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Green v. Hawkinberry

United States District Court, W.D. Pennsylvania

February 6, 2015

MUWSA GREEN, Plaintiff,
v.
DEBRA A. HAWKINBERRY, et al., Defendants.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

CYNTHIA REED EDDY, Magistrate Judge.

Presently before the Court is the Motion for Preliminary Injunction (ECF No. 42) filed by Plaintiff, Muwsa Green, and the Response in Opposition filed by Defendants (ECF No. 47). For the reasons that follow, the Motion will be denied.[1]

Background

Plaintiff, Muwsa Green ("Plaintiff" or "Green"), is a state prisoner committed to the custody of the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections ("DOC") and currently confined at the State Correctional Institution at Fayette, Pennsylvania ("SCI-Fayette"). Plaintiff generally alleges the denial of his First Amendment rights to freely exercise his religion by being denied a "kosher bag" in violation of the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Person Act ("RLUIPA"), 42 U.S.C § 2000cc-1(a). The claims and relief sought in this motion closely parallel the claims and relief made by Green in his Amended Complaint. Green seeks no specific equitable relief in the motion, but rather seeks compensatory and punitive damages.

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 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 Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 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). 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).

These limitations on the power of courts to enter injunctions in a correctional context are further underscored by statute. 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 ...

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