United States District Court, D. Montana, Missoula Division
BENJAMIN C. BROOKS, Plaintiff,
MISSOULA COUNTY DETENTION FACILITY MAIL STAFF; CORRECTIONAL OFFICER HARRIS; and SGT.TERA TACKETT #549, Defendants.
ORDER, AND FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATION
Jeremiah C. Lynch United States Magistrate Judge
Benjamin Brooks, appearing pro se, commenced this action by
filing his complaint and a motion to proceed in forma
pauperis. The Court granted Brooks' motion under
authority of 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a).
1915 requires the Court to conduct a preliminary screening of
the allegations set forth in the litigant's pleading. The
applicable provisions of section 1915(e)(2) state as follows:
(2) Notwithstanding any filing fee, or any portion thereof,
that may have been paid, the court shall dismiss the case at
any time if the court determines that-
(A) the allegation of poverty is untrue; or
(B) the action or appeal-
(i) is frivolous or malicious;
(ii) fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted;
or (iii) seeks monetary relief against a defendant who is
immune from such relief.
28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2).
Court will review Brooks' pleading to consider whether
this action can survive dismissal under the provisions of
section 1915(e)(2), or any other provision of law. See
Huftile v. Miccio-Fonseca, 410 F.3d 1136, 1138, 1142
(9th Cir. 2005).
Brooks was incarcerated at the Missoula County Detention
Facility. On August 11, 2017, Defendant Tera Tackett, an
officer at the detention facility, allegedly withheld
Brooks' “legal mail” from him. Although he
characterizes the mail as “legal mail”, Brooks
clarifies that “Tackett violated my rights to receive
law work by mail sent from home[.]” (Doc. 2 at 6.)
Brooks asserts he needed the legal materials to assist his
attorney in defense of criminal charges pending against him.
He alleges Tackett's conduct “injured my defense in
my suppression case.” (Doc. 2 at 8.) As the apparent
justification for withholding the mail, Tackett informed
Brooks that inmates were not permitted to receive “mail
sent in that's printed from a computer.” (Doc. 2 at
6.) Brooks contends, however, that no such rule actually
existed within the facility's policies.
next alleges Tackett “violated my right […] to
use the law library” to assist in his defense of the
pending criminal charges. (Doc. 2 at 6.) But Brooks does not
provide any further factual information relative to his use
of the law library and any alleged interference with that use
that Tackett may have imposed.
also alleges that on November 9, 2017, Defendant Correctional
Officer Harris delivered Brooks' “legal mail”
that had already been opened. Brooks asserts Harris informed
him he opened the “legal mail” in front of
another inmate named Michael Brooks and allowed Michael
Brooks to read it. Brooks contends Harris's conduct could
have placed him in danger by allowing Michael Brooks to
release information from that mail to the general population
at the detention facility. Brooks alleges the released
information regarding his criminal defense strategy could
have also been relayed to the prosecutors in his criminal
contends Tackett and Harris' conduct violated his First
Amendment rights to receive legal mail and have that mail
opened only in his presence. He also asserts that
Tackett's alleged interference with Brooks' use of
the law library contravened his right of access to the
courts. Next Brooks claims Tackett and Harris's conduct
interfered with his Sixth Amendment right to the assistance
of counsel in the criminal proceedings pending against him.
Finally, he alleges Tackett and Harris are liable for
claims under the United States Constitution are cognizable
under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, and they invoke the Court's
federal question jurisdiction as provided at 28 U.S.C. §
1331. And pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1367(a) the Court
possesses supplemental jurisdiction over Brooks' related
negligence claims advanced under Montana law.
Brooks is proceeding pro se the Court must construe his
pleading liberally, and the pleading is held “to less
stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by
lawyers[.]” Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519,
520 (1972). See also Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S.
319, 330 n.9 (1989). In view of the required liberal
a district court should grant leave to amend even if no
request to amend the pleading was made, unless it determines
that the pleading could not possibly be cured by the
allegation of other facts.
Lopez v. Smith, 203 F.3d 1122, 1127 (9th
Cir. 2000) (emphasis added) (quoting Doe v. United
States, 58 F.3d 494, 497 (9th Cir. 1995)).
Denial of Mail
of whether the mail Tackett handled on August 11, 2017, was
actually “legal mail”, or just mail he was to
receive from “home” as he states, Brooks'
allegations assert Tackett withheld mail from
And Tackett did so on the basis that a ...