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Konata Matthews, Plaintiff v. Jeffrey Beard

September 28, 2012


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Chief Magistrate Judge Lisa Pupo Lenihan

ECF No. 52


Pending before the Court is a Motion for Temporary Restraining Order and Preliminary Injunction (ECF No. 52) filed by pro se Plaintiff, Konata Matthews, an inmate currently incarcerated at the State Correctional Institution at Houtzdale ("SCI-Houtzdale"). For the following reasons, the Motion will be denied.


By way of background, Plaintiff's Complaint in this matter was filed on September 30, 2011. (ECF No. 3.) Plaintiff alleged that Defendants violated his rights under 42 U.S.C. § 1981, § 1983, and various state tort laws and state and federal criminal statutes. Plaintiff sued the following Defendants in their individual capacities: Jeffrey Beard (former Secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections), Judy Smith (Superintendent's Assistant and Grievance Coordinator at SCI-Pine Grove), Susan Myers (CHCA at SCI-Pine Grove), T. Bearer (Correctional Food Service Manager at SCI-Pine Grove), Carol Zubur (Mail Inspector Supervisor at SCI-Pine Grove), Mark Thomas (Security Lieutenant at SCI-Pine Grove), E.D. Yeager (Correctional Officer at SCI-Houtzdale), and Jaime B. Boyd (Assistant Counsel of the Governor's Office of General Counsel). Defendants filed a Motion to Dismiss (ECF No. 18) and although Plaintiff was given the opportunity to file a response in opposition to Defendants' Motion or an Amended Complaint, he did neither (ECF Nos. 20, 21, 22, 47, 48). On June 14, 2012, the Court granted Defendants' Motion to Dismiss but allowed Plaintiff to file an Amended Complaint with respect to several of his claims. (ECF Nos. 49, 50.) Plaintiff filed an Amended Complaint on July 13, 2012, along with the current Motion for TRO and Preliminary Injunction. (ECF Nos. 51, 52.)

In Plaintiff's Motion, he states that on April 23, 2012, he gave his Amended Complaint to Doretta Chencharick, the Superintendent's Assistant, so that she could mail it to the Court in accordance with this Court's instructions in the video conference hearing held on April 6, 2012. (ECF No. 52 at ¶ 1); see ECF No. 47. Plaintiff, however, states that Ms. Chencharick did not do so out of retaliation for filing a grievance against her on April 17, 2012. (ECF No. 52 at ¶ 1.) On May 9, 2012, Plaintiff filed a grievance against Ms. Chencharick for either shredding or throwing his Amended Complaint in the trash. Id.

Over a month later, on June 14, 2012, Plaintiff claims that he was escorted from the Restricted Housing Unit ("RHU") to the Security Office where Captain Brumbaugh, Lieutenant Shea, Lieutenant Horton and Deputy Close demanded that he withdraw the grievance he had filed against Ms. Chencharick. Id. at ¶ 2. After he refused to do so, Plaintiff claims that Deputy Close shoved his head into the office door, kicked him, spit in his face, and called him a "black bastard." Id. Then he claims that Captain Brumbaugh, Lt. Shea, and Lt. Horton took turns hitting, kicking, and spitting on him while uttering racial slurs and death threats. Id. Finally, he claims that Captain Brumbaugh, Lt. Shea, and Lt. Horton then held him while Deputy Close choked and raped him. Id. Plaintiff claims that he is being held in the RHU based on fabricated misconduct reports, presumably pertaining to this incident. Id. at ¶ 3. He seeks a TRO against Captain Brumbaugh, Lt. Shea, Lt. Horton, and Deputy Close. (ECF No. 52-1.) He requests a Court order that they "stop committing racially motivated hate crimes through assaults, torture, rape, and death threats in retaliation for petitioning the government for redress." (ECF No. 52-1.)

II.Applicable Legal Standards

This Court has discretion to grant preliminary injunctive relief under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 65. The party seeking a preliminary injunction has the burden of demonstrating:

(1) a reasonable probability of success on the merits; (2) irreparable harm if the injunction is denied; (3) that the issuance of an injunction will not result in greater harm to the non-moving party; and (4) that the public interest would best be served by granting the injunction. Council of Alternative Political Parties v. Hooks, 121 F.3d 876, 879 (3d Cir. 1997); Clean Ocean Action v. York, 57 F.3d 328, 331 (3d Cir. 1995); Opticians Ass'n of America v. Independent Opticians of America, 920 F.2d 187, 191-92 (3d Cir. 1990). The Court should issue the injunction only if the movant produces evidence sufficient to convince the trial judge that all four factors favor preliminary relief. Opticians, 920 F.2d at 192 (citing ECRI v. McGraw-Hill, Inc., 809 F.2d 223, 226 (3d Cir. 1987)).

The purpose of the preliminary injunction is to preserve the status quo until the rights of the parties can be fairly and fully litigated and determined by strictly legal proofs and according to the principles of equity. Wetzel v. Edwards, 635 F.2d 283, 286 (4th Cir. 1980). Thus, the grant of injunctive relief is an "extraordinary remedy which should be granted only in limited circumstances." American Telephone & Telegraph Co. v. Winback and Conserve Program, Inc., 42 F.3d 1421 (3d Cir. 1994) (quoting Frank's GMC Truck Center, Inc. v. General Motor Corp., 847 F.2d 100, 102 (3d Cir. 1988)), cert. denied, 514 U.S. 1103 (1995). The facts clearly must support a finding that immediate and irreparable injury will result to the movant if preliminary relief is denied. United States v. Stazola, 893 F.2d 34, 37 n.3 (3d Cir. 1990). The plaintiff bears the burden of establishing a "clear showing of irreparable injury." Hohe v. Casey, 868 F.2d 69, 72 (3d Cir. 1989), cert. denied, 493 U.S. 848 (1989); ECRI, 809 F.2d at 226 (it is not enough to merely show irreparable harm: the plaintiff has the burden of showing immediate irreparable injury, which is more than merely serious or substantial harm and which cannot be redressed with money damages). Absent a showing of immediate, irreparable injury, the court should deny preliminary injunctive relief. Acierno, 40 F.3d at 655.

Moreover, in the prison context, a request 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.'" Goff v. Harper, 60 F.3d 518, 520 (8th Cir. 1995) (quoting Rogers v. Scurr, 676 F.2d 1211, 1214 (8th Cir. 1982)). Where a plaintiff requests an injunction that would require the Court to interfere with the administration of a prison, "appropriate consideration must be given to principles of federalism in determining the availability and scope of equitable relief." Rizzo v. Goode, 423 U.S. 362, 379 (1976). The federal courts are not overseers of the day-to-day management of prisons. Prison officials require broad discretionary authority as the "operation of a correctional institution is at best an extraordinarily difficult undertaking." Wolff v. McDonnell, 418 U.S. 539, 566 (1974). Accordingly, prison administrators should be accorded wide-ranging deference in the adoption and execution of policies and practices that are needed to preserve internal order and to maintain institutional security. Beard v. Banks, 126 S. Ct. 2572, 2578 (2006); Bell v. Wolfish, 441 U.S. 520, 527 (1979).


With the above considerations in mind, Plaintiff has not demonstrated that preliminary injunctive ...

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