession of the items in question.
Rodriguez then filed in the District Court a complaint pursuant to § 1983, combined with a petition for a writ of habeas corpus. He asserted that he was not really being punished for possession of the contraband material, but for refusal to disclose how he had obtained it, and that he had received no notice or hearing on the charges for which he had ostensibly been punished. Thus, he contended that he had been deprived of his good-conduct-time credits without due process of law.
After a hearing, the District Court held that Rodriguez' suit had properly been brought under the Civil Rights Act, that the habeas corpus claim was "merely a proper adjunct to insure full relief if [Rodriguez] prevails in the dominant civil rights claim," 307 F.Supp. 627, 628-629 (1969), and that therefore Rodriguez was not required to exhaust his state remedies, as he would have had to do if he had simply filed a petition for habeas corpus. On the merits, the District Court agreed with Rodriguez that the questioning of him by prison officials related solely to the issue of how he had obtained the contraband materials, and that he had been ostensibly punished for something different—possession of the materials —on which he had had no notice or opportunity to answer. This, the court found, denied him due process
The Court of Appeals reversed this decision by a divided vote. The appellate court not only disagreed with the District Court on the merits, but also held that Rodriguez' action was really a petition for habeas corpus and, as such, should not have been entertained by the District Court because Rodriguez had not exhausted his state remedies in accordance with § 2254 (b). As the Court of Appeals put it:
The respondent Katzoff, who was serving a sentence of one to three years in prison following his conviction for possession of a dangerous weapon, also elected to participate in New York's conditional-release program. Disciplinary charges were brought against him for making derogatory comments about prison officials in his diary. As punishment, the deputy warden deprived him of 30 days' good-conduct time for these diary entries and confined him in segregation for 57 days. Katzoff ultimately lost 50 days' good-behavior-time credits—30 days directly and 20 additional days because he was unable to earn any good-conduct time while in segregation. He brought a civil rights complaint under § 1983, joined with a petition for habeas corpus, in Federal District Court, alleging that the prison officials had acted unconstitutionally.
The District Court held, in an unreported opinion, that Katzoff's failure to exhaust state remedies was no bar to his suit, since it was a civil rights action and the petition for a writ of habeas corpus was only an incidental adjunct to assure enforcement of the judgment. On the merits, the District Court found that there was no prison regulation against the keeping of a diary; that punishment for entries in a private diary violated Katzoff's constitutional rights to due process, equal protection, and freedom of thought; and that confining Katzoff in segregation for this offense constituted cruel and unusual punishment. The court, therefore, ordered that the 50 days' good-behavior-time credits be restored to Katzoff, and since this restoration entitled him to immediate release on parole, the court ordered such release.
The Court of Appeals reversed by a divided vote. Without reaching the merits of Katzoff's complaint, the appellate court held that his action was in essence an
The respondent Kritsky's case is similar. While serving a prison sentence of 15 to 18 years under a state court conviction for armed robbery, he was charged by prison officials with being a leader in a prison-wide protest demonstration and with advocating insurrection during that demonstration. When brought before the warden and asked how he would plead, Kritsky stated "Not guilty." The warden then immediately and summarily imposed punishment on him—deprivation of 545 days' good-conduct-time credits, and confinement in segregation for four and one-half months, where he lost another 45 days' good time.
Kritsky subsequently filed a civil rights action, combined with a petition for habeas corpus, in Federal District Court, alleging that his summary punishment had deprived him of his good-time credits without due process of law. The District Court found Kritsky's complaint to be a proper civil rights action, and went on to rule that he had been denied due process by the imposition of summary punishment and by the failure of the Prison Commutation Board to file with the Commissioner written reasons for cancellation of Kritsky's good-time credits, as required by New York law. 313 F.Supp. 1247 (1970). Accordingly, the court ordered restoration of the 590 days' good-conduct-time credits, which entitled Kritsky to immediate release on parole.
We granted certiorari sub nom. Oswald v. Rodriguez, 407 U.S. 919, in order to consider the bearing of the Wilwording decision upon the situation before us—where state prisoners have challenged the actual duration of their confinement on the ground that they have been unconstitutionally deprived of good-conduct-time credits, and where restoration of those credits would result in their immediate release from prison or in shortening the length of their confinement. In that context, the question whether a state prisoner may bring an action for equitable relief pursuant to § 1983, or whether he is limited to the specific remedy of habeas corpus, presents an unresolved and important problem in the administration of federal justice.
The problem involves the interrelationship of two important federal laws. The relevant habeas corpus statutes are 28 U. S. C. §§ 2241 and 2254. Section 2241 (c)
The Civil Rights Act, 42 U. S. C. § 1983, provides:
It is clear, not only from the language of §§ 2241 (c) (3) and 2254 (a), but also from the common-law history of the writ, that the essence of habeas corpus is an attack by a person in custody upon the legality of that custody, and that the traditional function of the writ is to secure release from illegal custody. By the end of the 16th century, there were in England several forms of habeas corpus, of which the most important and the only one with which we are here concerned was habeas corpus ad subjiciendum—the writ used to "inquir[e] into illegal detention with a view to an order releasing the petitioner." Fay v. Noia, 372 U.S. 391, 399 n. 5 (1963).
By the time the American Colonies achieved independence, the use of habeas corpus to secure release from unlawful physical confinement, whether judicially imposed or not, was thus an integral part of our commonlaw heritage. The writ was given explicit recognition in the Suspension Clause of the Constitution, Art. I, § 9, cl. 2;
The original view of a habeas corpus attack upon detention under a judicial order was a limited one. The relevant inquiry was confined to determining simply whether or not the committing court had been possessed of jurisdiction. E. g., Ex parte Kearney, 7 Wheat. 38 (1822); Ex parte Watkins, 3 Pet. 193 (1830). But, over the years, the writ of habeas corpus evolved as a remedy available to effect discharge from any confinement contrary to the Constitution or fundamental law, even though imposed pursuant to conviction by a court of competent jurisdiction. See Ex parte Lange, 18 Wall. 163 (1874); Ex parte Siebold, 100 U.S. 371 (1880); Ex parte Wilson, 114 U.S. 417 (1885); Moore v. Dempsey, 261 U.S. 86 (1923); Johnson v. Zerbst, 304 U.S. 458
Even if the restoration of the respondents' credits would not have resulted in their immediate release, but only in shortening the length of their actual confinement in prison, habeas corpus would have been their appropriate remedy. For recent cases have established that habeas corpus relief is not limited to immediate release from illegal custody, but that the writ is available as well to attack future confinement and obtain future releases. In Peyton v. Rowe, 391 U.S. 54 (1968), the Court held that a prisoner may attack on habeas the second of two consecutive sentences while still serving the first. The Court pointed out that the federal habeas corpus statute "does not deny the federal courts power to fashion appropriate relief other than immediate release. Since 1874, the habeas corpus statute has directed the courts to determine the facts and dispose of the case summarily, `as law and justice require.' Rev. Stat. § 761 (1874), superseded by 28 U. S. C. § 2243." Id., at 66-67. See also Walker v. Wainwright, 390 U.S. 335 (1968); Carafas v. LaVallee, 391 U.S. 234, 239 (1968); Braden v. 30th Judicial Circuit Court of Kentucky, 410 U.S. 484 (1973). So, even if restoration of respondents' good-time credits had merely shortened the length of their confinement, rather than required immediate discharge from that confinement, their suits would still have been within the core of habeas corpus in attacking the very duration of their physical
Although conceding that they could have proceeded by way of habeas corpus, the respondents argue that the Court of Appeals was correct in holding that they were nonetheless entitled to bring their suits under § 1983 so as to avoid the necessity of first seeking relief in a state forum. Pointing to the broad language of § 1983,
The broad language of § 1983, however, is not conclusive of the issue before us. The statute is a general one, and, despite the literal applicability of its terms, the question remains whether the specific federal habeas corpus statute, explicitly and historically designed to provide the means for a state prisoner to attack the validity of his confinement, must be understood to be the exclusive remedy available in a situation like this where it so clearly applies. The respondents' counsel acknowledged at oral argument that a state prisoner challenging his underlying conviction and sentence on federal constitutional grounds in a federal court is limited to habeas corpus. It was conceded that he cannot bring a § 1983 action, even though the literal terms of § 1983 might seem to cover such a challenge, because Congress has passed a more specific act to cover that situation, and, in doing so, has provided that a state prisoner challenging his conviction must first seek relief in a state forum, if a state remedy is available. It is clear to us that the result must be the same in the case of a state prisoner's challenge to the fact or duration of his confinement, based, as here, upon the alleged unconstitutionality of state administrative action. Such a challenge is just as close to the core of habeas corpus as an attack on the prisoner's conviction, for it goes directly to the constitutionality of his physical confinement itself and seeks either immediate release from that confinement or the shortening of its duration.
In amending the habeas corpus laws in 1948, Congress clearly required exhaustion of adequate state remedies as a condition precedent to the invocation of federal judicial relief under those laws. It would wholly frustrate explicit congressional intent to hold that the respondents in the present case could evade this requirement by the
The policy reasons underlying the habeas corpus statute support this conclusion. The respondents concede that the reason why only habeas corpus can be used to challenge a state prisoner's underlying conviction is the strong policy requiring exhaustion of state remedies in that situation—to avoid the unnecessary friction between the federal and state court systems that would result if a lower federal court upset a state court conviction without first giving the state court system an opportunity to correct its own constitutional errors. Fay v. Noia, supra, at 419-420. But they argue that this concern applies only to federal interference with state court convictions; and to support this argument, they quote from Ex parte Royall, supra, the case that first mandated exhaustion of state remedies as a precondition to federal habeas corpus:
In the respondents' view, the whole purpose of the exhaustion requirement, now codified in § 2254 (b), is to
We cannot agree. The respondents, we think, view the reasons for the exhaustion requirement of § 2254 (b) far too narrowly. The rule of exhaustion in federal habeas corpus actions is rooted in considerations of federal-state comity. That principle was defined in Younger v. Harris, 401 U.S. 37, 44 (1971), as "a proper respect for state functions," and it has as much relevance in areas of particular state administrative concern as it does where state judicial action is being attacked. That comity considerations are not limited to challenges to the validity of state court convictions is evidenced by cases such as Morrissey v. Brewer, supra, where the petitioners' habeas challenge was to a state administrative decision to revoke their parole, and Braden v. 30th Judicial Circuit Court of Kentucky, supra, where the petitioner's habeas attack was on the failure of state prosecutorial authorities to afford him a speedy trial.
It is difficult to imagine an activity in which a State has a stronger interest, or one that is more intricately bound up with state laws, regulations, and procedures,
But while conceding the availability in the New York courts of an opportunity for equitable relief, the respondents contend that confining state prisoners to federal habeas corpus, after first exhausting state remedies, could deprive those prisoners of any damages remedy to which they might be entitled for their mistreatment, since damages are not available in federal habeas corpus proceedings, and New York provides no damages remedy at all for state prisoners. In the respondents' view, if habeas corpus is the exclusive federal remedy for a state prisoner attacking his confinement, damages might never be obtained, at least where the State makes no provision for them. They argue that even if such a prisoner were to bring a subsequent federal civil rights action for damages, that action could be barred by principles of
The answer to this contention is that the respondents here sought no damages, but only equitable relief —restoration of their good-time credits—and our holding today is limited to that situation. If a state prisoner is seeking damages, he is attacking something other than the fact or length of his confinement, and he is seeking something other than immediate or more speedy release—the traditional purpose of habeas corpus. In the case of a damages claim, habeas corpus is not an appropriate or available federal remedy. Accordingly, as petitioners themselves concede, a damages action by a state prisoner could be brought under the Civil Rights Act in federal court without any requirement of prior exhaustion of state remedies. Cf. Ray v. Fritz, 468 F.2d 586 (CA2 1972).
The respondents next argue that to require exhaustion of state remedies in a case such as the one at bar would deprive a state prisoner of the speedy review of his grievance which is so often essential to any effective redress. They contend that if, prior to bringing an application for federal habeas corpus, a prisoner must exhaust state administrative remedies and then state judicial remedies through all available appeals, a very significant period of time might elapse before the prisoner could ever get into federal court. By that time, no matter how swift and efficient federal habeas corpus relief might be, the prisoner might well have suffered irreparable injury and his grievances might no longer be remediable.
It is true that exhaustion of state remedies takes time. But there is no reason to assume that state prison administrators
In any event, the respondents' time argument would logically extend to a state prisoner who challenges the constitutionality of a conviction that carried a relatively
Principles of res judicata are, of course, not wholly applicable to habeas corpus proceedings. 28 U. S. C. § 2254 (d). See Salinger v. Loisel, 265 U.S. 224, 230 (1924). Hence, a state prisoner in the respondents' situation who has been denied relief in the state courts is not precluded from seeking habeas relief on the same claims in federal court. On the other hand, res judicata has been held to be fully applicable to a civil rights action brought under § 1983. Coogan v. Cincinnati Bar Assn., 431 F.2d 1209, 1211 (CA6 1970); Jenson v. Olson, 353 F.2d 825 (CA8 1965); Rhodes v. Meyer, 334 F.2d 709, 716 (CA8 1964); Goss v. Illinois, 312 F.2d 257 (CA7 1963). Accordingly, there would be an inevitable incentive for a state prisoner to proceed at once in federal court by way of a civil rights action, lest he lose his right to do so. This would have the unfortunate dual effect of denying the state prison administration and the state courts the opportunity to correct the errors committed in the State's own prisons, and of isolating those bodies from an understanding of and hospitality to the federal claims of state prisoners in situations such as those before us.
The respondents place a great deal of reliance on our recent decisions upholding the right of state prisoners to bring federal civil rights actions to challenge the conditions of their confinement. Cooper v. Pate, 378 U.S. 546 (1964); Houghton v. Shafer, 392 U.S. 639 (1968); Wilwording v. Swenson, 404 U.S. 249 (1971); Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519 (1972). But none of the state prisoners in those cases was challenging the fact or duration of his physical confinement itself, and none was seeking immediate release or a speedier release from that confinement —the heart of habeas corpus. In Cooper, the prisoner alleged that, solely because of his religious beliefs, he had been denied permission to purchase certain religious publications and had been denied other privileges enjoyed by his fellow prisoners. In Houghton, the prisoner's contention was that prison authorities had violated the Constitution by confiscating legal materials which he had acquired for pursuing his appeal, but which, in violation of prison rules, had been found in the possession of another prisoner. In Wilwording, the prisoners' complaints related solely to their living conditions and disciplinary measures while confined in maximum security. And in Haines, the prisoner claimed that prison officials had acted unconstitutionally by placing him in solitary confinement as a disciplinary measure, and he sought damages for claimed physical injuries sustained while so segregated. It is clear, then, that in
This is not to say that habeas corpus may not also be available to challenge such prison conditions. See Johnson v. Avery, 393 U.S. 483 (1969); Wilwording v. Swenson, supra, at 251. When a prisoner is put under additional and unconstitutional restraints during his lawful custody, it is arguable that habeas corpus will lie to remove the restraints making the custody illegal. See Note, Developments in the Law—Habeas Corpus, 83 Harv. L. Rev. 1038, 1084 (1970).
It is so ordered.
MR. JUSTICE BRENNAN, with whom MR. JUSTICE DOUGLAS and MR. JUSTICE MARSHALL join, dissenting.
The question presented by this case is one that I, like the Court of Appeals, had thought already resolved by our decision last Term in Wilwording v. Swenson, 404 U.S. 249 (1971). We held there that the Ku Klux Klan Act of 1871,
Regrettably, the Court today eviscerates that proposition by drawing a distinction that is both analytically unsound and, I fear, unworkable in practice. The net effect of the distinction is to preclude respondents from maintaining these actions under § 1983, leaving a petition for writ of habeas corpus the only available federal remedy. As a result, respondents must exhaust state remedies before their claims can be heard in a federal district court. I remain committed to the principles set forth in Wilwording v. Swenson, and I therefore respectfully dissent.
Respondents are three New York state prisoners, who were placed in segregation and deprived of good-conduct-time credits as a result of prison disciplinary proceedings.
By divided vote, two separate panels of the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit reversed the judgments of the District Court with respect to respondents Rodriguez and Katzoff. Prior to decision in the case of respondent Kritsky, the Court of Appeals vacated the two earlier decisions and set all three cases for rehearing en banc. By a vote of 9-3, the Court affirmed the judgments of the District Court "upon consideration of the merits and upon the authority of Wilwording v. Swenson," decided by this Court while rehearing en banc was pending in the Court of Appeals. 456 F.2d 79, 80 (1972). Although several of the judges who concurred in the decision candidly stated their misgivings
The Court's conclusion that Wilwording is not controlling is assertedly justified by invocation of a concept, newly invented by the Court today, variously termed the "core of habeas corpus," the "heart of habeas corpus," and the "essence of habeas corpus." Ante, at 489, 498, and 484. In the Court's view, an action lying at the "core of habeas corpus" is one that "goes directly to the constitutionality of [the prisoner's] physical confinement itself and seeks either immediate release from that confinement or the shortening of its duration." Id., at 489. With regard to such actions, habeas corpus is now considered the prisoner's exclusive remedy. In short, the Court does not graft the habeas corpus exhaustion requirement onto prisoner actions under the Ku Klux Klan Act, but it reaches what is functionally the same result by holding that the District Court's jurisdiction under the Act is in some instances displaced by the habeas corpus remedy. Henceforth, in such cases a prisoner brings an action in the nature of habeas corpus— or he brings no federal court action at all.
At bottom, the Court's holding today rests on an understandable apprehension that the no-exhaustion rule of § 1983 might, in the absence of some limitation, devour the exhaustion rule of the habeas corpus statute. The problem arises because the two statutes necessarily
At the outset, it is important to consider the nature of the line that the Court has drawn. The Court holds today that "when a state prisoner is challenging the very fact or duration of his physical imprisonment, and the relief he seeks is a determination that he is entitled to immediate release or a speedier release from that imprisonment, his sole federal remedy is a writ of habeas corpus." Ante, at 500. But, even under the Court's approach, there are undoubtedly some instances where a prisoner has the option of proceeding either by petition for habeas corpus or by suit under § 1983.
In Johnson v. Avery, 393 U.S. 483 (1969), we held that the writ of habeas corpus could be used to challenge allegedly unconstitutional conditions of confinement. Cf. Ex parte Hull, 312 U.S. 546, 549 (1941). And in Wilwording v. Swenson, supra, where the petitioners challenged "only their living conditions and disciplinary
Yet even though a prisoner may challenge the conditions of his confinement by petition for writ of habeas corpus, he is not precluded by today's opinion from raising the same or similar claim, without exhaustion of state remedies, by suit under the Ku Klux Klan Act, provided he attacks only the conditions of his confinement and not its fact or duration. To that extent, at least, the Court leaves unimpaired our holdings in Wilwording v. Swenson, supra, and the other cases in which we have upheld the right of prisoners to sue their jailers under § 1983 without exhaustion of state remedies.
Putting momentarily to one side the grave analytic shortcomings of the Court's approach, it seems clear that the scheme's unmanageability is sufficient reason to condemn it. For the unfortunate but inevitable legacy of today's opinion is a perplexing set of uncertainties and anomalies. And the nub of the problem is the definition of the Court's new-found and essentially ethereal concept, the "core of habeas corpus."
At the opposite end of the spectrum from an attack on the conviction itself or on the deprivation of good-time credits is a prisoner's action for monetary damages against his jailers. "If a state prisoner is seeking damages," the Court makes clear, he is seeking "something other than immediate or more speedy release—the traditional purpose of habeas corpus. In the case of a damages claim, habeas corpus is not an appropriate or available federal remedy. Accordingly, as petitioners themselves concede, a damages action by a state prisoner could be brought under [§ 1983] in federal court without any requirement of prior exhaustion of state remedies." Ante, at 494 (emphasis in original).
Between a suit for damages and an attack on the conviction itself or on the deprivation of good-time credits
If a prisoner's sole claim is that he was placed in solitary confinement pursuant to an unconstitutional disciplinary procedure,
First, we might conclude that jurisdiction under § 1983 is lost whenever good-time credits are involved, even where the action is based primarily on the need for monetary relief or an injunction against continued segregation. If that is the logic of the Court's opinion, then the scheme creates an undeniable, and in all likelihood
Moreover, a determination that no federal claim can be raised where good-time credits are at stake would give rise to a further anomaly. If the prisoner is confined in an institution that does not offer good-time credits, and therefore cannot withdraw them.
As an alternative, we might reject outright the premises of the first approach and conclude that a plea for money damages or for an injunction against continued segregation is sufficient to bring all related claims, including the question of good-time credits, under the umbrella of § 1983. That approach would, of course, simplify matters considerably. And it would make unnecessary the fractionation of the prisoner's claims into a number of different issues to be resolved in duplicative proceedings in state and federal courts. Nevertheless, the approach would seem to afford a convenient means of sidestepping the basic thrust of the Court's opinion, and we could surely expect state prisoners routinely to add to their other claims a plea for monetary relief. So long as the prisoner could formulate at least a colorable damages claim, he would be entitled to litigate all issues in federal court without first exhausting state remedies.
In any event, the Court today rejects, perhaps for the reasons suggested above, both of the foregoing positions. Instead, it holds that insofar as a prisoner's claim relates to good-time credits, he is required to exhaust state remedies; but he is not precluded from simultaneously litigating in federal court, under § 1983, his claim for monetary damages or an injunction against continued segregation. Ante, at 499 n. 14. Under that approach,
Since some of the ramifications of this new approach are still unclear, the unfortunate outcome of today's decision—an outcome that might not be immediately
The Court's conclusion that respondents must proceed by petition for habeas corpus is unfortunate, not only because of the uncertainties and practical difficulties to which the conclusion necessarily gives rise, but also because it derives from a faulty analytic foundation. The text of § 1983 carries no explanation for today's decision; prisoners are still, I assume, "persons" within the meaning of the statute. Moreover, prior to our recent decisions expanding the definition of "custody,"
The concern that § 1983 not be used to nullify the habeas corpus exhaustion doctrine is, of course, legitimate. But our effort to preserve the integrity of the doctrine must rest on an understanding of the purposes that underlie it. In my view, the Court misapprehends these fundamental purposes and compounds the problem by paying insufficient attention to the reasons why exhaustion of state remedies is not required in suits under § 1983. As a result, the Court mistakenly concludes that allowing suit under § 1983 would jeopardize the purposes of the exhaustion rule.
By enactment of the Ku Klux Klan Act in 1871, and again by the grant in 1875 of original federal-question jurisdiction to the federal courts,
This grant of jurisdiction was designed to preserve and enhance the expertise of federal courts in applying federal law; to achieve greater uniformity of results, cf. Martin v. Hunter's Lessee, 1 Wheat. 304, 347-348 (1816); and, since federal courts are "more likely to apply federal law sympathetically and understandingly than are state courts," ALI, Study of the Division of Jurisdiction Between State and Federal Courts 166 (1969), to minimize misapplications of federal law. See generally id., at 165-167.
In the service of the same interests, we have taken care to emphasize that there are
We have also recognized that review by this Court of state decisions, "even when available by appeal rather than only by discretionary writ of certiorari, is an inadequate substitute for the initial District Court determination. . . to which the litigant is entitled in the federal courts." Id., at 416. The federal courts are, in short, the "primary and powerful reliances for vindicating every right given by the Constitution, the laws, and treaties of the United States." F. Frankfurter & J. Landis, The Business of the Supreme Court: A Study in the Federal Judicial System 65 (1928). See England v. Louisiana State Board of Medical Examiners, supra, at 415.
These considerations, applicable generally in cases arising under federal law, have special force in the context of the Ku Klux Klan Act of 1871. In a suit to enforce fundamental constitutional rights, the plaintiff's choice of a federal forum has singular urgency.
See also District of Columbia v. Carter, 409 U.S. 418, 426-428 (1973).
Our determination that principles of federalism do not require the exhaustion of state remedies in cases brought under the Ku Klux Klan Act holds true even where the state agency or process under constitutional attack is intimately tied to the state judicial machinery. Cf. Lynch v. Household Finance Corp., 405 U.S. 538 (1972). Indeed, only last Term we held in Mitchum v. Foster, supra, that § 1983 operates as an exception to the federal anti-injunction statute, 28 U. S. C. § 2283, which prohibits federal court injunctions against ongoing state judicial proceedings and which is designed to prevent
In sum, the absence of an exhaustion requirement in § 1983 is not an accident of history or the result of careless oversight by Congress or this Court. On the contrary, the no-exhaustion rule is an integral feature of the statutory scheme. Exhaustion of state remedies is not required precisely because such a requirement would jeopardize the purposes of the Act. For that reason, the imposition of such a requirement, even if done indirectly by means of a determination that jurisdiction under § 1983 is displaced by an alternative remedial device, must be justified by a clear statement of congressional intent, or, at the very least, by the presence of the most persuasive considerations of policy. In my view, no such justification can be found.
Crucial to the Court's analysis of the case before us is its understanding of the purposes that underlie the habeas corpus exhaustion requirement. But just as the Court pays too little attention to the reasons for a no-exhaustion rule in actions under § 1983, it also misconceives the purposes of the exhaustion requirement in habeas corpus. As a result, the Court reaches what seems to me the erroneous conclusion that the purposes of the exhaustion requirement are fully implicated in
"The rule of exhaustion in federal habeas corpus actions is," according to today's opinion, "rooted in considerations of federal-state comity. That principle was defined in Younger v. Harris, 401 U.S. 37, 44 (1971), as `a proper respect for state functions,' and it has as much relevance in areas of particular state administrative concern as it does where state judicial action is being attacked." Ante, at 491. Moreover, the Court reasons that since the relationship between state prisoners and state officers is especially intimate, and since prison issues are peculiarly within state authority and expertise, "the States have an important interest in not being bypassed in the correction of those problems." Ante, at 492. With all respect, I cannot accept either the premises or the reasoning that lead to the Court's conclusion.
Although codified in the habeas corpus statute in 1948, 28 U. S. C. § 2254 (b) the exhaustion requirement is a "judicially crafted instrument which reflects a careful balance between important interests of federalism and the need to preserve the writ of habeas corpus as a `swift and imperative remedy in all cases of illegal restraint or confinement.' Secretary of State for Home Affairs v. O'Brien,  A. C. 603, 609 (H. L.)." Braden v. 30the Judicial Circuit, 410 U.S. 484, 490 (1973). The indisputable concern of all our decisions concerning the doctrine has been the relationship "between the judicial tribunals of the Union and of the States . . . . [T]he public good requires that those relations be not disturbed by unnecessary conflict between courts equally bound to guard and protect rights secured by the Constitution." Ex parte Royall, 117 U. S., at 251 (emphasis added). Ex parte Royall is, of course, the germinal case, and its concern with the relations between state
That is not to say, however, that the purposes of the doctrine are implicated only where an attack is directed at a state court conviction or sentence. Ex parte Royall itself did not involve a challenge to a state conviction but rather an effort to secure a prisoner's release on habeas corpus "in advance of his trial in the [state] court in which he [was] indicted." Id., at 253. But there, too, the focus was on relations between the state and federal judiciaries. It is a fundamental purpose of the exhaustion doctrine to preserve the "orderly administration of state judicial business, preventing the interruption of state adjudication by federal habeas proceedings. It is important that petitioners reach state appellate courts, which can develop and correct errors of state and federal law and most effectively supervise and impose uniformity on trial courts." Note, Developments in the Law—Federal Habeas Corpus, 83 Harv. L. Rev. 1038, 1094 (1970). Significantly, the identical interest in preserving the integrity and orderliness of judicial proceedings gives rise to the application of the exhaustion doctrine even where a federal prisoner attacks the action of
With these considerations in mind, it becomes clear that the Court's decision does not serve the fundamental purposes behind the exhaustion doctrine. For although respondents were confined pursuant to the judgment of a state judicial tribunal, their claims do not relate to their convictions or sentences, but only to the administrative action of prison officials who subjected them to allegedly unconstitutional treatment, including the deprivation of good-time credits. This is not a case, in other words, where federal intervention would interrupt a state proceeding or jeopardize the orderly administration of state judicial business. Nor is it a case where an action in federal court might imperil the relationship between state and federal courts. The "regularity of proceedings had in courts of coordinate jurisdiction," Parker, supra, at 172-173, is not in any sense at issue.
To be sure, respondents do call into question the constitutional validity of action by state officials, and friction between those officials and the federal court is by no means an inconceivable result. But standing alone, that possibility is simply not enough to warrant application of an exhaustion requirement. First, while we spoke in Younger v. Harris, 401 U.S. 37, 44 (1971), of the need for federal courts to maintain a "proper respect for state functions," neither that statement nor our holding there supports the instant application of the exhaustion doctrine. Our concern in Younger v. Harris was the "longstanding public policy against federal court interference with state court proceedings," id., at 43 (emphasis added), by means of a federal injunction
Second, the situation that exists in the case before us—an attack on state administrative rather than judicial action—is the stereotypical situation in which relief under § 1983 is authorized. See, e. g., McNeese v. Board of Education, 373 U.S. 668 (1963) (attack on school districting scheme); Damico v. California, 389 U.S. 416 (1967) (attack on welfare requirements); Monroe v. Pape, 365 U. S., at 183 (attack on police conduct). In each of these cases the exercise of federal jurisdiction was potentially offensive to the State and its officials. In each of these cases the attack was directed at an important state function in an area in which the State has wide powers of regulation. Yet in each of these cases we explicitly held that exhaustion of state remedies was not required. And in comparable cases we have taken pains to insure that the abstention doctrine is not used to defeat the plaintiff's initial choice of a federal forum, see, e. g., Zwickler v. Koota, 389 U. S., at 249, even though the plaintiff could reserve the right to litigate the federal claim in federal court at the conclusion of the state proceeding. England v. Louisiana State Board of Medical Examiners. 375 U.S. 411 (1964). Like Judge Kaufman, who concurred in the affirmance of the cases now before us, "I cannot believe that federal jurisdiction in cases involving prisoner rights is any more offensive to the state than federal jurisdiction in the areas" where the exhaustion requirement has been explicitly ruled inapplicable. 456 F. 2d, at 82.
Third, if the Court is correct in assuming that the exhaustion requirement must be applied whenever federal jurisdiction might be a source of substantial friction with the State, then I simply do not understand why the
Finally, the Court's decision may have the ironic effect of turning a situation where state and federal courts are not initially in conflict into a situation where precisely such conflict does result. Since respondents' actions would neither interrupt a state judicial proceeding nor, even if successful, require the invalidation of a state judicial decision, "[t]he question is simply whether one court or another is going to decide the case." Note, Exhaustion of State Remedies Under the Civil Rights Act, 68 Col. L. Rev. 1201, 1205-1206 (1968). If we had held, consistently with our prior cases, that the plaintiff has the right to choose a federal forum, the exercise of that right would not offend or embarrass a state court with concurrent jurisdiction. Now, however, a prisoner who seeks restoration of good-time credits must proceed first in state court, although he has the option of petitioning the federal court for relief if his state suit is unsuccessful.
In short, I see no basis for concluding that jurisdiction under § 1983 is, in this instance, pre-empted by the habeas corpus remedy. Respondents' effort to bring these suits under the provisions of the Ku Klux Klan Act should not be viewed as an attempted circumvention of the exhaustion requirement of the habeas corpus statute, for the effort does not in any sense conflict with the policies underlying that requirement.
"A court justice or judge entertaining an application for a writ of habeas corpus shall forthwith award the writ or issue an order directing the respondent to show cause why the writ should not be granted, unless it appears from the application that the applicant or person detained is not entitled thereto.
"The writ, or order to show cause shall be directed to the person having custody of the person detained. It shall be returned within three days unless for good cause additional time, not exceeding twenty days, is allowed.
"The person to whom the writ or order is directed shall make a return certifying the true cause of the detention.
"When the writ or order is returned a day shall be set for hearing, not more than five days after the return unless for good cause additional time is allowed.
"Unless the application for the writ and the return present only issues of law the person to whom the writ is directed shall be required to produce at the hearing the body of the person detained.
"The applicant or the person detained may, under oath, deny any of the facts set forth in the return or allege any other material facts.
"The return and all suggestions made against it may be amended, by leave of court, before or after being filed.
"The court shall summarily hear and determine the facts, and dispose of the matter as law and justice require."
See also 28 U. S. C. § 2254 (e):
"If the applicant challenges the sufficiency of the evidence adduced in such State court proceeding to support the State court's determination of a factual issue made therein, the applicant, if able, shall produce that part of the record pertinent to a determination of the sufficiency of the evidence to support such determination. If the applicant, because of indigency or other reason is unable to produce such part of the record, then the State shall produce such part of the record and the Federal court shall direct the State to do so by order directed to an appropriate State official. If the State cannot provide such pertinent part of the record, then the court shall determine under the existing facts and circumstances what weight shall be given to the State court's factual determination."
Respondent Katzoff alleged that he was wrongfully placed in solitary confinement and deprived of good-conduct time as punishment for certain entries he had made in his diary. According to an affidavit he filed in District Court, the entries in question included a reference to one prison official as "a cigar-smoking S. O. B.," and to another as a "creep." App. 54a.
Respondent Kritsky stated in his complaint that correctional authorities had deprived him of good-time credits without notice of charges or a fair hearing, and as part of a "program of harassment and oppression directed at the plaintiff for having participated in a peaceful and non-violent work strike which ultimately culminated in legislation being passed . . . ." App. 100a.
"An application for a writ of habeas corpus in behalf of a person in custody pursuant to the judgment of a State court shall not be granted unless it appears that the applicant has exhausted the remedies available in the courts of the State, or that there is either an absence of available State corrective process or the existence of circumstances rendering such process ineffective to protect the rights of the prisoner."
"The United States courts are further above mere local influence than the county courts; their judges can act with more independence, cannot be put under terror, as local judges can; their sympathies are not so nearly identified with those of the vicinage; the jurors are taken from the State, and not the neighborhood; they will be able to rise above prejudices or bad passions or terror more easily." Cong. Globe, 42d Cong., 1st Sess., 460 (1871).
And the remarks of Sen. Pratt:
"[O]f the hundreds of outrages committed upon loyal people through the agency of this Ku Klux organization not one has been punished. This defect in the administration of the laws does not extend to other cases. Vigorously enough are the laws enforced against Union people. They only fail in efficiency when a man of known Union sentiments, white or black, invokes their aid. Then Justice closes the door of her temples." Id., at 505.