Blake v. Ross (Fourth Circuit)
Blake was assaulted by two corrections officers, Ross and Madigan, while in custody at the Maryland Reception Diagnostic & Classification Center. Blake filed this civil rights suit against the officers under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, and we were appointed to represent him on a pro bono basis. Nearly two years into the litigation, Ross belatedly raised a new affirmative defense of failure to exhaust administrative remedies as required by the Prison Litigation Reform Act. Over our objection, the district court awarded judgment to Ross on the exhaustion defense, and the case proceeded to trial with Madigan as the remaining defendant. The jury found that Madigan violated our client’s constitutional rights and awarded $50,000 in damages. We have now appealed the district court’s dismissal of our client’s claim against Ross, arguing that the district erred in allowing Ross to belatedly raise a new affirmative defense and in holding that our client did not comply with the exhaustion requirement.