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Jackson v. Montana State Prison

United States District Court, D. Montana, Helena Division

August 1, 2018

BRADLEY V. JACKSON, Plaintiff,
v.
MONTANA STATE PRISON, WARDEN MICHAEL FLETCHER, MARRISA BOSTWICK and TIFFANY MORRISON, Defendants.

          ORDER AND FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS OF UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

          JOHN JOHNSTON, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         Plaintiff Bradley Jackson filed a Complaint alleging his constitutional rights were violated when he was forced to choose between school and church. (Doc. 2.) While Mr. Jackson does not have a constitutional right to education, if other inmates were allowed to leave school to attend religious ceremonies and that option was denied to Mr. Jackson, he has potentially stated an equal protection and/or First Amendment claim. Defendants Fletcher, Bostwick, and Morrison will be required to respond to these claims. Montana State Prison and Mr. Jackson's due process claim will be recommended for dismissal.

         I. SCREENING PURSUANT TO 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915, 1915A

         Mr. Jackson is a prisoner proceeding in forma pauperis so the Court must review his Complaint under 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915, 1915A. Sections 1915A(b) and 1915(e)(2)(B) require the Court to dismiss a complaint filed in forma pauperis and/or by a prisoner against a governmental defendant before it is served if it is frivolous or malicious, fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief.

         A complaint is frivolous if it “lacks an arguable basis either in law or in fact.” Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 325 (1989). “A case is malicious if it was filed with the intention or desire to harm another.” Andrews v. King, 398 F.3d 1113, 1121 (9th Cir. 2005). A complaint fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted if a plaintiff fails to allege the “grounds” of his “entitlement to relief.” Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (quotation omitted). Rule 8(a)(2) requires a complaint to “contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quotations omitted).

         Rule 8 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provides that a complaint “that states a claim for relief must contain . . . a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the [plaintiff] is entitled to relief.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). In order to satisfy the requirements in Rule 8 a complaint's allegations must cross “the line from conceivable to plausible.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 680 (2009).

         There is a two-step procedure to determine whether a complaint's allegations cross that line. See Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556; Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662. First, the Court must identify “the allegations in the complaint that are not entitled to the assumption of truth.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679, 680. Factual allegations are not entitled to the assumption of truth if they are “merely consistent with liability, ” or “amount to nothing more than a ‘formulaic recitation of the elements' of a constitutional” claim. Id. at 679, 681. A complaint stops short of the line between probability and the possibility of relief where the facts pled are merely consistent with a defendant's liability. Id. at 678.

         Second, the Court must determine whether the complaint states a “plausible” claim for relief. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679. A claim is “plausible” if the factual allegations, which are accepted as true, “allow[ ] the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Id. at 678. This inquiry is “a context-specific task that requires the reviewing court to draw on its judicial experience and common sense.” Id. at 679 (citation omitted). If the factual allegations, which are accepted as true, “do not permit the court to infer more than the mere possibility of misconduct, the complaint has alleged-but it has not “show[n]”-“that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Id. (citing Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2)).

         “A document filed pro se is ‘to be liberally construed,' and ‘a pro se complaint, however inartfully pleaded, must be held to less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers.' “ Erickson v. Pardu, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007); cf. Fed. Rule Civ. Proc. 8(e) (“Pleadings must be construed so as to do justice”).

         II. STATEMENT OF THE CASE

         A. Parties

         Mr. Jackson is a state prisoner proceeding without counsel. He is proceeding in forma pauperis. He is incarcerated at Montana State Prison.

         Mr. Jackson names the following Defendants: Montana State Prison (“MSP”), Warden Michael Fletcher, Marrisa Bostwick and Tiffany Morrison. (Complaint, Doc. 2 at 5.)

         B. Allegations

         Mr. Jackson alleges that on multiple occasions he was told he could not go to church if he wanted an education. He claims Defendants forced him to choose between school and church. (Doc. 2 at 6.) Mr. Jackson attached a letter to his Complaint wherein he explains he was not allowed to take part in his ceremonial religious right (pipe ceremony) while in school. He claimed the prison education instructor placed him in a position of choosing either school or his religious activities. He alleges he was forced to make this choice while the instructor gave special permission for others practicing a different religion the freedom to attend both education and their religious ceremonies. (Doc. 2-1.)

         III. ANALYSIS

         A. Montana State Prison

         Montana State Prison is a state agency protected from monetary damages by immunity under the Eleventh Amendment to the United States Constitution. The United States Supreme Court has interpreted the Eleventh Amendment to mean that absent waiver, neither a State nor an agency of the State acting under its control may “be subject to suit in federal court.” Puerto Rico Aqueduct & Sewer Authority v. Metcalf & Eddy, Inc., 506 U.S. 139, 144 (1993). Montana State Prison is not a proper defendant in this action and should be dismissed.

         B. Due Process

         Mr. Jackson lists a Fourteenth Amendment Due Process claim in his Statement of Claims. (Doc. 2 at 6.) The Due Process Clause protects against the deprivation of liberty without due process of law. Wilkinson v. Austin, 545 U.S. 209, 221 (2005). In order to state a cause of action for a deprivation of due process, a plaintiff must first identify a liberty interest for which the protection is sought. Id. The Due Process Clause does not confer a liberty interest in freedom from state action taken within a prisoner's imposed sentence. Sandin v. Conner, 515 U.S. 472, 480 (1995). A prisoner has a liberty interest protected by the Due Process Clause only where the restraint “imposes atypical and significant hardship on the inmate in relation to the ordinary incidents of prison life.” Keenan v. Hall, 83 F.3d 1083, 1088 (9th Cir. 1996) (quoting Sandin, 515 U.S. at 484).

         The due process clause of the United States Constitution does not create a liberty interest in prison education or rehabilitation classes. Hernandez v. Johnston, 833 F.2d 1316, 1319 (9th Cir. 1987) citing Rizzo v. Dawson, 778 F.2d 527, 531 (9th Cir. 1985). As such, Mr. ...


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