Ordinarily a litigant is not required to exhaust administrative remedies before filing a civil rights lawsuit. Under the Prison Litigation Reform Act, prisoners must first complain to the prison before filing a lawsuit. There is endless litigation over what "exhaustion" means. It's exhausting.
In Harvey v. Jordon (CA9) (here), a prisoner failed to report a grievance to prison officials within 15 days of his injury - here, guards were overly loose with pepper spray grenade. The prisoner felt ill, but didn't attribute his illness to prison officials' misconduct. Thus, he didn't file a grievance within the deadline; but he did file after discovering that his respiratory illness was a reaction to pepper spray.
According to Harvey’s own statements, he knew on the date of his cell extraction that prison officials had no justification for any of the cell searches conducted that day; that the pepper spray “worked its way into [the] vent system,” causing obnoxious and powerful fumes to circulate throughout the prison; that he did not refuse to comply with the search or obstruct the view through his cell window; and that the pepper spray grenade “nearly incapacitated” him when it was thrown into his cell. Because Harvey could have filed an excessive force grievance based on those allegations alone, he was not prevented from filing a timely grievance because of a lack of information.Read the rest here.