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Crawford v. While

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

August 29, 2014

ANTONIO CRAWFORD, Plaintiff
v.
LT. WHILE, et al., Defendants

REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

MARTIN C. CARLSON, Magistrate Judge.

I. Statement of Facts and of the Case

This matter comes before the Court for consideration of a motion for preliminary injunctive relief filed by the plaintiff, a federal inmate housed in the special Management Unit (SMU) of the United States Penitentiary, Lewisburg. (Doc. 2.) In this motion, which Crawford has filed at the inception of this litigation, Crawford alleges that he was assaulted by staff more than two years ago, in January 2012. Crawford then seeks extraordinary relief at the outset of this lawsuit, in the form of an order altering the conditions of his confinement, or mandating his transfer to another prison.

While we are, by separate order, directing service of this complaint upon the defendants, for the reasons set forth below, it is recommended that this motion for preliminary injunction be denied.

II. Discussion

A. Preliminary Injunction Rule 65 - The Legal Standard

This Court has a statutory obligation to conduct a preliminary review of pro se pleadings from prisoners which seek redress against government officials. Specifically, we are obliged to review these pleadings pursuant to 28 U.S.C. ยง 1915A which provides, in pertinent part:

(a) Screening.- The court shall review, before docketing, if feasible or, in any event, as soon as practicable after docketing, a complaint in a civil action in which a prisoner seeks redress from a governmental entity or officer or employee of a governmental entity.
(b) Grounds for dismissal.- On review, the court shall identify cognizable claims or dismiss the complaint, or any portion of the complaint, if the complaint-
(1) is frivolous, malicious, or fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted....

We also have an obligation to carefully screen inmate pro se pleadings, like those filed here, which seek extraordinary, or emergency relief, in the form of preliminary injunctions. Such requests for immediate injunctive relief are governed by Rule 65 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and are judged against exacting legal standards.

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 ...

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