San Diego Law Review

Library of Congress Authority File


Document Type



This Comment explores the conflict between two federal laws when prisoners challenging their confinement seek damages or declaratory relief. On one hand, the exhaustion doctrine requires state prisoners to exhaust their state remedies before filing a petition for a writ of habeas corpus in federal court when they contest their confinement. On the other hand, prisoners challenging their civil rights may file in federal court without exhausting all state remedies. This Comment addresses how federal courts should determine which rule to apply when a prisoner brings an action contesting confinement, but seeks only declaratory relief or damages. The author proposes a resolution by the use of a two-pronged test that first focuses on what the prisoner is challenging, then, in some cases, upon the remedy the prisoner is seeking.