Does the Prison Litigation Reform Act's requirement that administrative remedies be exhausted also require that a prisoner not procedurally default his administrative remedies? No.
Procedural default is not an inextricable element of the PLRA’s exhaustion requirement. If it were, prisoners’ access to courts would be based on their ability to navigate procedural minefields, not on whether their claims had any merit. Moreover, prison administrators should not be given an incentive to fashion grievance procedures which prevent or even defeat prisoners’ meritorious claims.
Ngo v. Woodford, No. 03-16041 (9th Cir. Mar. 24, 2005). There is now a major circuit split, and this one going upstairs. It's upsetting, because Steven Dillard is litiging this current issue in the Eleventh Circuit, and I had hoped he would get the circuit split. Then again, if the Court does not grant cert., then they certainly will once the Eleventh Circuit has passed on the issue. You can read Steve's brief here.