WILLIAM D. BATTLE, III, Plaintiff - Appellant,
J. LEDFORD, Correctional Officer; R. EDWARDS, Correctional Officer; GREGORY HOLLOWAY, Warden of Wallens Ridge State Prison; GEORGE HINKLE, Regional Administrator for Virginia Department of Corrections, Defendants - Appellees.
Argued: September 25, 2018
from the United States District Court for the Western
District of Virginia, at Roanoke. Elizabeth Kay Dillon,
District Judge. (7:16-cv-00020-EKD-RSB)
Crandall, Elizabeth Joynes, UNIVERSITY OF VIRGINIA SCHOOL OF
LAW, Charlottesville, Virginia, for Appellant.
Michelle Shane Kallen, OFFICE OF THE ATTORNEY GENERAL OF
VIRGINIA, Richmond, Virginia, for Appellees.
Charlet, Third Year Law Student, Megan Keenan, Third Year Law
Student, Evan Ward, Third Year Law Student, Appellate
Litigation Clinic, UNIVERSITY OF VIRGINIA SCHOOL OF LAW,
Charlottesville, Virginia, for Appellant.
R. Herring, Attorney General, Trevor S. Cox, Acting Solicitor
General, Laura H. Cahill, Assistant Attorney General, Matthew
R. McGuire, Deputy Solicitor General, OFFICE OF THE ATTORNEY
GENERAL OF VIRGINIA, Richmond, Virginia, for Appellees.
MOTZ, DUNCAN, and THACKER, Circuit Judges.
GRIBBON MOTZ, CIRCUIT JUDGE
Prison Litigation Reform Act requires a prisoner to exhaust
administrative remedies before filing suit. When a prisoner
filed this action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 after
exhausting those remedies, the district court held the
statute of limitations barred his suit. For the reasons that
follow, we vacate and remand for further proceedings
consistent with this opinion.
D. Battle, III, entered Wallens Ridge State Prison in
Roanoke, Virginia, on December 6, 2013. After Battle
completed the inmate intake process, corrections officers J.
Ledford and R. Edwards (collectively, "the
officers") escorted him to his assigned housing unit. A
physical altercation between Battle and the officers occurred
along the way.
officers subsequently filed a disciplinary report against
Battle. They charged that Battle, who was restrained in
handcuffs and leg irons during the transfer, used his body to
push one of the officers into a food cart. According to the
officers, they subdued Battle by "plac[ing]" him on
the ground. Battle disputed this account before a prison
hearing administrator. He denied shoving any officer and
instead claimed that a pain in his ankle caused him to trip.
He stated that the officers responded with unnecessary
violence: pulling his hair and slamming his head into the
concrete floor, causing "bruising, lacerations, [and]
swelling of the face." Battle requested that the hearing
administrator examine video footage of the incident to
corroborate his account.
hearing administrator declined to do so; instead, he simply
credited the officers' version of the incident. After
unsuccessfully appealing this decision to the prison's
chief warden, Battle submitted a second appeal to the
regional corrections administrator. On February 27, 2014, the
regional administrator rejected Battle's claim and issued
a form confirming that Battle had reached the "last
level of appeal for this grievance." A total of 83 days
had passed since the altercation.
January 11, 2016 - two years and 36 days after the
altercation - Battle completed a postage request for a pro se
§ 1983 complaint alleging the officers used excessive
force against him, in violation of the Eighth and Fourteenth
Amendments.The parties accept that this postage
request establishes the filing date.
officers moved for summary judgment, arguing that Battle
filed outside Virginia's two-year statute of limitations
applicable to § 1983 claims filed within the
jurisdiction. See Va. Code Ann. § 8.01-243(A)
(setting limitations for personal injury actions). Battle
countered that his complaint was timely because 42 U.S.C.
§ 1997e(a) of the Prison Litigation Reform Act
("PLRA") required him to exhaust available
administrative remedies before bringing a § 1983 claim.
He argued that the 83 days during which he participated in
the required exhaustion should be tolled under two Virginia
statutes and federal law, thus extending his filing deadline
to February 27, 2016.
first state statute on which Battle relied, Va. Code §
8.01-229(K), suspends the statute of limitations for personal
injury actions during criminal proceedings. The second, Va.
Code § 8.01-195.3(7), governs actions brought under the
Virginia Tort Claims Act ("VTCA") and tolls the
time for filing a claim notice during the pendency of a
prison grievance process. Additionally, Battle relied on
federal equitable tolling law.
district court considered only Battle's argument as to
Va. Code § 8.01-229(K). It held that statute could not
be used to toll Battle's limitations period because a
"prison disciplinary proceeding is not a criminal
prosecution." Battle v. Ledford, No.
7:16CV00020, 2017 WL 432822, at *3 n.5 (W.D. Va. Jan. 30,
2017) (citing Wolff v. McDonnell, 418 U.S. 539, 556
(1974)). The court then granted the officers' motion for
summary judgment, concluding that Battle filed his complaint
36 days too late.
appeal, Battle concedes that the district court properly
rejected his claim under Va. Code Ann. § 8.01-229(K). He
maintains, however, that the court overlooked his claims of
state statutory tolling under the VTCA and federal equitable
tolling, and so erred in deeming his complaint time-barred.
review a district court's grant of summary judgment de
novo. Henry v. Purnell, 652 F.3d 524, 531 (4th Cir.
2011) (en banc). Summary judgment is appropriate only when
"there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and
the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law."
did not provide fixed timing rules in § 1983 or its
companion provision, § 1988. Instead, Congress specified
that gaps in § 1983 "should be filled by state law,
as long as that law is not inconsistent with federal
law." Hardin v. Straub, 490 U.S. 536, 538
Supreme Court has directed that we apply a state's
"statute of limitations governing general personal
injury actions" when considering § 1983 claims.
Owens v. Okure, 488 U.S. 235, 251 (1989). A
state's limitations and tolling rules are to be followed
unless doing so "defeat[s] either § 1983's
chief goals of compensation and deterrence or its subsidiary
goals of uniformity and federalism." Hardin,
490 U.S. at 539 (footnote omitted). If Virginia law allows
tolling of Battle's limitations period, that ends the
inquiry. See id. at 543 (establishing that states
may grant ...