Justice Powell's papers on Burrell v. McCray are included in this
website for what they show about Justice Powell's thinking about Section
1983, rather than because the case itself is important. Burrell is
not an important case. While it raised an important issue—whether
a prisoner claiming that his constitutional rights had been violated,
should be required to exhaust his administrative remedies before suing
under § 1983—the
Burrell Court never reached that issue. Instead it dismissed
certiorari as improvidently granted, thus deciding not to decide the
case at all.
Powell's Burrell papers are included in this
website because they provide important insights into Powell's thinking
about § 1983—particularly his desire to reduce § 1983's scope and to
on the color of law issue.
(See, e.g., his
July 31, 1975 memo
“Limitations on § 1983” or his
April 27, 1976 memo in which he indicates
he would vote to overrule Monroe.)
that purpose, it is not necessary to give Burrell the comprehensive
treatment given to cases like Monell or Owen.
Instead, this mini-case file contains a complete set of Justice Powell’s
papers relating to Burrell, but contains nothing from any of the other
This is not an ordinary case file.
While it contains all the documents from Justice Powell's files on
Burrell, it contains no documents from the other justices' papers.
It includes an Archive Page
limited to Justice Powell's papers, as well as the normal
Researcher Information (although
no bibliography). Any timeline based solely on Justice Powell's
papers would necessarily be incomplete, so no Timeline is
currently provided. Instead, the Archive Page (which fortuitously
presents the documents in essentially chronological order) has been
expanded with somewhat more complete descriptions of each of the
documents. Readers should be able to access the documents
easily through the Archive Page.