This case presents the question whether exhaustion of state administrative remedies is a prerequisite to an action under 42 U. S. C. § 1983 (1976 ed., Supp. IV). Petitioner Georgia Patsy filed this action, alleging that her employer, Florida International University (FIU), had denied her employment opportunities solely on the basis of her race and sex. By a divided vote, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit found that petitioner was required to exhaust "adequate and appropriate" administrative remedies, and remanded the case to the District Court to consider the adequacy of the administrative procedures. Patsy v. Florida International University, 634 F.2d 900 (1981) (en banc). We granted certiorari, 454 U.S. 813, and reverse the decision of the Court of Appeals.
Petitioner alleges that even though she is well qualified and has received uniformly excellent performance evaluations from her supervisors, she has been rejected for more than 13 positions at FIU.
The Court of Appeals reviewed numerous opinions of this Court holding that exhaustion of administrative remedies was not required, and concluded that these cases did not preclude the application of a "flexible" exhaustion rule. 634 F. 2d, at 908. After canvassing the policy arguments in favor of an exhaustion requirement, the Court of Appeals decided that a § 1983 plaintiff could be required to exhaust administrative remedies if the following minimum conditions are met: (1) an orderly system of review or appeal is provided by statute or agency rule; (2) the agency can grant relief more or less commensurate with the claim; (3) relief is available within a reasonable period of time; (4) the procedures are fair, are not unduly burdensome, and are not used to harass or discourage those with legitimate claims; and (5) interim relief is available, in appropriate cases, to prevent irreparable injury and to preserve the plaintiff's rights during the administrative process. Where these minimum standards are met, a court must further consider the particular administrative scheme, the nature of the plaintiff's interest, and the values served by the exhaustion doctrine in order to determine whether exhaustion should be required. Id., at 912-913. The Court of Appeals remanded the case to the
The question whether exhaustion of administrative remedies should ever be required in a § 1983 action has prompted vigorous debate and disagreement. See, e. g., Turner, When Prisoners Sue: A Study of Prisoner Section 1983 Cases in the Federal Courts, 92 Harv. L. Rev. 610 (1979); Note, 8 Ind. L. Rev. 565 (1975); Comment, 41 U. Chi. L. Rev. 537 (1974). Our resolution of this issue, however, is made much easier because we are not writing on a clean slate. This Court has addressed this issue, as well as related issues, on several prior occasions.
Respondent suggests that our prior precedents do not control our decision today, arguing that these cases can be distinguished on their facts or that this Court did not "fully" consider the question whether exhaustion should be required. This contention need not detain us long. Beginning with McNeese v. Board of Education, 373 U.S. 668, 671-673 (1963), we have on numerous occasions rejected the argument that a § 1983 action should be dismissed where the plaintiff has not exhausted state administrative remedies. See Barry v. Barchi, 443 U.S. 55, 63, n. 10 (1979); Gibson v. Berryhill, 411 U.S. 564, 574 (1973); Carter v. Stanton, 405 U.S. 669, 671 (1972); Wilwording v. Swenson, 404 U.S. 249, 251 (1971); Houghton v. Shafcr, 392 U.S. 639, 640 (1968); King v. Smith, 392 U.S. 309, 312, n. 4 (1968); Damico v. California, 389 U.S. 416 (1967). Cf. Steffel v. Thompson, 415 U.S. 452, 472-473 (1974) ("When federal claims are premised on [§ 1983] — as they are here — we have not required exhaustion of state judicial or administrative remedies, recognizing the paramount role Congress has assigned to the federal courts to protect constitutional rights"). Respondent may be correct in arguing that several of these decisions could have been based on traditional exceptions to the exhaustion doctrine. Nevertheless, this Court has stated
Respondent argues that we should reconsider these decisions and adopt the Court of Appeals' exhaustion rule, which was based on McKart v. United States, 395 U.S. 185 (1969). This Court has never announced a definitive formula for determining whether prior decisions should be overruled or reconsidered. However, in Monell v. New York City Dept. of Social Services, 436 U.S. 658, 695-701 (1978), we articulated four factors that should be considered. Two of these factors — whether the decisions in question misconstrued the meaning of the statute as revealed in its legislative history and whether overruling these decisions would be inconsistent with more recent expressions of congressional intent — are particularly relevant to our decision today.
In determining whether our prior decisions misconstrued the meaning of § 1983, we begin with a review of the legislative history to § 1 of the Civil Rights Act of 1871, 17 Stat. 13, the precursor to § 1983.
At least three recurring themes in the debates over § 1 cast serious doubt on the suggestion that requiring exhaustion of state administrative remedies would be consistent with the intent of the 1871 Congress. First, in passing § 1, Congress assigned to the federal courts a paramount role in protecting constitutional rights. Representative Dawes expressed this view as follows:
The 1871 Congress intended § 1 to "throw open the doors of the United States courts" to individuals who were threatened with, or who had suffered, the deprivation of constitutional rights, id., at 376 (remarks of Rep. Lowe), and to provide these individuals immediate access to the federal courts notwithstanding any provision of state law to the contrary. For example, Senator Edmunds, who introduced the bill in the Senate, stated in his closing remarks that the bill was similar in principle to an earlier act upheld by this Court in Prigg v. Pennsylvania, 16 Pet. 539 (1842):
Similarly, Representative Elliott viewed the issue as whether "the Government of the United States [has] the right, under the Constitution, to protect a citizen in the exercise of his vested rights as an American citizen by . . . the assertion of immediate jurisdiction through its courts, without the appeal or agency of the State in which the citizen is domiciled."
A second theme in the debates further suggests that the 1871 Congress would not have wanted to impose an exhaustion requirement. A major factor motivating the expansion of federal jurisdiction through §§ 1 and 2 of the bill was the belief of the 1871 Congress that the state authorities had been unable or unwilling to protect the constitutional rights of individuals or to punish those who violated these rights. See, e. g., Globe 321 (remarks of Rep. Stoughton) ("The State authorities and local courts are unable or unwilling to check the evil or punish the criminals"); id., at 374 (remarks of Rep. Lowe) ("the local administrations have been found inadequate or unwilling to apply the proper corrective"); id., at 459 (remarks of Rep. Coburn); id., at 609 (remarks of Sen. Pool); id., at 687 (remarks of Sen. Shurz); id., at 691 (remarks of Sen. Edmunds); Globe App. 185 (remarks of Rep. Platt).
A third feature of the debates relevant to the exhaustion question is the fact that many legislators interpreted the bill to provide dual or concurrent forums in the state and federal system, enabling the plaintiff to choose the forum in which to seek relief. Cf. Monroe v. Pape, 365 U.S. 167, 183 (1961) ("The federal remedy is supplementary to the state remedy, and the latter need not be first sought and refused before the federal one is invoked"). For example, Senator Thurman noted:
See also Globe 578, 694-695 (remarks of Sen. Edmunds); id., at 334 (remarks of Rep. Hoar); id., at 514 (remarks of Rep. Farnworth); Globe App. 85 (remarks of Rep. Bingham) ("Admitting that the States have concurrent power to enforce the Constitution of the United States within their respective limits, must we wait for their action?").
This legislative history supports the conclusion that our prior decisions, holding that exhaustion of state administrative remedies is not a prerequisite to an action under § 1983, did not misperceive the statutory intent: it seems fair to infer that the 1871 Congress did not intend that an individual be compelled in every case to exhaust state administrative remedies before filing an action under § 1 of the Civil Rights Act. We recognize, however, that drawing such a conclusion from this history alone is somewhat precarious: the 1871 Congress was not presented with the question of exhaustion of administrative remedies, nor was it aware of the potential role of state administrative agencies. Therefore, we do not rely exclusively on this legislative history in deciding the question presented here. Congress addressed the question of exhaustion under § 1983 when it recently enacted 42 U. S. C. § 1997e (1976 ed., Supp. IV). The legislative history of § 1997e provides strong evidence of congressional intent on this issue.
The Civil Rights of Institutionalized Persons Act, 42 U. S. C. § 1997 et seq. (1976 ed., Supp. IV), was enacted primarily
In considering whether an exhaustion requirement should be incorporated into the bill, Congress clearly expressed its belief that a decision to require exhaustion for certain § 1983 actions would work a change in the law. Witnesses testifying before the Subcommittee that drafted the bill discussed the decisions of this Court holding that exhaustion was not required. See, e. g., Hearings on H. R. 2439 and H. R. 5791 before the Subcommittee on Courts, Civil Liberties, and the Administration of Justice of the House Committee on the Judiciary, 95th Cong., 1st Sess., 20 (1977) (1977 Hearings); id., at 47, 69, 77, 323; Hearings on H. R. 10 before the Subcommittee on Courts, Civil Liberties, and the Administration of Justice of the House Committee on the Judiciary, 96th Cong., 1st Sess., 48 (1979) (1979 Hearings). During these hearings, Representative Kastenmeier, Chairman of this Subcommittee, stated:
See also id., at 272 (remarks of Rep. Drinan) (Representative Railsback "grounds his bill on doing something which the Supreme Court has consistently refused to do, namely require exhaustion of remedies"); 1979 Hearings 26 (remarks of Rep. Kastenmeier) (adopting § 1997e "was resisted as a possible encroachment on civil liberties; that is to say, in the free, unimpeded resort to 1983").
The debates over adopting an exhaustion requirement also reflect this understanding. See, e. g., 124 Cong. Rec. 11988 (1978) (remarks of Rep. Volkmer and Rep. Kastenmeier); id., at 15445 (remarks of Rep. Ertel); id., at 23180 (remarks of Rep. Wiggins) ("it is settled law that an exhaustion of administrative remedies is not required as a precondition of maintaining a 1983 action"); 125 Cong. Rec. 12496 (1979) (remarks of Rep. Butler) ("Under existing law there is no requirement that a complainant first ask the State prison system to help him"). With the understanding that exhaustion generally is not required, Congress decided to adopt the limited exhaustion requirement of § 1997e in order to relieve the burden on the federal courts by diverting certain prisoner petitions back through state and local institutions, and also to encourage the States to develop appropriate grievance procedures. See, e. g., Conf. Rep. 9; 124 Cong. Rec. 11976 (1978) (remarks of Rep. Kastenmeier); id., at 11976, 11983 (remarks of Rep. Railsback); id., at 15442 (remarks of Rep. Kastenmeier); id., at 15445 (remarks of Rep. Ertel); id., at 23176 (remarks of Rep. Kastenmeier); id., at 23179-23180 (remarks of Rep. Butler); id., at 23180 (remarks of Rep. Ertel). Implicit in this decision is Congress' conclusion that the no-exhaustion rule should be left standing with respect to other § 1983 suits.
A judicially imposed exhaustion requirement would also be inconsistent with the extraordinarily detailed exhaustion
Congress hoped that § 1997e would improve prison conditions by stimulating the development of successful grievance mechanisms. See, e. g., Conf. Rep. 9; H. R. Rep. No. 96-80, p. 4 (1979); 1979 Hearings 4 (remarks of Rep. Railsback); 124 Cong. Rec. 11976 (1978) (remarks of Rep. Railsback); 125 Cong. Rec. 12492 (1979) (remarks of Rep. Drinan); 126 Cong. Rec. 10780 (1980) (remarks of Rep. Kastenmeier). To further this purpose, Congress provided for the deferral of the exercise of federal jurisdiction over certain § 1983 claims only on the condition that the state prisons develop adequate procedures. This purpose would be frustrated by judicial discretion to impose exhaustion generally: the States would have no incentive to adopt grievance
In sum, the exhaustion provisions of the Act make sense, and are not superfluous, only if exhaustion could not be required before its enactment and if Congress intended to carve out a narrow exception to this no-exhaustion rule. The legislative history of § 1997e demonstrates that Congress has taken the approach of carving out specific exceptions to the general rule that federal courts cannot require exhaustion under § 1983. It is not our province to alter the balance struck by Congress in establishing the procedural framework for bringing actions under § 1983.
Respondent and the Court of Appeals argue that exhaustion of administrative remedies should be required because it would further various policies. They argue that an exhaustion requirement would lessen the perceived burden that § 1983 actions impose on federal courts;
Beyond the policy issues that must be resolved in deciding whether to require exhaustion, there are equally difficult questions concerning the design and scope of an exhaustion requirement. These questions include how to define those categories of § 1983 claims in which exhaustion might be desirable;
Based on the legislative histories of both § 1983 and § 1997e, we conclude that exhaustion of state administrative remedies should not be required as a prerequisite to bringing an action pursuant to § 1983. We decline to overturn our prior decisions holding that such exhaustion is not required. The decision of the Court of Appeals is reversed, and the case is remanded for proceedings consistent with this opinion.
It is so ordered.
JUSTICE O'CONNOR, with whom JUSTICE REHNQUIST joins, concurring.
As discussed in JUSTICE POWELL's dissenting opinion, as well as in the opinion of the court below, considerations of sound policy suggest that a § 1983 plaintiff should be required to exhaust adequate state administrative remedies before filing his complaint. At the very least, prior state administrative
JUSTICE WHITE, concurring in part.
I fully agree with the Court that our frequent and unequivocal statements on exhaustion cannot be explained or distinguished away as the Fifth Circuit attempted to do. For nearly 20 years and on at least 10 occasions, this Court has clearly held that no exhaustion of administrative remedies is required in a § 1983 suit. Ante, at 500. Whether or not this initially was a wise choice, these decisions are stare decisis, and in a statutory case, a particularly strong showing is required that we have misread the relevant statute and its history. I have no difficulty in concluding that on the issue of exhaustion, unlike the question of municipal immunity faced in Monell v. New York City Dept. of Social Services, 436 U.S. 658 (1978), the Court has not previously misapprehended the meaning of the 1871 debates in rejecting an exhaustion rule in McNeese v. Board of Education, 373 U.S. 668, 671-673 (1963), and adhering to that position ever since. Our precedents and the legislative history are sufficient to support reversal, and I accordingly join the judgment and all but Part III-B of the opinion of the Court.
In Part III-B, the Court unnecessarily and unwisely ventures further to find support where none may be had. The wisdom of a general no-exhaustion rule in § 1983 suits was
As the Court acknowledges, ante, at 513, the policy arguments cut in both directions. The Court concludes that "the very difficulty of these policy considerations, and Congress' superior institutional competence . . . suggest that legislative not judicial decisions are preferable." To be sure, exhaustion is a statutory issue and the dispositive word on the matter belongs to Congress. It does not follow, however, that, were the issue not foreclosed by earlier decisions, we would be institutionally incompetent to formulate an exhaustion rule. The lack of an exhaustion requirement in § 1983 actions is itself an exception to the general rule, judicially formulated, that exhaustion of administrative remedies is required in a civil action. Myers v. Bethlehem Shipbuilding Corp., 303 U.S. 41 (1938); McKart v. United States, 395 U.S. 185 (1969). Unlike other statutory questions, exhaustion is "a rule of judicial administration," Myers v. Bethlehem Shipping Corp., supra, at 50, and unless Congress directs otherwise, rightfully subject to crafting by judges. Our resolution of this case as governed by stare decisis, reinforced by the legislative history of § 1983, should not be taken as undercutting the general exhaustion principle of long standing. The result today is also fully consistent with our decisions that a defendant in a civil or administrative enforcement proceeding may not enjoin and sidetrack that proceeding by resorting to a § 1983 action in federal court, Huffman
The statutes at issue in cases recited by JUSTICE POWELL, post, at 522-523, n. 5, presented more equivocal embodiments of state intent. For example, in Florida Dept. of Health v. Florida Nursing Home Assn., 450 U.S. 147 (1981) (per curiam), the authorization to sue and be sued was limited to contract actions and, unlike the instant provision, did not extend to "all courts of law and equity." The same is true of the interstate compact involved in Petty v. Tennessee-Missouri Bridge Comm'n, 359 U.S. 275 (1959). The decision in Kennecott Copper Corp. v. Tax Comm'n, 327 U.S. 573 (1946), which involved a statute providing for suit in "any court of competent jurisdiction," turned on the incongruity of federal courts' interpreting state tax laws and the fact that "Utah employs explicit language to indicate, in other litigation, its consent to suits in federal courts." Id., at 579.
Thus, while I do not object to the Court's leaving the Eleventh Amendment issue for further consideration by the lower courts — at least where, as here, there is no logical priority in resolving Eleventh Amendment immunity before exhaustion — I find the issue sufficiently clear to be answered here and now. The statute means what it says.
JUSTICE POWELL, with whom THE CHIEF JUSTICE joins as to Part II, dissenting.
The Court holds that the limitations on federal judicial power embodied in the Eleventh Amendment and in the doctrine of sovereign immunity are not jurisdictional. I consider
I dissent also from the Court's rejection of the rule of "flexible" exhaustion of state administrative remedies developed and stated persuasively by the Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, sitting en banc. In disagreeing with the 17 judges of the Court of Appeals who adopted the flexible exhaustion principle, this Court places mistaken reliance on the Civil Rights of Institutionalized Persons Act, 42 U. S. C. § 1997 et seq. (1976 ed., Supp. IV). I disagree with both portions of the Court's holding and therefore dissent.
I. The Eleventh Amendment.
In this "reverse discrimination" action, petitioner, an employee of the Florida International University, brought suit under 42 U. S. C. § 1983 against the Board of Regents of the State of Florida.
Neither the Court of Appeals panel nor the Court of Appeals en banc addressed the Board's Eleventh Amendment defense. They directed their attention solely to the question of exhaustion of administrative remedies. The panel held that there was no exhaustion requirement in § 1983 suits and remanded to the District Court for consideration of the Board's Eleventh Amendment argument. Patsy v. Florida International University, 612 F.2d 946 (1980). The Court of Appeals, sitting en banc, reversed, holding that § 1983 plaintiffs must exhaust available and reasonable administrative remedies. Patsy v. Florida International University, 634 F.2d 900 (1981). Again the court did not consider the Board's Eleventh Amendment defense.
The Eleventh Amendment question was raised before this Court, at the first opportunity after the Court of Appeals' decision, in the Board's response to the petition for writ of certiorari. The Board argued, as it had on appeal, that it was an arm of the State and that it had not waived its immunity from suit in federal court.
The Court views the jurisdictional question presented by the Eleventh Amendment as if it were of little or no importance. Its entire discussion of the question is relegated to a conclusory note at the end of the opinion. See ante, at 515-516, n. 19. The Court concedes that the Amendment and the bar of sovereign immunity are "jurisdictional," but only in the sense that the State may raise the claim at any point in the proceedings. The statement is then made that the Amendment is not jurisdictional "in the sense that it must be raised and decided by this Court on its own motion." Ibid.
A basic principle of our constitutional system is that the federal courts are courts of limited jurisdiction. Their authority extends only to those matters within the judicial power of the United States as defined by the Constitution. In language that could not be clearer, the Eleventh Amendment removes from the judicial power, as set forth in Art. III, suits "commenced or prosecuted against one of the United States." When an Amendment to the Constitution states in plain language that "the judicial power of the United States shall not be construed to extend" to suits against a State, from what source does the Court today derive its jurisdiction? The Court's "back-of-the-hand" treatment of this threshold issue offers no answer. Questions of jurisdiction and of the legitimate exercise of power are fundamental in our federal constitutional system.
The Eleventh Amendment was adopted as a response to this Court's assumption of original jurisdiction in a suit brought against the State of Georgia. Chisholm v. Georgia, 2 Dall. 419 (1793). Relying upon express language in Art. III extending the judicial power to controversies between a State and citizens of another State, the Court found that it had jurisdiction. The decision is said to have created a shock throughout the country. See Hans v. Louisiana, 134 U.S. 1, 11 (1890). The Amendment was adopted shortly thereafter, and the Court understood that it had been overruled: " `the amendment being constitutionally adopted, there could not be exercised any jurisdiction, in any case, past or future, in which a State was sued by the citizens of another State, or by citizens or subjects of any foreign state.' " Ibid.
In light of the history and wording of the Amendment, the Court has viewed the Amendment as placing explicit limits on the judicial power as defined by Art. III. See Nevada v. Hall, 440 U.S. 410, 421 (1979). But more than that, and beyond the express provisions of the Amendment, the Court has recognized that the Amendment stands for a principle of sovereign immunity by which the grant of authority in Art. III itself must be measured.
Similarly, in Ex parte New York, 256 U.S. 490 (1921), the Court found that despite the Eleventh Amendment's specific reference to suits in "law or equity," the principle of sovereign immunity exemplified by the Amendment would not permit the extension of federal admiralty jurisdiction over a nonconsenting State. The Court applied the same approach in Monaco v. Mississippi, 292 U.S. 313 (1934), in which the Court refused to take jurisdiction over a suit against a State by a foreign state. On its face, Art. III provided jurisdiction over suits "between a State . . . and foreign States." Nor did the Eleventh Amendment specifically exempt the States from suit by a foreign state. Nevertheless, the Court concluded that the judicial power of the United States, granted by Art. III, did not extend so far: "We think that Madison correctly interpreted Clause one of § 2 of Article III of the Constitution as making provision for jurisdiction of a suit against a State by a foreign State in the event of the State's consent but not otherwise." Id., at 330.
In this case a resident of the State of Florida has sued a Board exercising a major function of the State's sovereign authority. As prior decisions have held, whether this case is viewed only under the Eleventh Amendment — with its
The Court does not distinguish these unquestioned precedents. They are wholly and inexplicably ignored. Quite
Despite these precedents, and apparently because of an unexplained anxiety to reach the exhaustion issue decided by the Court of Appeals, this Court remands the issue of its own jurisdiction to the courts below.
I believe that the Eleventh Amendment question must be addressed and that the answer could hardly be clearer. This is an action under § 1983.
In my view, the Eleventh Amendment — and the principle of sovereign immunity exemplified by the Amendment and embodied in Art. III — clearly bar the suit in this case. The Court's refusal to address the question of its own jurisdiction violates well-established precedents of this Court as well as the basic premise that federal courts are courts of limited jurisdiction. Even had the parties neglected to address the Eleventh Amendment question, it would have been our responsibility to consider it on our own motion. In fact, the question has been fully briefed to the Court of Appeals and
II. Exhaustion of Remedies.
In view of my belief that this case should be dismissed on jurisdictional grounds, I address the exhaustion question only briefly. Seventeen judges joined in the Court of Appeals' persuasive opinion adopting a rule of "flexible" exhaustion of administrative remedies in § 1983 suits. Other Courts of Appeals have adopted a similar rule. See, e. g., Eisen v. Eastman, 421 F.2d 560 (CA2 1969); Secret v. Brierton, 584 F.2d 823 (CA7 1978). The opinion for the en banc court carefully reviewed the exhaustion doctrine in general and as applied to § 1983 actions. It found that the prior decisions of this Court did not clearly decide the question.
I agree with the Court of Appeals' opinion. The requirement that a § 1983 plaintiff exhaust adequate state administrative remedies was the accepted rule of law until quite recently. See Eisen v. Eastman, supra, at 567. The rule rests on sound considerations. It does not defeat federal-court jurisdiction, it merely defers it.
Moreover, and highly relevant to the effective functioning of the overburdened federal court system, the rule conserves and supplements scarce judicial resources. In 1961, the year that Monroe v. Pape, 365 U.S. 167, was decided, only 270 civil rights actions were begun in the federal district courts. Annual Report of the Director of the Administrative Office of the U. S. Courts, 238 (1961). In 1981, over 30,000 such suits were commenced.
The Court argues that past decisions of the Court categorically hold that there is no exhaustion requirement in § 1983 suits. But as the Court of Appeals demonstrates, and as the Court recognizes, many of these decisions can be explained as applications of traditional exceptions to the exhaustion requirement. See McNeese v. Board of Education, 373 U.S. 668 (1963). Other decisions speak to the question in an offhand and conclusory fashion without full briefing and argument. See Wilwording v. Swenson, 404 U.S. 249, 251 (1971) (unargued per curiam); Damico v. California, 389 U.S. 416 (1967) (unargued per curiam). Moreover, a categorical
The Court seeks to support its no-exhaustion rule with indications of congressional intent. Finding nothing directly on point in the history of the Civil Rights Act itself, the Court places primary reliance on the recent Civil Rights of Institutionalized Persons Act, 42 U. S. C. § 1997 et seq. (1976 ed., Supp. IV). This legislation was designed to authorize the Attorney General to initiate civil rights actions on behalf of institutionalized persons. § 1997a. The Act also placed certain limits on the existing authority of the Attorney General to intervene in suits begun by institutionalized persons. See § 1997c. In addition, in § 1997e, the Act sets forth an exhaustion requirement but only for § 1983 claims brought by prisoners.
On the basis of the exhaustion provision in § 1997e, and remarks primarily by Representative Kastenmeier, the Court contends that Congress has endorsed a general no-exhaustion rule. The irony in this reasoning should be obvious. A principal concern that prompted the Department of Justice to support, and the Congress to adopt, § 1997e was the vast increase in § 1983 suits brought by state prisoners in federal courts. There has been a year-by-year increase in these suits since the mid-1960's. The increase in fiscal 1981 over fiscal 1980 was some 26%, resulting in a total of 15,639 such suits filed in 1981 as compared with 12, 397 in 1980. The 1981 total constituted over 8.6% of the total federal district court civil docket. Although most of these cases present frivolous claims, many are litigated through the courts of appeals to this Court. The burden on the system fairly can be described as enormous with few, if any, benefits that would not
Moreover, it is clear from the legislative history that Congress simply was not addressing the exhaustion problem in any general fashion. The concern focused on the problem of prisoner petitions. The new Act had a dual purpose in this respect. In addition to requiring prior exhaustion of adequate state remedies, Congress wished to authorize the Attorney General to act when necessary to protect the constitutional rights of prisoners, but at the same time minimize the need for federal action of any kind by requiring prior exhaustion. Both sponsors of the Act in the Senate made this clear. Senator Hatch explained § 1997e as follows:
Senator Bayh, the author of the Act, described the exhaustion provision in similar terms:
In short, in enacting the Civil Rights of Institutionalized Persons Act Congress was focusing on the powers of the Attorney General, and the particular question of prisoners' suits, not on the general question of exhaustion in § 1983 actions. Also revealing as to the limited purpose of § 1997e is Congress' consistent refusal to adopt legislation imposing a general no-exhaustion requirement. Thus, for example, in 1979, a bill was introduced into the Senate providing:
The bill was never reported out of committee.
The requirement that plaintiffs exhaust available and adequate administrative remedies — subject to well-developed exceptions — is firmly established in virtually every area of the law. This is dictated in § 1983 actions by common sense, as well as by comity and federalism, where adequate state administrative remedies are available.
If the exhaustion question were properly before us, I would affirm the Court of Appeals.
"[Section one] does not even give the State courts a chance to try questions, or to show whether they will try the questions that might come before them under the first section of the fourteenth amendment, fairly or not. It takes the whole question away from them in the beginning." Id., at 86.
See also Globe 416 (remarks of Rep. Biggs) ("for the violation of the rights, privileges, and immunities of the citizen a civil remedy is to be had by proceedings in the Federal courts, State authorization in the premises to the contrary notwithstanding"); id., at 337 (remarks of Rep. Whitthorne); id., at 373 (remarks of Rep. Archer); Globe App. 216 (remarks of Sen. Thurman).
"I think very candidly we should admit that the first reluctance to resort to this mechanism embodied in [§ 1997e] was resisted as a possible encroachment on civil liberties; that is to say, in the free, unimpeded resort to 1983; because it does deflect 1983 petitions back into — temporarily in any event — back into the State system. Therefore, to the extent that it is even so viewed, notwithstanding the limited form of [§ 1997e], that it should also extend to juveniles was rejected." 1979 Hearings 26.
"The minimum standards shall provide —
"(A) for an advisory role for employees and inmates of any jail, prison, or other correctional institution (at the most decentralized level as is reasonably possible), in the formulation, implementation, and operation of the system;
"(B) specific maximum time limits for written replies to grievances with reasons thereto at each decision level within the system;
"(C) for priority processing of grievances which are of an emergency nature, including matters in which delay would subject the grievant to substantial risk of personal injury or other damages;
"(D) for safeguards to avoid reprisals against any grievant or participant in the resolution of a grievance; and
"(E) for independent review of the disposition of grievances, including alleged reprisals, by a person or other entity not under the direct supervision or direct control of the institution."
"It is the intent of the Congress that the court not find such a requirement appropriate in those situations in which the action brought pursuant to [§ 1983] raises issues which cannot, in reasonable probability, be resolved by the grievance resolution system, including cases where imminent danger to life is alleged. Allegations unrelated to conditions of confinement, such as those which center on events outside of the institution, would not appropriately be continued for resolution by the grievance resolution system." Conf. Rep. 15.
See also H. R. Rep. No. 96-80, p. 25 (1979); S. Rep. No. 96-416, p. 34 (1979).
"Relief shall not be granted by a district court in an action brought pursuant to [§ 1983] by an individual involuntarily confined in any State institution. . . , unless it appears that the individual has exhausted such plain, speedy, and efficient State administrative remedy as is available." H. R. 5791, 95th Cong., 1st Sess., § 4 (1977).
Congress declined to adopt this McKart-type standard after witnesses testified that this procedure would bog down the courts in massive procedural litigation thereby frustrating the purpose of relieving the caseloads of the federal courts, that state procedures are often not effective and take too much time, and that the court would have to judge a myriad of state procedures without much guidance. See, e. g., 1977 Hearings 34-35, 51, 164-165, 169-170, 263-264, 323; 1979 Hearings 48-49.
We have noted that "the Eleventh Amendment defense sufficiently partakes of the nature of a jurisdictional bar" that it may be raised by the State for the first time on appeal. Edelman v. Jordan, 415 U.S. 651, 678 (1974). However, because of the importance of state law in analyzing Eleventh Amendment questions and because the State may, under certain circumstances, waive this defense, we have never held that it is jurisdictional in the sense that it must be raised and decided by this Court on its own motion. Cf. Mt. Healthy City Bd. of Ed. v. Doyle, 429 U.S. 274, 279 (1977). Where, as here, the Board of Regents expressly requested that we address the exhaustion question and not pass on its potential Eleventh Amendment immunity, and, as a consequence, the parties have not briefed the issue, we deem it appropriate to address the issue that was raised and decided below and vigorously pressed in this Court. Nothing in this opinion precludes the Board of Regents from raising its Eleventh Amendment claim on remand. The District Court is in the best position to address in the first instance the competing questions of fact and state law necessary to resolve the Eleventh Amendment issue, and at this stage it has the discretion to permit amendments to the pleadings that might cure any potential Eleventh Amendment problems.
"The Judicial power of the United States shall not be construed to extend to any suit in law or equity, commenced or prosecuted against one of the United States by Citizens of another State, or by Citizens or Subjects of any Foreign State."
In addition to racial discrimination, petitioner also claimed that she had been discriminated against on the basis of her sex.
The Board's brief on appeal was divided into three parts. Part III was devoted to the argument that "the Eleventh Amendment precludes subject matter jurisdiction over plaintiff's complaint." Brief for Defendant-Appellee in No. 79-2965 (CA5), p. 17. A lengthy statutory addendum was attached in support of the arguments advanced in this section of the brief. After the case was scheduled for rehearing en banc, the parties filed short — i. e., 4- and 10-page — supplemental briefs to be considered in addition to the main briefs already submitted to the Court of Appeals. The supplemental briefs did not add to the discussion of the Eleventh Amendment issue. But the question was placed before the Court of Appeals en banc, as it had been placed before the panel, through the thorough discussion in the main briefs.
This Court's explanation for not addressing the Eleventh Amendment issue is that it was not considered below. See ante, at 515-516, n. 19. But contrary to the implication in the Court's explanation, the issue — as shown here — was urged by the Board and argued here.
The Board is an agency of the State of Florida. § 216.011. See Relyea v. State, 385 So.2d 1378 (Fla. App. 1980). It may claim the defense of sovereign immunity in suits under state law. See ibid.
Numerous Courts of Appeals have held state universities or state Boards of Regents immune from suit in federal court by reason of the Eleventh Amendment. See, e. g., Rutledge v. Arizona Board of Regents, 660 F.2d 1345, 1349 (CA9 1981); Brennan v. University of Kansas, 451 F.2d 1287 (CA10 1971); Ronwin v. Shapiro, 657 F.2d 1071 (CA9 1981).
At oral argument here counsel for respondent stated that the Florida Legislature had not waived the Eleventh Amendment and had waived the defense of sovereign immunity "only in selected tort cases." Tr. of Oral Arg. 26. See Bragg v. Board of Public Instruction, 36 So.2d 222 (Fla. 1948) ("The mere fact that the Board of Public Instruction is created as a body corporate with power to sue and be sued does not affect its immunity from tort"); Relyea v. State, supra (Board of Regents retains defense of sovereign immunity); Fla. Stat. § 111.071(1)(b)(4) (1981) (provision for payment by the State of civil rights judgments against state officers — including judgments under 42 U. S. C. § 1983 (1976 ed., Supp. IV) — does not waive sovereign immunity "or any other defense or immunity" to such lawsuits). Cf. Long v. Richardson, 525 F.2d 74, 79 (CA6 1975) (state university's immunity from suit under state law disposes of Eleventh Amendment question).
The Court, ante, at 516, n. 19, attaches importance to the statement at oral argument by counsel for the Board that the Board wanted the exhaustion issue decided. This must be viewed, however, in light of the Board's unsuccessful attempt to have this Court first decide the Eleventh Amendment issue. Moreover, a party's request — short of a binding waiver — cannot relieve this Court of its duty to resolve a jurisdictional question.
On the contrary, the Court consistently has viewed the Amendment as jurisdictional. In Sosna v. Iowa, supra, at 396, n. 2, the Court raised the question of the Eleventh Amendment even though the State had asserted the bar of the Amendment only in its answer to the complaint and had thereafter abandoned this defense. Unlike the Board of Regents in this case, the State of Iowa had not advanced the defense in this Court. Even so, the Sosna Court raised and addressed the question. These precedents are ignored by the Court today.
Moreover, the fact that the Board is a corporate entity under state law does not permit application of the rule in Ex parte Young to the Board itself — as if the Board were an official. This Court repeatedly has held the Eleventh Amendment to bar suit against such state corporate agencies. See Florida Dept. of Health v. Florida Nursing Home Assn., 450 U.S. 147 (1981); Great Northern Insurance Co. v. Read, supra; Ford Motor Co. v. Department of Treasury of Indiana, 323 U.S. 459 (1945); Kennecott Copper Corp. v. State Tax Comm'n, supra.
Hopkins v. Clemson Agricultural College, 221 U.S. 636 (1911), is not to the contrary. In that case suit was brought against a state college in state court to recover damages caused by the college's construction of a dyke. Although the Court discussed the Eleventh Amendment in some detail, there was simply no Eleventh Amendment question in that case. It was clear before Hopkins that the Eleventh Amendment did not apply to bar review in this Court of any federal question presented in a suit against a State in state court. See Chandler v. Dix, 194 U.S. 590, 592 (1904). Cf. University of California Regents v. Bakke, 438 U.S. 265 (1978). Moreover, the Hopkins Court did not consider the college's activities in that case to be governmental. 221 U. S., at 647. In short, no Eleventh Amendment question was presented to the Court. The opinion in Hopkins has never been cited by this Court for the proposition that the Eleventh Amendment is no bar to suit against a state corporate agency in federal court. See Florida Dept. of Health v. Florida Nursing Home Assn., supra; Alabama v. Pugh, 438 U.S. 781 (1978); Parden v. Terminal R. Co., 377 U.S. 184 (1964).