Petitioner, a Pennsylvania state prisoner, brought this action
in the District Court claiming that prison authorities had violated
§ 1 of the Civil Rights Act of 1871 by confiscating legal materials
which petitioner had acquired for pursuing his appeal but which, in
alleged violation of prison rules, were in another prisoner's
possession. The District Court dismissed petitioner's complaint on
the ground that petitioner had not exhausted certain state
It was not necessary for petitioner to resort to
these state remedies in light of this Court's decisions in
Monroe v. Pape, 365 U. S. 167
365 U. S.
-183, and other cases.
Certiorari granted; 379 F.2d 556, reversed and remanded.
Petitioner was convicted of burglary and is serving a sentence
of four to 10 years in a Pennsylvania state prison. In pursuing his
appeal , petitioner acquired law books, trial records, and other
materials with the consent of prison authorities. Before petitioner
had filed his appeal brief, prison authorities confiscated these
materials because they were found in the possession of another
inmate. Petitioner's efforts to obtain the return of the materials
were not successful, and he commenced this action in the United
States District Court, claiming that the prison authorities had
violated § 1 of the Civil Rights Act of 1871, 17 Stat. 13, now 42
U.S.C. § 1983, by depriving him of his legal materials. The
Page 392 U. S. 640
dismissed the complaint on the sole ground that petitioner had
not alleged exhaustion of state administrative remedies, citing
Gaito v. Prasse,
312 F.2d 169 (C.A.3d Cir.). The Court of
Appeals for the Third Circuit affirmed without opinion. We grant
the petition for certiorari and reverse the judgment of the Court
Petitioner's legal materials were confiscated pursuant to prison
rules forbidding the possession of articles not sold through the
canteen or approved by the authorities and forbidding the
unauthorized loaning of books to another inmate. According to the
inmates' handbook, petitioner could have taken his problem to the
"Classification and Treatment Clinic"; it was also his
"to address a communication at any time to the Superintendent,
the Deputy Commissioner of Correction, or the Commissioner of
Correction, and as a final appeal, to the Attorney General."
Petitioner did seek relief from the Deputy Superintendent of his
prison, but without result. He was told, he says, to "leave well
enough alone." His mother's telephone calls and correspondence with
prison authorities were likewise unavailing. He has not, however,
taken an appeal to the Deputy Commissioner of Correction, the
Commissioner, or to the Attorney General.
As we understand the submission of the Attorney General of
Pennsylvania in this Court, the rules of the prison were validly
and correctly applied to petitioner; these rules are further said
to be strictly enforced throughout the entire correctional system
in Pennsylvania. In light of this, it seems likely that to require
petitioner to appeal to the Deputy Commissioner of Correction, the
Commissioner, or to the Attorney General would be to demand a
futile act. In any event, resort to these remedies is unnecessary
in light of our decisions in Monroe v. Pape, 365 U.
, 365 U. S.
-183; McNeese v. Board of Education,
373 U. S. 668
373 U. S. 671
and Damico v.
Page 392 U. S. 641
416. On the basis of these decisions, but without intimating any
opinion on the merits of the underlying controversy concerning the
prison rules, the motion to proceed in forma pauperis
the petition for certiorari are granted, the judgment of the Court
of Appeals is reversed, and the case remanded for further
proceedings consistent with this opinion
Reversed and remanded.