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Jones v. Unknown D.O.C. Bus Driver and Transportation Crew

United States Court of Appeals, Third Circuit

December 13, 2019

WILLIAM R. JONES, Appellant
v.
UNKNOWN D.O.C. BUS DRIVER AND TRANSPORTATION CREW; MARK CAPOZZA, Superintendent, in his personal and professional capacity; CAPT. MOHRING, in his personal and professional capacity

          Argued: September 12, 2019

          On Appeal from the United States District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania (D.C. No. 2:16-cv-01174) Magistrate Judge: Honorable Lisa P. Lenihan

          Amir H. Ali [ARGUED] Roderick & Solange MacArthur Justice Center Counsel for Appellant

          Mary L. Friedline Anthony T. Kovalchick [ARGUED] Kemal A. Mericli Office of Attorney General of Pennsylvania Counsel for Appellees

          Before: HARDIMAN, GREENAWAY, JR., and BIBAS, Circuit Judges.

          OPINION OF THE COURT

          BIBAS, CIRCUIT JUDGE.

         If a prisoner wants to file a § 1983 suit, he must exhaust the prison's internal administrative remedies first. Because he must clear this hurdle before suing, we wait to start the limitations clock until after he has exhausted them (or after his release, whichever comes first). This is true whether he sues from prison or sues after his release. Either way, the plaintiff had to delay filing while he exhausted his remedies in prison.

         Former prisoner William Jones spent the last ten months of his Pennsylvania state prison sentence exhausting his administrative remedies for alleged violations of his constitutional rights. Just under two years after his release, he filed a § 1983 claim against various prison officials. A magistrate judge, who was presiding with the parties' consent, dismissed his complaint as time-barred, finding that Jones had filed the claim after Pennsylvania's two-year limitations period had expired. But because we exclude the ten months Jones spent exhausting his administrative remedies from the two-year clock, Jones's filing was timely. So we will vacate the magistrate judge's order.

         Though his claims are timely, some fail on other grounds. Jones failed to state a claim against two of the appellees. And his claim for injunctive relief became moot when he was released from prison. So we will affirm the dismissal of these claims. On remand, Jones may pursue his claims for monetary relief against the remaining defendants.

         I. Background

         A. The bus incidents

         On reviewing this motion to dismiss, we take the allegations in the complaint as true: Jones is a former Pennsylvania state prisoner. On October 31, 2013, he was on a prison bus, traveling to court for his post-conviction hearing. Jones struck up a conversation with a fellow inmate. In response, the bus driver "threaten[ed]" Jones and the other inmate, telling them to "shut up" or else he would take their boxes of property. App. 93. The driver then intentionally switched Jones's property box with that of the other inmate. The box held Jones's legal books and papers that he had prepared for the hearing. Without them, he could not present his arguments for a reduced sentence to the court.

         Almost two weeks later, Jones was waiting in line for another prison bus. The same bus driver yanked him out of line, put him in the bus's segregation cage, and berated him. Jones told the other inmates to get the names of the bus driver and transportation crew so he could report their actions. In response, they took off their name tags. Jones never learned their names.

         The stress of this incident exacerbated his mental ailments and caused him to have a nervous breakdown. For two days after the second bus ride, ...


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