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Anderson v. Brodie

United States District Court, D. Montana, Missoula Division

October 4, 2019



          Kathleen L. DeSoto United States Magistrate Judge

         On June 6, 2019, Plaintiff Anderson moved to proceed in forma pauperis with this action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 alleging violation of his rights under the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments. On June 7, 2019, he submitted an amended complaint (Doc. 6) and a notice[1] identifying the amendments he made (Doc. 5). On June 14, he moved the Court, ex parte, to allow him to obtain a docket sheet at public expense on request to the clerk's office (Doc. 7).

         I. Motion to Proceed In Forma Pauperis

         Anderson's motion is unconventional. Unlike other applicants, he has not disclosed his income and expenses. He does, however, represent that he receives assistance through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. See Mot. (Doc. 1) at 2. Presumably, he has submitted appropriate financial documentation to a state or federal authority that is obliged to verify his financial means. On this occasion, the Court will rely on that determination and grant Anderson's motion to proceed in forma pauperis.

         II. Ex Parte Motion for Docket Sheets

         On June 18, 2019, United States Magistrate Judge Jeremiah C. Lynch entered an order denying Anderson's ex parte motion to allow him to obtain copies of docket sheets at public expense. See Text Order (Doc. 8). Because the undersigned is new to the case, it seems appropriate to explain why the clerk is not required to provide free docket sheets.

         Anderson's motion states that he intends to use the docket sheet "because it is easier to use the abbreviated description of the subject matter of the document" than the docket number. See Ex Parte Mot. (Doc. 7) at 3. This is understandable and, frankly, the Court agrees the docket text is useful.

         Anderson consented to electronic service.[2] See Notice and Consent (Doc. 3) at 1. When the clerk receives and files a document, the Court's electronic filing system generates a notice of electronic filing ("NEF") that is delivered to Anderson by email. That email provides a link to the document, which Anderson may print or save to an electronic file. The document has the case number, the docket number of the document, and the date and time of filing stamped across the top of each page. In addition, the email itself consists of the NEF, which includes the docket entry corresponding to the document. Consequently, by saving his emails, Anderson always has access to the docket entry corresponding to each document, and that is the information he seeks. See Ex Parte Mot. (Doc. 7) at 3. When Anderson agreed to be served by email, the clerk recognized that he did not have NEFs for documents filed on or before the date of his agreement. The clerk regenerated the NEFs corresponding to those documents and resent them to Anderson so that he would have the docket text corresponding to those documents as well.

         Anderson already has and will receive on an ongoing basis the information he requests. He does not also need the clerk to stop whatever other task is at hand to respond to his requests by taking a snapshot of the docket, saving it, and emailing it to him.

         The Court notes that Anderson filed his motion ex parte. There is no reason for the motion to be filed under seal. It will be filed in the public docket, except that the Court will hold the photograph of Anderson's residence (Doc. 7-2 at 1-2) under seal. It appears possible Anderson filed the motion ex parte to protect the privacy of that photograph.

         III. Screening of Complaint

         Because Anderson is proceeding in forma pauperis, the Court is required to review his complaint to determine whether it fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted. See 2% U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii).

         Anderson is also self-represented. "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. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007) (per curiam) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted). Courts must briefly explain deficiencies that may be cured by amendment, see Akhtar v. Mesa, 698 F.3d 1202, 1212 (9th Cir. 2012), but if a claim cannot be cured by amendment, "the court shall dismiss" it, 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2) (emphasis added).

         IV. Claims and Analysis

         A. Anderson's Allegations of Fact

         At this stage of the proceedings, the Court assumes Anderson's allegations of fact are true. He describes the following course of events.

         On September 14, 2018, Anderson was seated in the Commons area of the University Center on the campus of the University of Montana, editing a paper. A female custodian, Jane Doe, approached, put a copy of the UM tobacco policy on his table, and told Anderson he could not chew tobacco on campus. See Am. Compl. (Doc. 6) at 4 ¶¶ 11-12.

         About 20 minutes later, two UM campus police officers, Defendants Brodie and John Doe, approached his table and asked to see identification. Anderson, in turn, asked them to explain what reasonable suspicion caused them to believe he was committing a crime. Anderson also informed them they could not detain him based on the UM tobacco policy. Anderson declined to produce identification. Brodie and Doe escorted Anderson off campus and told him he could return the next day. See Id. at 5 ¶¶ 14-16.

         The following evening, September 15, 2018, Anderson was sitting at the same table when Brodie and Doe approached him again. This time, they told him they had found record of two misdemeanor arrest warrants in his name. They permitted Anderson to gather his belongings and drop them off at a ...

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