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Williams v. Washington

After experiencing lengthy delays in the processing of their applications for unemployment compensation, several Alabama residents sued the Secretary of the Alabama Department of Labor under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging that the Department’s failure to act on their applications and provide the notices and hearings to which they were entitled violated their federal constitutional and statutory rights. The Alabama Supreme Court dismissed the lawsuit on the basis that the plaintiffs had failed to exhaust their state administrative remedies. Arguing that administrative exhaustion is not required for Section 1983 lawsuits, the plaintiffs sought review in the U.S. Supreme Court.

Public Citizen, joined by the ACLU, filed an amicus brief supporting the plaintiffs. The brief explains that requiring exhaustion of state administrative remedies as a precondition to a Section 1983 suit is contrary to the text and purpose of Section 1983 and cannot be squared with the Court’s precedents.