Hardin v. Straub
In 1986, petitioner, who is incarcerated in a Michigan state prison, filed a pro se complaint under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 alleging that prison authorities had deprived him of his federal constitutional rights during 1980 and 1981. The Federal District Court sua sponte dismissed the complaint because it had been filed after the expiration of Michigan's 3-year statutory limitations period for personal injury actions, which is applicable in federal civil rights actions under 42 U.S.C. § 1988 and this Court's decisions. The Court of Appeals affirmed, refusing to apply a Michigan statute that suspends limitations periods for persons under a legal disability, including prisoners, until one year after the disability has been removed.
Held: A federal court applying a state statute of limitations to an inmate's federal civil rights action should give effect to the State's provision tolling the limitations period for prisoners. The Court of Appeals' ruling to the contrary conflicts with Board of Regents, University of New York v. Tomanio, 446 U.S. 478, 100 S.Ct. 1790, 64 L.Ed.2d 440, which held that limitations periods in § 1983 suits are to be determined by reference to the appropriate state statute of limitations and the coordinate tolling rules, as long as the state law would not defeat the goals of the federal law at issue. The Michigan tolling statute is consistent with § 1983's remedial purpose, since some inmates may be loathe to sue adversaries to whose daily supervision and control they remain subject, and even those who do file suit may not have a fair opportunity t establish the validity of their allegations while they are confined. Pp. 538-544.
836 F.2d 549 (C.A.6 1987) reversed and remanded.
STEVENS, J., delivered the opinion for a unanimous Court.
Douglas Ryan Mullkoff, Ann Arbor, Mich., for petitioner.
Louis J. Caruso, Lansing, Mich., for respondent.
Justice STEVENS delivered the opinion of the Court.