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.
FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATION
Jeremiah C. Lynch, United States Magistrate Judge.
Benjamin Brooks is appearing pro se in this action. His
complaint advances claims arising from events which allegedly
occurred when he was incarcerated at the Missoula County
Tera Tackett, an officer at the Detention Facility, moves for
summary judgment dismissing Brooks' claims advanced in
this action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Tackett asserts that
Brooks failed, as required by 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(a), to
exhaust the administrative remedies available to him at the
Detention Facility relative to the subject matter of this
action. Brooks has not filed either a brief, a statement of
disputed facts, or evidentiary materials in response to the
motion is filed under Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a) which entitles a
party to summary judgment “if the movant shows that
there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the
movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” In
deciding a motion for summary judgment, the Court views the
evidence in the light most favorable to the non-moving party
and draws all justifiable inferences in the non-moving
party's favor. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc.,
477 U.S. 242, 255 (1986); Betz v. Trainer Wortham &
Co., Inc., 504 F.3d 1017, 1020-21 (9th Cir.
Brooks was incarcerated at the Missoula County Detention
Facility. On August 11, 2017, Tackett, while working as an
officer at the detention facility, allegedly withheld
Brooks' mail from him in violation of his rights
protected under the First Amendment to the United States
Constitution. Brooks further alleges that Tackett's
conduct interfered with his Sixth Amendment right to the
assistance of counsel. Finally, Brooks asserts Tackett is
liable under state law for her negligence in withholding his
mail and interfering with his right to assistance of counsel.
claims under the United States Constitution are cognizable
under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, and thus he properly invokes 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
motion for summary judgment requests dismissal of Brooks'
claims pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(a) which prohibits
a prisoner from bringing a section 1983 action until after
“such administrative remedies as are available are
exhausted.” 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(a); Woodford v.
Ngo, 548 U.S. 81, 88-89 (2006). This exhaustion
requirement is mandatory (Woodford, 548 U.S. at 85),
and absent exhaustion of administrative remedies before the
prisoner commences the action the case is subject to
dismissal without prejudice. McKinney v. Carey, 311
F.3d 1198, 1199 (9th Cir. 2002) (per curiam).
exhaustion requirement in § 1997e(a) requires a
plaintiff to give an agency a fair and full opportunity to
adjudicate a claim. Woodford, 548 U.S. at 90. This
means the plaintiff must complete the available
administrative remedy process by “using all steps that
the agency holds out[.]” Id. (citation and
quotation omitted). The inmate must complete all steps of the
administrative remedies and appeals available to him.
Lasalle-Pitre v. Mercado-Cuevas, 839 F.Supp.2d 471,
475 (D.P.R. 2012) (citing Woodford). “To
satisfy the exhaustion requirement, a prisoner ordinarily
must exhaust his administrative appeals to the highest
available level of review[.]” Collier v.
Brown, 635 F.Supp.2d 1144, 1151 (C.D.C. 2009).
defendant bears the ultimate burden of proving failure to
exhaust. See Brown v. Valoff, 422 F.3d 926, 936
(9th Cir. 2005). If the defendant initially shows
that (1) an available administrative remedy existed and (2)
the prisoner failed to exhaust that remedy, then the burden
of production shifts to the plaintiff to bring forth evidence
“showing that there is something in his particular case
that made the existing and generally available administrative
remedies effectively unavailable to him.” Albino v.
Baca, 747 F.3d 1162, 1172 (9th Cir. 2014).
Once the defendant has carried that burden, the prisoner must
produce evidence demonstrating that “the local remedies
were ineffective, unobtainable, unduly prolonged, inadequate,
or obviously futile.” Williams v. Paramo, 775
F.3d 1182, 1191 (9th Cir. 2015) (internal
citations and quotation marks omitted).
was incarcerated at the Crossroads Correctional Center in
Shelby, Montana at the time he filed this action. (Doc. 2 at
4 of 10). Therefore, he was a “prisoner” for
purposes of the exhaustion requirements. 42 U.S.C. §
respect to the issue of Tackett's conduct in allegedly
withholding Brooks' mail in violation of the First
Amendment, Brooks filed a grievance concerning the matter
with the Missoula County Detention Facility. (Doc. 21 at
¶ 18.) That same grievance also included his complaint
that Tackett's conduct violated his right to legal
counsel protected under the Sixth Amendment. (Doc. 20- 1 at
12 of 18.) His grievance was denied for procedural reasons.
(Doc. 21 at ¶ 23.)
has submitted a copy of the grievance procedures employed at
the Missoula County Detention Facility. The procedures
provide that “[i]f the inmate indicates he intends to
appeal [the denial of his grievance, then] he will receive an
appeal form, and [the inmate] has three days to file the
appeal.” (Doc. 20-1 at 18 of 18.)
states that when she returned the denied grievance to Brooks
he indicated he did not wish to appeal. (Doc. 21 at ¶
25.) And Brooks did not appeal the denial of his grievance,
nor did he file another grievance pertaining to the matters
of which he complains. (Doc. 21 at ¶¶ 25-26.)
on the foregoing, the undisputed facts provided by Tackett
establish that Brooks did not exhaust his administrative
remedies at the Missoula County Detention Facility because he
did not appeal the denial of the grievance he submitted
regarding the subjects of his legal claims advanced in this
action as required by section 1997e(a). And because Brooks
has not responded to Tackett's summary judgment motion he
has not submitted any evidentiary material suggesting that he
did exhaust his ...