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James v. Bueno

United States District Court, D. Maine

December 12, 2016

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

          RECOMMENDED DECISION ON MOTION FOR IMMEDIATE RELIEF

          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 use of excessive force; that he has suffered severe mental pain; and that there have been issues regarding his medical treatment. (Id.)

         The matter is before the Court on Plaintiff's Motion for Immediate Relief (ECF No. 63). In his motion, Plaintiff asserts the Department of Corrections plans to move him to an out of state facility; all Defendants have attempted to kill or harm him “to some degree”; the unit he is in[1] is insufficiently heated; he has water and light issues in his location; and he is willing to dismiss the lawsuit if he can be transferred to a different unit where he can receive help. (Id. at 1 - 3.)

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

         Background

         The history that resulted in Plaintiff's current placement is provided in a prior recommended decision (ECF No. 26), and is not repeated here. In his complaint, Plaintiff alleges, inter alia, that he has been “maced” many times; that he did not receive his medication; 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 several occasions supplemented his complaint, which filings have included grievance forms (ECF Nos. 13, 40, 41), responses to some grievances (ECF No. 14, 40), a letter to the court in which he asserts the treatment he presently receives is influenced in part by his decision to file suit (ECF No. 11), an amended pleading joining an additional defendant (ECF No. 29), and a supplement describing his history in Riverview Psychiatric Hospital and an alleged use of force against him on September 19, 2016, which force allegedly resulted in a fractured wrist. (ECF No. 27.)[2]

         Discussion

         Through his motion, Plaintiff asks the Court to direct the Department of Corrections to take certain action regarding the conditions of his confinement. Plaintiff's motion can fairly be construed as a request to intervene in the administration of the Maine State Prison.[3]

         To obtain emergency injunctive relief on his civil rights claims, Plaintiff must show “(1) a substantial likelihood of success on the merits, (2) a significant risk of irreparable harm if the injunction is withheld, (3) a favorable balance of hardships, [4] and (4) a fit (or lack of friction) between the injunction and the public interest.”[5] Nieves-Marquez v. Puerto Rico, 353 F.3d 108, 120 (1st Cir. 2003); Hoffman v. Sec'y of State of Me., 574 F.Supp.2d 179, 186 (D. Me. 2008).

         Through his submissions, Plaintiff arguably requests both a temporary restraining order and a preliminary injunction. Generally, the distinction between the two forms of injunctive relief is that the former can be awarded without notice to the other party and an opportunity to be heard. Int'l Ass'n of Machinists & Aerospace Workers v. Verso Paper Corp., 80 F.Supp.3d 247, 278 (D. Me. 2015). A temporary restraining order, therefore, is an even more exceptional remedy than a preliminary injunction, which is itself “an extraordinary and drastic remedy that is never awarded as of right.” Voice of the Arab World, Inc. v. MDTV Med. News Now, Inc., 645 F.3d 26, 32 (1st Cir. 2011) (quoting Munaf v. Geren, 553 U.S. 674, 689 - 90 (2008)). By rule, a temporary restraining order requires a clear showing “that immediate and irreparable injury, loss, or damage will result to the movant before the adverse party can be heard in opposition.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 65(b)(1).

         Regardless of whether notice is provided, “[t]he dramatic and drastic power of injunctive force may be unleashed only against conditions generating a presently existing actual threat; it may not be used simply to eliminate a possibility of a remote future injury, or a future invasion of rights, be those rights protected by statute or by the common law.” Holiday Inns of Am., Inc. v. B & B Corp., 409 F.2d 614, 618 (3d Cir. 1969). Moreover, “judicial restraint is especially called for in dealing with the complex and intractable problems of prison administration.” Rogers v. Scurr, 676 F.2d 1211, 1214 (8th Cir. 1982). See also 18 U.S.C. § 3626(a)(1)(A) (requiring that prospective injunctive relief “extend no further than necessary” and afford only “the least intrusive means necessary to correct the violation, ” and that the court “give substantial weight to any adverse impact on public safety or the operation of a criminal justice system caused by the relief”).

         Plaintiff has failed to establish through record evidence that he is likely to prevail on the claims asserted in the complaint, which Plaintiff must do to obtain injunctive relief at this stage of the proceedings. Verizon New England, Inc. v. Maine Pub. Utilities Comm'n, 403 F.Supp.2d 96, 102 (D. Me. 2005). Particularly without any record evidence, the balance between an injunction and the public interest militates against an injunction particularly given that “judicial restraint is especially called for in dealing with the complex and intractable problems of prison administration.” Rogers, 676 F.2d at 1214. Simply stated, on this record, Plaintiff is not entitled to the immediate injunctive relief he seeks.[6]

         Conclusion

         Based on the foregoing analysis, I recommend the Court deny Plaintiff's Motion ...


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