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William Victor v. R.M. Lawler

February 29, 2012


The opinion of the court was delivered by: (Magistrate Judge Carlson)



This case is brought by William Victor, a state inmate, and involves serious allegations arising out of a discrete incident in June of 2008 at SCI Smithfield, an incident in which Victor's jaw was broken during a cell extraction.

We are committed to securing for all parties the prompt, and fair, adjudication of this claim. Thus, a jury trial on plaintiff William Victor's claims against the remaining defendants in the above-captioned action has been scheduled to commence on May 21, 2012. (Doc. 476)

To achieve this goal all parties must remain focused on this litigation, a truism whose importance is underscored by the pending motions which we address in this order. Now pending in this action are several pre-trial motions in which Victor requests that the Court issue a variety of orders that would: (1) compel prison officials to provide Victor with requested accommodations and privileges not enjoyed by other prisoners housed with Victor in the Special Management Unit at SCI-Camp Hill; (2) prevent prison officials from destroying or otherwise tampering with Victor's legal materials and property; (3) require the Court to issue subpoenas for at least 25 different individuals that Victor apparently intends to call at trial in this matter; (4) direct Department of Corrections officials to produce additional documents and other information Victor claims to require to present his case; (5) and enjoin prison officials from retaliating against or otherwise harassing Victor, and direct that they ensure his safety. (Docs. 450, 458, 461, 471, 478) These motions are variously titled, some seeking emergency relief, injunctive relief, or restraining orders (Docs. 461, 471); another captioned as a motion to compel the production of documents (Doc. 450); another seeking an order of protection (Doc. 458); and another filed simply as a motion in limine, in which Victor essentially amplifies his earlier request that defendants and others be required to produce documents and materials that Victor has requested to use at trial. (Doc. 478) Despite minor differences in the motions, we will address them collectively given the similar and closely related nature of the requests made in each motion. We also will rule on these matters mindful of the fact that many of the issues and concerns voiced by Victor, in our view, are more properly addressed in the other, subsequent lawsuits filed by this prisoner.


A. Claims for Preliminary Injunctive Relief

First, with respect to Victor's requests that the Court issue preliminary injunctive relief by ordering that prison officials discontinue threatening, harassing, or otherwise retaliating against Victor for pursuing his legal claims against certain corrections officials in Civil Actions 08-1374 and 11-891, we find that the motion should be denied at this time. Victor has recently commenced a new civil action, Civil Action No. 12-282, in which he identifies a series of actions that he alleges have taken place at SCI-Camp Hill that he regards as retaliatory against him based upon his pending lawsuit filed against a former Camp Hill correctional officer. Many of these allegations relate to disciplinary proceedings brought against Victor at Camp Hill after it was alleged that a home-made knife was found concealed in Victor's legal papers. This civil action is proceeding separately from the above-captioned action, and to the extent Victor believes that he has legitimate claims for preliminary injunctive relief with respect to his claims in that action, he is of course free to file such motions and supporting materials as he deems appropriate.

The Court recognizes that Victor is endeavoring to obtain injunctive relief in the above-captioned action, and in Civil Action No. 11-891, because he is alleging that at least some of the retaliatory conduct he is allegedly suffering relates directly to these pending actions, and particularly to Civil Action 08-1374, which is scheduled for trial in May. Notwithstanding Victor's motivation in seeking injunctive relief in the above-captioned cases, we find that such relief is inappropriate for several reasons.

1. Preliminary Injunction Rule 65-- The Legal Standard

Inmate pro se pleadings, like those filed here, which seek extraordinary, or emergency relief, in the form of preliminary injunctions are governed by Rule 65 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and are judged against exacting legal standards. As the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit has explained: "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." Gerardi v. Pelullo, 16 F.3d 1363, 1373 (3d Cir. 1994) (quoting SI Handling Systems, Inc. v. Heisley, 753 F.2d 1244, 1254 (3d Cir. 1985)). See also Highmark, Inc. v. UPMC Health Plan, Inc., 276 F.3d 160, 170-71 (3d Cir. 2001); Emile v. SCI-Pittsburgh, No. 04-974, 2006 WL 2773261, *6 (W.D.Pa. Sept. 24, 2006)(denying inmate preliminary injunction).

A preliminary injunction is not granted as a matter of right. Kerschner v. Mazurkewicz, 670 F.2d 440, 443 (3d Cir. 1982) (affirming denial of prisoner motion for preliminary injunction seeking greater access to legal materials). It is an extraordinary remedy. Given the extraordinary nature of this form of relief, a motion for preliminary injunction places precise burdens on the moving party. As a threshold matter, "it is a movant's burden to show that the 'preliminary injunction must be the only way of protecting the plaintiff from harm.' " Emile, 2006 WL 2773261, at * 6 (quoting Campbell Soup Co. v. ConAgra, Inc., 977 F .2d 86, 91 (3d Cir.1992)). Thus, when considering such requests, courts are cautioned that:

"[A] preliminary injunction is an extraordinary and drastic remedy, one that should not be granted unless the movant, by a clear showing, carries the burden of persuasion." Mazurek v. Armstrong, 520 U.S. 968, 972 (1997) (emphasis deleted). Furthermore, the Court must recognize that an "[i]njunction is an equitable remedy which should not be lightly indulged in, but used sparingly and only in a clear and plain case." Plain Dealer Publishing Co. v. Cleveland Typographical Union # 53, 520 F.2d 1220, 1230 (6th Cir.1975), cert. denied, 428 U.S. 909 (1977). As a corollary to the principle that preliminary injunctions should issue only in a clear and plain case, the Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit has observed that "upon an application for a preliminary injunction to doubt is to deny." Madison Square Garden Corp. v. Braddock, 90 F.2d 924, 927 (3d Cir.1937).

Emile, 2006 WL 2773261, at *6.

Accordingly, for an inmate to sustain his burden of proof that he is entitled to a preliminary injunction under Fed.R.Civ.P. 65, he must demonstrate both a reasonable likelihood of success on the merits, and that he will be irreparably harmed if the requested relief is not granted. Abu-Jamal v. Price, 154 F.3d 128, 133 (3d Cir. 1998); Kershner, 670 F.2d at 443. If the movant fails to carry this burden on either of these elements, the motion should be denied since a party seeking such relief must "demonstrate both a likelihood of success on the merits and the probability of irreparable harm if relief is not granted." Hohe v. Casey, 868 F.2d 69, 72 (3d Cir. 1989)(emphasis in original), (quoting Morton v. Beyer, 822 F.2d 364 (3d Cir. 1987)).

These limitations on the power of courts to enter injunctions in a correctional context are further underscored by statute. Specifically, 18 U.S.C. ยง3626 limits the authority of courts to enjoin the ...

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