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James v. Bueno

United States District Court, D. Maine

September 23, 2016

MICHAEL JAMES, Plaintiff
v.
ERIC BUENO, et al., Defendants

          RECOMMENDED DECISION ON MOTION FOR TEMPORARY RESTRAINING ORDER

          John C. Nivison U.S. Magistrate Judge

         In this action, Plaintiff Michael James, an inmate at the Maine State Prison, alleges Defendants deprived him of certain federal rights when they placed him in solitary confinement based on false accusations. (Complaint at 3, ¶ IV.) He asserts the confinement has included the application of excessive force, and that he has suffered severe mental pain and experienced medical treatment issues. (Id.)

         Plaintiff also filed a motion for injunctive relief. (Plaintiff's Motion for a Temporary Restraining Order, ECF No. 20; Memorandum of Law, ECF No. 20-1.) Through his motion and supporting declaration, [1] Plaintiff asks the Court (1) to order Defendants to provide him with a classification and prison assignment that is not punitive in nature, provide more liberty out of his cell, and provide “proper medical care, ” and (2) to prohibit Defendants from having any contact with Plaintiff while his lawsuit is pending. (ECF No. 20 at 2 - 3.)

         After review of Plaintiff's filings, I recommend that the Court deny Plaintiff's request for immediate injunctive relief.

         Background

         In his complaint, Plaintiff alleges, inter alia, that he has been “maced” over 100 times, which has greatly exacerbated his asthma; that he has been “taken off all [his] medication for [his] mental health and emotional issue;” that in his distress, he has hit his head against the wall; and that he has a long history of mental illness. (Complaint at 4, 6.) Plaintiff has on three occasions supplemented his complaint, which filings have included grievance forms (ECF No. 13), responses to some grievances (ECF No. 14), and a letter to the court (ECF No. 11) in which he asserts the treatment he presently receives is influenced in part by his decision to file suit.

         Plaintiff's history of incarceration has been discussed at some length by the Maine Supreme Judicial Court (the “Law Court”). In James v. State, the Law Court provided the following relevant background information:

[¶ 2] On May 21, 2004, while serving a twelve-year sentence at the Maine State Prison, Michael James was convicted of one count of witness tampering and eleven counts of assault on an officer. The court (Brodrick, A.R.J.) sentenced James to three years, to be served consecutively to his twelve-year sentence. Pursuant to 17- A M.R.S.A. § 1256 (Supp. 2004)[] [subsequently amended], James's twelve-year sentence was interrupted so that he could serve this three-year sentence first.
[¶ 3] While serving this three-year prison sentence, James was charged with ten more counts of assault on an officer. On June 27, 2006, a Knox County jury found James not criminally responsible by reason of mental disease or defect on these counts, and the Superior Court (Marden, J.) ordered him committed to DHHS custody “to be placed in an appropriate institution for the mentally ill ... for care and treatment” pursuant to 15 M.R.S. § 103 (2007). The order did not state whether James was to be committed to DHHS custody before or after serving the remainder of his prison sentence.
[¶ 4] The Attorney General's office reviewed the conflicting orders relating to James's custody and opined that James should remain in DOC custody until his term of imprisonment is complete, after which he would be taken into DHHS custody for placement in a psychiatric institution. The Attorney General's office shared this opinion with the court, noting that the prison would retain the option of initiating an emergency involuntary admission should James's illness or behavior warrant treatment during his incarceration.
[¶ 5] James, who was then still housed in the Maine State Prison, filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus in the Superior Court, dated September 15, 2006, naming the Commissioners of DOC and DHHS as respondents. James argued that deferral of his placement in the custody of DHHS was not warranted pursuant to the court's order or the applicable statute, that the Maine State Prison was not an appropriate institution to care for the mentally ill, and that DOC and DHHS were failing to implement the court's June 27, 2006, order. The respondents moved for dismissal of the petition.
[¶ 6] On January 5, 2007, following a hearing, the court denied James's petition for a writ of habeas corpus, holding that the writ of habeas corpus has been replaced by the statute providing for post-conviction review, 15 M.R.S. §§ 2122, 2124, and that James could challenge the legality of his detention by DOC only by way of a post-conviction proceeding. The court ordered that James's petition be treated as a petition for post-conviction review and gave James leave to amend the petition in order to cause it to conform to the statutory requirements and M. R. Crim. P. 67.
[¶ 7] James amended his petition, naming the State as the respondent. In preparation for the post-conviction hearing, the parties stipulated that the Maine State Prison is not “an appropriate institution for the mentally ill ... for care and treatment” under 15 M.R.S. § 103.
[ΒΆ 8] The court entered a judgment on July 25, 2007, ordering James committed immediately to DHHS custody for placement in a psychiatric hospital, and holding that his pre-existing prison sentence will be tolled until James receives an order of release or discharge from the custody of DHHS pursuant to 15 M.R.S. ...

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