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Karakozova v. University of Pittsburgh

June 11, 2009


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Arthur J. Schwab United States District Judge


Memorandum Order

I. Introduction

This is an action for employment discrimination. Pro se plaintiff, Marina Karakozova, Ph.D., is a citizen of the Russian Federation and was employed as a Research Assistant at the University of Pittsburgh, School of Pharmacy. Plaintiff, who is an H-1B visa holder (originally set to expire on August 15, 2010), has been employed at the University of Pittsburgh since December 2006, and had a contract to work in her current position at University of Pittsburgh from December 15, 2008 to June 14, 2009. On January 23, 2009, her supervisor, Yong Tae Kwon, Ph.D, sent her a letter stating that her contract would end on June 14, 2009 due to insufficient funding. On the current record, defendant has submitted no credible evidence or argument that plaintiff was not qualified to do her job or that she performed her job unsatisfactorily.

Plaintiff seeks this Court to issue her "emergency relief"*fn1 to retain her employment until she can exhaust her administrative remedies*fn2 before the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission (PHRC), and the University of Pittsburgh, thus allowing her to remain a resident of the United States during that time. Without the grant of the emergency relief requested, plaintiff's H-1B Visa will expire on June 14, 2009, and she will be required to return to her home in Russia.

Plaintiff alleges that she was subject to discrimination on the basis of national origin, in that her supervisor decided not to renew her contract because of alleged insufficient funding, yet hired and/or retained other similarly situated persons of Korean descent.*fn3

II. Standard of Review

The purpose of a preliminary injunction is to maintain the status quo during the pendency of litigation in order to prevent a moving party from sustaining an irreparable injury should that party ultimately prevail on the merits. Phillips Petroleum Co. v. U.S. Steel Corp. 566 F.Supp. 1093, 1104 (D.C. Del.,1983) (citing Ohio Oil Co. v. Conway, 279 U.S. 813, 815 (1929)) (other citations omitted). The decision to enter a preliminary injunction is committed to the sound discretion of the district court. West Indian Co., Ltd, v. Gov 't of Virgin Islands, 812 F.2d 134, 135 (3d Cir. 1987). By awarding a preliminary injunction, the court seeks to:

[P]reserve the relative positions of the parties until a trial on the merits can be held. Given this limited purpose . . . , a preliminary injunction is customarily granted on the basis of procedures that are less formal and evidence that is less complete than in a trial on the merits.

Council of Alternative Political Parties v. Hooks, 179 F.3d 64,69 (3d Cir. 1994). As such, "a decision on a preliminary injunction is, in effect, only a prediction about the merits of the case." Id. at 70 (citing US. v. Local 560 (I.B.T.), 974 F.2d 3 15, 330 (3d Cir. 1992)).

In determining whether to grant a preliminary injunction, a district court must consider four factors: (1) whether the movant has a reasonable probability of success on the merits; (2) whether the movant will be irreparably harmed by denying the injunction; (3) whether there will be greater harm to the nonmoving party if the injunction is granted; and (4) whether granting the injunction is in the public interest. Highmark Inc., v. UPMC Health Plan, 276 F.3d 160, 171 (3d Cir. 2001). The court may only look at facts "presented at a hearing, or . . . presented through affidavits, deposition testimony, or other documents, about the particular [situation]" of the movant. Adams v. Freedom Forge Corp., 204 F.3d 475,487 (3d Cir. 2000).

The burden of proof lies with the movant, who must produce "evidence sufficient to convince the trial judge that all four factors favor preliminary relief . . . ." Opticians Ass'n ofAm. Ind. Opticians of Am., 920 F.2d 187, 192 (3d Cir. 1990). The movant "must show a clear right to relief [where] . . . no disputed issues of fact" exist. Charles Simkin & Sons, Inc., v. Massiah, 289 F.2d 26,29 (3d Cir. 1961). At the outset of the preliminary injunction analysis, the movant must demonstrate the first two factors, the likelihood of success on the merits and the probability of irreparable harm. Morton v. Beyer, 822 F.2d 364,367 (3d Cir. 1987). If relevant, the district court must then consider the last two factors, the potential harm to the nonmoving party and whether the public interest is served. Id.

As a court sitting in equity, the district court must weigh the four factors, but it is not incumbent on the movant to prevail on all four factors, only on the overall need for an injunction. Torrence v. Thompson, 2008 WL 2755237, *2 (W.D. Pa. 2008) (citing Neo Gen Screening, Inc. v. TeleChem Intern., Inc., 69 Fed.Appx. 550, 554 (3d Cir.2003)). A sufficiently strong showing on either the likelihood of success or irreparable harm may justify an injunction, even if a movant's showing on the other two factors is lacking. Id. (emphasis added).The burden of introducing evidence to support a preliminary injunction is on the moving party with respect to the first two factors; however, the same is not true of the second two factors. Id.

In regard to the first factor, the movant has the burden to show a likelihood of success on the merits. Highmark Inc., 276 F.3d at 171. In finding whether the movant has met its burden, the court must keep in mind that the standard for granting a preliminary injunction "differs from the standard for granting a permanent injunction." ACLU v. Black Horse Pike Regional Bd Of Educ., 84 F.3d 1471, 1477 (3d Cir. 1996). In other words, granting a preliminary injunction should be based on "the likelihood that plaintiffs [will] succeed ...

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