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Auker v. Wetzel

United States District Court, Western District of Pennsylvania

May 9, 2014

ROBERT AUKER, Plaintiff,
JOHN E. WETZEL, Secretary for Pennsylvania Dept of Corrections, et al., Defendants.

Cathy Bissoon United States District Judge


Cynthia Reed Eddy United States Magistrate Judge


It is respectfully recommended that the following motions filed by Plaintiff, Robert Auker, be denied as moot: Motion for Temporary Restraining Order (ECF Nos. 20 and 33), Motion for Preliminary Injunction and Motion for Emergency Transfer (ECF Nos. 11, 12, and 34), Motion for Aid from the Court (ECF Nos. 19 and 22), and Motion to Compel the Court (ECF No. 29). Despite minor differences in the motions, the Court will address the motions collectively given the similar and closely related nature of the requests made in each motion.


A. Procedural History

Plaintiff, Robert Auker, a state inmate incarcerated at the State Correctional Institution at Greene, located in Waynesburg, PA, commenced this civil action against various individuals and/or agents employed with the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections. Plaintiff claims that he is a quadriplegic individual with multiple sclerosis (“MS”) and he takes issue with the care and treatment provided to him by the medical department and other staff at SCI-Greene. Plaintiff contends that Defendants have acted deliberately indifferent to his serious medical needs in violation of the Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution. In addition, Plaintiff makes the serious accusations that Defendant Byunghak Jin, M.D., the Medical Director of SCI-Greene, has sexually assaulted him and threatened to sexually assault him on several different occasions.

Within Plaintiff’s several emergency motions, he requests various forms of relief, including an immediate transfer to SCI-Laurel Highlands, multiple forms of daily assistance, a powered, high-back reclining wheelchair, a “power patient lift” to transfer him to and from his bed, wheelchair, etc., as well as permission to attend the commissary, dining hall, exercise yards, library, religious services, and to the use the telephone on a daily or weekly basis. The relief sought in these motions closely parallels the relief sought by Plaintiff in his Complaint.

On May 5, 2014, the Court held an evidentiary hearing on Plaintiff’s motions for injunctive relief. Counsel for Defendants were present in the courtroom, while Plaintiff and several of the Defendants participated via videoconference. Plaintiff was given the opportunity to present witnesses and evidence, but chose to rely on the pleadings. He introduced one Exhibit, a one page, single-spaced memorandum to “Debra Brumage, Administrative Officer, II, SCI Greene, ” which enumerates twenty-nine (29) medical complaints. Plaintiff was unable to explain who prepared the Exhibit and/or how the detailed information contained in the Exhibit was conveyed to the writer.

Defendants Dr. Jin and Irma Clish Vhilidal, Corrections Health Care Administrator, both testified.

B. Standard of Review

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 (3d Cir. 1994) (quoting SI Handling Systems, Inc. v. Heisley, 753 F.2d 1244, 1254 (3d Cir. 1985)).

A preliminary injunction is not granted as a matter of right. Kerschner v. Mazurkewicz, 670 F.2d 440, 443 (3d Cir. 1982). 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 v. SCI-Pittsburgh, 2006 WL 2773261 at *6 (W.D.Pa. 2006) (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 ...

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