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Rosa-Diaz v. Harry

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

December 21, 2017

GABRIEL ROSA-DIAZ, Plaintiff
v.
LAUERL HARRY, et al., Defendants.

          Judge Rambo

          REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

          Martin C. Carlson United States Magistrate Judge

         I. Factual Background

         This is a civil rights action initiated by plaintiff Gabriel Rosa-Diaz, a state inmate who alleges claims against numerous medical staff and Pennsylvania Department of Corrections (“DOC”) officials at the State Correctional Institution, Camp Hill, where he was housed from April 2016 through June 2017. (Doc. 13, ¶¶ 5-27; Doc. 38.) In June of 2017, Rosa-Diaz was transferred to the State Correctional Institution, Albion, located in Erie County, Pennsylvania. (Doc. 38.)

         Presently before this court is a motion for a restraining order and preliminary injunction filed by Rosa-Diaz on August 14, 2017, in which he seeks an order enjoining the defendants to return various swimsuit and lingerie magazines that were confiscated from his cell while Rosa-Diaz was incarcerated at SCI-Camp Hill. (Doc. 13, ¶ 31; Doc. 48.) In a declaration accompanying his motion, Rosa- Diaz explains that DOC officials allegedly confiscated his magazines and publications pursuant to DC-ADM 803 because the printed materials contained nude photographs, a contention that Rosa-Diaz disputes. (Doc. 48-1.) Rosa-Diaz alleges that the deprivation of these magazines and publications interferes with his ability to develop his artistic skills. (Doc. 48-1, ¶ 7.) Along with the motion for a preliminary injunction and his declaration, Rosa-Diaz also filed a supporting brief. (Doc. 49.) The defendants submitted a brief in opposition to Rosa-Diaz's motion for a preliminary injunction on August 28, 2017. (Doc. 51.) Thus, this motion is now ripe for resolution.

         II. Discussion

         A. Preliminary Injunction Rule 65 - The Legal Standard

         Rosa-Diaz's motion for preliminary injunction is governed by Rule 65 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and is 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 junction is an extraordinary remedy that is to be granted only under limited circumstances. See Am. Tel. & Tel. Co. v. Winback & Conserve Program, Inc., 42 F.3d 1421, 1426-27 (3d Cir. 1994). The decision whether to issue a preliminary injunction is committed to the sound discretion of the trial judge. Merrill Lynch, Pierce, Fenner & Smith Inc. v. Chamberlain, 145 F.Supp.2d 621, 625 (M.D. Pa. 2001). Given the extraordinary nature of this form of relief, a motion for preliminary injunction places precise burdens on the moving party. United States v. Bell, 238 F.Supp.2d 696, 699 (M.D. Pa. 2003); see Mazurek v. Armstrong, 520 U.S. 968, 972 (1997) (“[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.”). Indeed, “[o]nly if the movant produces evidence sufficient to convince the trial judge that all four factors favor preliminary relief should the injunction issue.” Opticians Ass'n of Am. v. Indep. Opticians of Am., 920 F.2d 187, 192 (3d Cir. 1990). Thus, “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).

         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)). Accordingly, for an inmate to sustain this burden of proof and show that he is entitled to a preliminary injunction under Rule 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); Kershner v. Mazurkiewicz, 670 F.2d 440, 443 (3d Cir. 1982). If the movant fails to carry this burden on either of these elements, the motion must 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) (emphasis in original) (quoting Morton v. Beyer, 822 F.2d 364 (3d Cir. 1987)).

         In the correctional context, these limitations on the power of courts to enter injunctions are even more stringent, as 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 give ...

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