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Bailey v. Jurnak

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

July 19, 2019

DEMETRIUS BAILEY, et al., Plaintiffs

          BRANN, J.



         Presently before the Court is a document filed by pro se prisoner-Plaintiff Demetrius Bailey (“Bailey”), [1] entitled “Motion for Relief / Motion for Court Order / Injunction Hearing.” (Doc. 9). For the reasons stated herein, it is recommended that Bailey's motion be denied.

         I. Background and Procedural History

         Bailey, along with three-other co-Plaintiffs, [2] filed the original complaint in this matter in the Luzerne County Court of Common Pleas on June 14, 2018. (Doc. 1-1). In the complaint, Bailey brought claims against several DOC employees (“Defendants”) for alleged violations of his rights under the 1st, 8th, and 14th Amendments to the United States Constitution. (Doc. 1-1). On July 19, 2018, Defendants filed a Notice of Removal pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1446. (Doc. 1). Thereafter, Defendants filed a motion to dismiss the original complaint on June 24, 2018. (Doc. 2). While Defendants' motion to dismiss was pending, Bailey filed the present motion, liberally construed by the Court as a motion for preliminary injunction, [3] along with a supporting brief on October 15, 2018. (Doc. 9; Doc. 10).

         The first ground for which Bailey seeks injunctive relief relates to the Defendants' alleged denial of his special diet.[4] (Doc. 9, at 1). Bailey asserts that a gastroenterologist recommended his placement on a special GERD[5] diet, which calls for “no red sauce, onion, peppers, etc ..... ” (Doc. 9, at 1). Bailey further claims that he cannot eat the food prepared “in the regular kitchen, ” as it causes him to experience stomach pain, vomiting, rectal bleeding, irritated bowels, and general digestion difficulties. (Doc. 9, at 1). Bailey alleges, however, that a clinical dietician refused to provide him with his special diet on August 9, 2018 in retaliation for filing the instant lawsuit. (Doc. 9, at 1; Doc. 10, at 1). According to Bailey, Defendants' refusal to accommodate his dietary needs, despite knowing of the health consequences it would cause, violates his Eighth Amendment rights. (Doc. 10, at 1). Bailey additionally states that he grieved the denial of his special diet on August 11, 2018, which purportedly went unanswered. (Doc. 9, at 1). Bailey also filed a “Motion for Court Order” on May 16, 2019, which, when liberally construed, indicates that he still has not received his special GERD diet.[6] (Doc. 30, at 1).

         The second ground for which Bailey seeks relief relates to prison officials tampering with, and generally frustrating his ability to receive, legal mail at SCI-Dallas. (Doc. 9, at 1-2). Specifically, Bailey asserts that he must pass through a “security control room” to obtain his legal mail. (Doc. 9, at 1). During this process, prison officials place him and other inmates in restraints and allegedly subject them to harassment, abuse, and excessive physical force. (Doc. 9, at 1). Bailey further alleges that prison officials read and make copies of his legal mail, which constitutes a violation of several state and federal laws, as well as the attorney-client privilege. (Doc. 9, at 1). Bailey asserts that the “unnecessary and wanton infliction of pain” while in the security control room constitutes an Eighth Amendment violation. (Doc. 10, at 1-2). Bailey also contends that prison officials opening and reading his legal mail violates the First Amendment right of access to the courts. (Doc. 10, at 1-2).

         To date, Defendants have not responded to Bailey's motion. As the time for filing responsive briefs has passed, this motion is ripe for review.

         II. Discussion

         A. Preliminary Injunction Standard

         Preliminary injunctive relief is extraordinary in nature and should issue in only limited circumstances. See Am. Tel. & Tel. Co. v. Winback & Conserve Program, Inc., 42 F.3d 1421, 1426- 27 (3d Cir. 1994); see also 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.”) (citation omitted). “[T]he Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit has observed that ‘upon an application for a preliminary injunction to doubt is to deny.'” Susquehanna Commercial Fin., Inc. v. Vascular Res., Inc., No. 1:09-CV-2012, 2010 WL 95127, at *4 (M.D. Pa. Jan. 6, 2010) (quoting Madison Square Garden Corp. v. Braddock, 90 F.2d 924, 927 (3d Cir. 1937)). Moreover, issuance of such relief is at the discretion of the trial judge. Merrill Lynch, Pierce, Fenner & Smith Inc. v. Chamberlain, 145 F.Supp.2d 621, 625 (M.D. Pa. 2001).

         In determining whether to grant a motion seeking preliminary injunctive relief, courts in the Third Circuit consider the following four factors: “(1) likelihood of success on the merits; (2) irreparable harm resulting from a denial of the relief; (3) the harm to the non-moving party if relief is granted; and (4) the public interest.” United States v. Bell, 238 F.Supp.2d 696, 699 (M.D. Pa. 2003); see also Bieros v. Nicola, 857 F.Supp. 445, 446 (E.D. Pa. 1994) (“The standards for a temporary restraining order are the same as those for a preliminary injunction.”). It is the moving party who bears the burden of satisfying these factors. Bell, 238 F.Supp.2d at 699. “Only 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).

         “[A]n essential prerequisite to the grant of a preliminary injunction is a showing by the movant of irreparable injury pendente lite if the relief is not granted.”[7] United States v. Pennsylvania, 533 F.2d 107, 110 (3d Cir. 1976). A preliminary injunction “may not be used simply to eliminate a possibility of a remote future injury.” Holiday Inns of Am., Inc. v. B&B Corp., 409 F.2d 614, 618 (3d Cir. 1969). “[T]he irreparable harm must be actual and imminent, not merely speculative.” Angstadt ex rel. Angstadt v. Midd-West Sch., 182 F.Supp.2d 435, 437 (M.D. Pa. 2002). “[M]ore than a risk of irreparable harm must be demonstrated. The requisite for injunctive relief has been characterized as a ‘clear showing of immediate irreparable injury,' or a ‘presently existing actual threat ....'” Continental Grp., Inc. v. Amoco Chems. Corp., 614 F.2d 351, 359 (3d Cir. 1980) (citations omitted). “A preliminary injunction cannot be issued based on past harm. The purpose of a preliminary injunction is to prevent future irreparable harm.” Fisher v. Goord, 981 F.Supp. 140, 168 (W.D.N.Y. 1997) (emphasis in original).

         Moreover, “[t]he ‘requisite feared injury or harm must be irreparable - not merely serious or substantial,' and it ‘must be of a peculiar nature, so that compensation in money cannot atone for it.'” ECRI v. McGraw-Hill, Inc., 809 F.2d 223, 226 (3d Cir. 1987) (quoting Glasco v. Hills, 558 F.2d 179, 181 (3d Cir. 1977)). “In order to demonstrate irreparable harm the plaintiff must demonstrate potential harm which cannot be redressed by a legal or an equitable remedy following a trial. The preliminary injunction must be the only way of protecting the plaintiff from harm.” Instant Air Freight Co. v. C.F. Air Freight, Inc., 882 F.2d 797, 801 (3d Cir. 1989) (emphasis added). “The key word in this consideration is irreparable.... The possibility that adequate compensatory or other corrective relief will be available at a later date, in the ordinary course of litigation, weighs heavily against a claim of irreparable harm.” Sampson v. Murray, 415 U.S. 61, 90 (1974) (emphasis in original).

         Further, “[a] party seeking a mandatory preliminary injunction that will alter the status quo bears a particularly heavy burden in demonstrating its necessity.” Acierno v. New Castle Cnty., 40 F.3d 645, 653 (3d Cir. 1994) (citing Punnett v. Carter,621 F.2d 578, 582 (3d Cir. 1980)). It follows that “[m]andatory injunctions should be used sparingly.” Robertson v. Samuels, 2014 WL 347007, at *5 (M.D. Pa. Jan. 30, 2014) (citing United States v. Price,688 F.2d 204, 212 (3d Cir. 1982)). “Thus, a request for some form of mandatory proactive injunctive relief in the prison context ‘must always be viewed with great caution because judicial restraint is especially called ...

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