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Toaz v. Lane

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

March 22, 2018

WARDEN KATHY P. LANE, et al., Defendants



         Craig Alan Toaz (“Toaz” or “Plaintiff”), a federal inmate incarcerated at the Allenwood Low Security Correctional Institution (“LSCI-Allenwood”), White Deer, Pennsylvania, filed this Bivens[1] action on August 11, 2017. (Doc. 1). Presently before the Court is Toaz's Motion (Doc. 2) for a Preliminary Injunction. For the reasons set forth below, the Court will deny the motion.

         I. Allegations of the Complaint

         Toaz, who suffers from ulcerative colitis, alleges that on June 26, 2017, he was “having a colitis flare-up.” (Doc. 1, ¶ 15). On June 28, 2017, prison staff conducted a mass shakedown in Toaz's housing unit, during which Defendant Snyder restricted bathroom access. (Id. at 17). He alleges that despite the fact that he informed Defendant Snyder and another officer of his medical condition, he was denied access to a bathroom for approximately 2 ½ hours. (Id. at 18-20).

         He also avers that Defendant Snyder and other unknown officers confiscated his legal and personal property during the shakedown. (Id. at 23). On June 28, 2017, June 29, 2017 and June 30, 2017, Defendants Rothermel and Brown allegedly refused to provide him with administrative remedy forms for the purpose of grieving the confiscation of his property. (Id. at 26, 29, 32). He learned from Defendant Brown on July 1, 2017, that release of his legal property was delayed because other inmate's personal property was found with his legal property. (Id. at 36). He alleges that Defendant Rothermel continued to deny his requests for administrative remedy forms every day from June 28, 2017, to July 14, 2017. (Id. at 43). On July 14, 2017, Defendant Brown returned his personal property. (Id. at 44).

         II. Standard of Review

         Preliminary injunctive relief is “an extraordinary remedy” that “should be granted only in limited circumstances.” Kos Pharm., Inc. v. Andrx Corp., 369 F.3d 700, 708 (3d Cir. 2004) (citing AT&T v. Winback and Conserve Program, Inc., 42 F.3d 1421, 1426-27 (3d Cir. 1994)); see also Fed.R.Civ.P. 65. “[T]o obtain a preliminary injunction the moving party must show as a prerequisite (1) a reasonable probability of eventual success in the litigation, and (2) that it will be irreparably injured ... if relief is not granted.... [In addition, ] the district court, in considering whether to grant a preliminary injunction, should take into account, when they are relevant, (3) the possibility of harm to other interested persons from the grant or denial of the injunction, and (4) the public interest.” Reilly v. City of Harrisburg, 858 F.3d 173, 176 (3d Cir. 2017) (citing Del. River Port Auth. v. Transamerican Trailer Transport, Inc., 501 F.2d 917, 919-20 (3d Cir. 1974). A movant must “meet the threshold for the first two ‘most critical' factors: it must demonstrate that it can win on the merits (which requires a showing significantly better than negligible but not necessarily more likely than not) and that it is more likely than not to suffer irreparable harm in the absence of preliminary relief.” Reilly, 858 F.3d at 179. Only if these “gateway factors” are met is the court required to consider the third and fourth factors. Id. at 176, 179. The court must then balance all four factors to determine, in its discretion, whether the circumstances favor injunctive relief. Id. at 179.

         III. Discussion

         Toaz seeks to enjoin prison staff from depriving medically impaired inmates use of bathroom facilities during security operations, mandate that prison officials provide him with administrative remedy forms, order prison officials to take various actions related to access to legal property, grant inmates unlimited access to legal documents to assist in preparation of post-conviction motions, and order prison staff to provide him with a detailed list of all personal property seized and not yet returned. (Doc. 2, pp. 4, 5).

         A. Likelihood of Success on the Merits

         Toaz argues that that he is entitled to injunctive relief because there is a substantial likelihood of success on the merits of several of his claims. He first cites to his Eighth Amendment claim arising out of the denial of access to the bathroom. (Doc. 2, p. 4).

         The Eighth Amendment protects prison inmates from cruel and unusual punishment. See Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 832 (1994). However, not all deficiencies and inadequacies in prison conditions amount to a violation of a prisoner's constitutional rights. Rhodes v. Chapman, 452 U.S. 337, 349 (1981). To assert an Eighth Amendment conditions of confinement claim, a prisoner must satisfy both an objective and subjective test. See Wilson v. Seiter, 501 U.S. 294, 298 (1991). Specifically, a prisoner must show that the alleged deprivation is “sufficiently serious” and that he has been deprived of the “minimal civilized measure of life's necessities.” Farmer, 511 U.S. at 834. A prisoner must also demonstrate that he has suffered “extreme deprivations” that posed a “substantial risk of serious harm” and that prison officials possessed a “sufficiently culpable state of mind” and demonstrated “deliberate indifference” to his health or safety. Id.; Hudson v. McMillian, 503 U.S. 1, 8-9 (1992). Mere negligence or inadvertence will not satisfy the deliberate indifference standard and cannot constitute a violation of the Eighth Amendment. Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 105-06 (1976).

         As a general matter, the denial of access to a lavatory has been held to offend the Eighth Amendment only where it is unconscionably long or where it constitutes an ongoing feature of an inmate's confinement. See, e.g., Young v. Quinlan, 960 F.2d 351 (3d Cir. 1992), superseded by statute, Title VIII of Pub.L. No. 104-134, 100 Stat. 1321 (1996), as recognized in Siluk v. Merwin, 783 F.3d 421, 434 n. 77 (3d Cir. 2015) (abrogated on other grounds). Because Toaz raises a single deprivation that was limited in time to 2 ½ hours, it cannot be said that there is a reasonable probability of eventual success on the merits of this claim.

         He also asserts that he has a substantial likelihood of success on the merits of his claim that Defendants Brown and Rothermel violated his due process rights in refusing to supply him with forms necessary to initiate the administrative remedy procedure. (Doc. 2, p. 4). However, because prison inmates do not have a constitutional right to a prison grievance system, see Jones v. North Carolina Prisoners' Labor Union, 433 U.S. 119, 137-138 ...

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