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Mincy v. Chmielewski

June 8, 2006


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Christopher C. Conner United States District Judge


Presently before the court is plaintiff Hilton Mincy's ("Mincy") motion for a preliminary injunction pursuant to FED.R.CIV.P. 65(a) and request for a transfer. (Doc. 69). For the reasons that follow, the motion will be denied.

I. Factual Background

On November 10, 2004, Mincy, an inmate incarcerated at the State Correctional Institution at Mahanoy ("SCI-Mahanoy"), witnessed an altercation between his cell mate and a correctional officer. On November 12, 2004, he was ordered to report to the prison security office to discuss the incident. Mincy stated that the correctional officer verbally provoked his cell mate and that the officer had "taken the first swing." (Doc. 21, p. 1).

According to Mincy, prison authorities believe that he conspired with his cell mate to assault the officer. (Doc. 21, p. 2). As a result, he was subjected to increased scrutiny in the form of frequent cell visits and pat searches. He was also informed that he was going to be moved to D-block which is known throughout the prison as the block that houses sex offenders and rapists. He immediately filed a grievance for harassment and retaliation. (Doc. 21, p. 2). The following day, he was moved to D-block and was placed in the "trouble watch cell" directly across from the officer's desk. (Id.)

On November 27, 2004, Mincy was transferred to the Restrictive Housing Unit ("RHU") and placed in administrative custody pending a security office investigation of threats against an officer. Mincy alleges that RHU officers refused to provide him with basic personal hygiene items and stationery. He also claims that he was denied grievance forms. The following day, he received a misconduct for disobeying an order and interfering with count.

He claims that in preparation for the misconduct hearing, he asked two corrections officer, Murphy and Vance, to sign his witness form, but after reading Mincy's account of the events, they refused to sign it. (Doc. 21, p. 3). Vance took the form and refused to give it back to Mincy.

At the time of the misconduct hearing, his witness form was missing and Mincy's request for witnesses was denied. He was found guilty and "given 60 days." (Doc. 21, p. 4). He appealed the misconduct to final review and a rehearing was ordered. (Doc. 21, p. 6). Mincy was again found guilty. He again appealed. On final review, the matter was remanded back to the Program Review Committee ("PRC"). (Doc. 21, p. 7). The PRC denied the appeal on remand. Mincy continued the appeal process and his appeal was denied on final review.

He alleges that while in the RHU, he was subjected to other forms of harassment, including denial of grievance forms, denial of shower privileges, and unnecessary placement in a "psych" cell which had alternating blasts of hot and cold air and was without water, toilet paper, and soap. He was released from the RHU on January 20, 2005.

On April 3, 2005, Mincy found rocks in his food. On April 18, 2005, as a result of an investigative cell search, he was issued a misconduct for possession of contraband. (Doc. 70, pp. 6-7). In the context of the misconduct hearing, his request to call his former cell mate as a witness was denied and he was denied a copy of the hearing officer's report. Also, while in the RHU, he was placed in a "hard cell" and was continually denied access to the RHU mini-law library.*fn1

Mincy contends that as a consequence of exercising his First Amendment right to free speech, he has been subjected to the above retaliatory and abusive actions while incarcerated at SCI-Mahanoy. (Doc. 69, p. 3). He seeks to enjoin the defendants from harassing him, and requests a transfer to a different correctional facility. (Doc. 69, p. 8).

II. Discussion

Preliminary injunctive relief is extraordinary in nature and should issue in only limited circumstances. See American Tel. and Tel. Co. v. Winback and Conserve Program, Inc., 42 F. 3d 1421, 1426-27 (3d Cir. 1994). "Four factors govern a district court's decision whether to issue a preliminary injunction: (1) whether the movant has shown a reasonable probability of success on the merits; (2) whether the movant will be irreparably injured by denial of the relief; (3) whether granting preliminary relief will result in even greater harm to the nonmoving party; and (4) whether granting the preliminary relief will be in the public interest. American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey v. Black Horse Pike Regional Bd. of Educ., 84 F.3d 1471, 1477 n. 2 (3d Cir. 1996) (en banc ). See also Allegheny Energy, Inc. v. DQE, Inc., 171 F.3d 153, 158 (3d Cir. 1999). 'A district court should endeavor to balance these four factors to determine if an injunction should issue.' Allegheny Energy, 171 F.3d at 158 (citing American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey, 84 F.3d at 1477 n. 2.)." Brian B. v. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania Dept. of Educ. 51 F. Supp. 2d 611, 619 -620 (E.D.Pa. 1999). "[A] failure to show a likelihood of success or a failure to demonstrate irreparable injury must necessarily result in the denial of a preliminary injunction." In Re Arthur Treacher's Franchise Litigation, 689 F.2d 1137, 1143 (3d Cir. 1982). It is the moving party that bears the burden of satisfying these factors. United States v. Bell, 238 F.Supp. 2d 696, 699 (M. D. Pa. 2003)(internal citations omitted). Moreover, issuance of such relief is at the discretion of the trial judge. Orson, Inc. v. Miramax Film Corp., 836 F. Supp. 309, 311 (E. D. Pa. 1993).

"In the prison context, requests for injunctive relief must always be viewed with great caution because judicial restraint is especially called for in dealing with the complex and intractable problems of prison administration. . . . Further where a plaintiff requests injunctive relief that would require the court to interfere with the administration of a state prison, the court must consider the principles of federalism in ...

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