Exhaustion of Remedies Law and Legal Definition

Exhaustion of remedies refers to a judicial or statutory requirement that a controversy will not be heard by a state or federal court until non-judicial or administrative remedies have been pursued. Such policies seek to avoid the interruption of the state or administrative processes and conserve judicial resources. There is a long-standing requirement of courts to review administrative actions only when they are final.

The doctrine allows factual issues to be flushed out and determined by agencies that specialize in a particular area. Also, the deference that the judiciary shows to the doctrine promotes a more uniform approach to the range of issues within an agency’s jurisdiction. The doctrine allows the agency to correct its own errors and to keep down costs. Finally, the doctrine of exhaustion promotes judicial efficiency and protects the autonomy of administrative agencies.

The doctrine of exhaustion, however, is not absolute. Sometimes, federal courts are reluctant to require exhaustion of administrative remedies. In these cases, courts will balance the interest of the individual against “countervailing institutional interests favoring exhaustion.”