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Fontroy v. Wetzel

United States District Court, Western District of Pennsylvania

September 8, 2014

DERRICK DALE FONTROY, Plaintiff
v.
JOHN WETZEL, et al, Defendants.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

SUSAN PARADISE BAXTER UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

Plaintiff initiated this civil action by filing a purported class action complaint along with numerous other motions on August 4, 2014. The complaint, in part, challenges the sentence tail limitation in the Department of Corrections’ Hepatitis C protocol. Despite the fact that Defendants had not been served with the complaint, on August 19, 2014, this Court conducted a telephonic hearing on many of Plaintiff’s motions, including a Motion for Return of Property [ECF No. 5], a Petition for Writ of Prohibition [ECF No. 4], a motion for preliminary injunction [ECF No. 1-12], and a petition for a kidney transplant [ECF No. 1-10]. The Office of the Attorney General entered a special appearance to be present for that hearing.

At the hearing, Plaintiff acknowledged that he was serving a life sentence. It was explained to Plaintiff that he could not file a class action complaint on behalf of a class of inmates challenging the sentence tail limitation because he was not an appropriate representative of such a class since the sentence tail did not pertain to him. Accordingly, the motion for preliminary injunction was dismissed due to Plaintiff’s lack of standing and Plaintiff was directed to file an Amended Complaint raising claims pertaining to his own medical issues before September 19, 2014.

Thereafter, Plaintiff filed an Amended Complaint. The Amended Complaint is similar to the Original Complaint with only minor changes. While Plaintiff has substituted some of the class member language with the words “family member, ” most of the class allegations remain. With the Amended Complaint, Plaintiff filed a Motion for Preliminary Injunction relative to Department of Corrections’ Hepatitis Control Policy [ECF No. 12] and a Motion for Emergency Hearing relative to Examination by ENT, with a Supporting Brief, and Proposed Order [ECF Nos. 13, 14, 15]. The motions for preliminary injunctive relief, made relative to the Amended Complaint, are addressed herein.

Standard of Review

Preliminary or temporary injunctive relief is “a drastic and extraordinary remedy that is not to be routinely granted.” Intel Corp. v. ULSI Sys. Tech., Inc., 995 F.2d 1566, 1568 (Fed.Cir.1993); see also Hoxworth v. Blinder, Robinson & Company. Inc., 903 F.2d 186, 189 (3d Cir. 1990). In determining whether to grant a preliminary injunction, a court must consider whether the party seeking the injunction has satisfied four factors: “1) a likelihood of success on the merits; 2) he or she will suffer irreparable harm if the injunction is denied; 3) granting relief will not result in even greater harm to the nonmoving party; and 4) the public interest favors such relief.” Bimbo Bakeries USA, Inc. v. Botticella, 613 F.3d 102, 109 (3d Cir. 2010) quoting Miller v. Mitchell, 598 F.3d 139, 145 (3d Cir. 2010). See also Fed.R.Civ.P. 65.

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. Neo Gen Screening, Inc. v. TeleChem Intern., Inc., 69 Fed.App’x 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. Because a preliminary injunction is an extraordinary remedy, the party seeking it must show, at a minimum, a likelihood of success on the merits and that they likely face irreparable harm in the absence of the injunction. See Adams v. Freedom Forge Corp., 204 F.3d 475, 484 (3d Cir. 2000); Hohe v. Casey, 686 F.2d 69, 72 (3d Cir. 1989).

These limitations on the power of courts to enter injunctions in a correctional context are further underscored by statue. Specifically, 18 U.S.C. § 3626 limits the authority of courts to enjoin the exercise of discretion by prison officials, and provides that:

Prospective relief in any civil action with respect to prison conditions shall extend no further than necessary to correct the violation of the Federal right of a particular plaintiff or plaintiffs. The court shall not grant or approve any prospective relief unless the court finds that such relief is narrowly drawn, extends no further than necessary to correct the violation of the Federal right, and is the least intrusive means necessary to correct the violation of the Federal right. The court shall give substantial weight to any adverse impact on public safety or the operation of a criminal justice system caused by the relief.

18 U.S.C.A. § 3626(a)(1)(A).

The statute further instructs that:

Preliminary injunctive relief must be narrowly drawn, extend no further than necessary to correct the harm the court finds requires preliminary relief, and be the least intrusive means necessary to correct that harm. The court shall give substantial weight to any adverse impact on public safety or the operation of a criminal justice system caused by the preliminary relief and shall respect the principles of comity … in tailoring any preliminary relief.

18 U.S.C.A. § 3626(a)(2).

Moreover, where the requested preliminary injunction “is directed not merely at preserving the status quo but … at providing mandatory relief, the burden on the moving party is particularly heavy.” Punnett v. Carter, 621 F.2d 578, 582 (3d Cir. 1980). Mandatory injunctions should be issued only sparingly. United States v. Price, 688 F.2d 204, 212 (3d Cir. 1982). Thus, a request for any form of mandatory prospective relief in the prison context “must always be viewed with great caution because judicial restraint is specially ...


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