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Jeri v. Finley

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

November 5, 2019

MAX JERI, Plaintiff,
SCOTT FINLEY, et al., Defendants.



         I. Statement of Facts and of the Case

         This case is a pro se prisoner civil rights action brought by Max Jeri, a federal prisoner who was formerly housed at the Federal Correctional Institution, Schuylkill. On October 17, 2019, Jeri filed a complaint and motion for preliminary injunction, (Doc. 1), which alleged that he was suffering from an immediate and urgent medical condition-internal bleeding-which required an exigent response. (Id.) Jeri's pleadings sought injunctive relief only, in the form of an order directing that Jeri receive treatment for this acute medical condition. (Id.)

         Given the nature of Jeri's expressed concerns, we directed that a copy of the complaint be served and instructed the government to provide an expedited response to Jeri's request for immediate medical assistance. (Doc. 5). The government has now filed this response. (Doc. 7). That response indicates that prison medical staff have been attentive to Jeri's needs, and notes that on October 22, 2019, Jeri was transferred from FCI Schuylkill to the Federal Medical Center Butner for further care and treatment. (Id., at 3). In light of these developments, the government suggests that Jeri's requests for injunctive relief from officials at FCI Schuylkill are now moot and this case should be transferred to the Eastern District of North Carolina, where the Butner Medical Center is located and where Jeri is currently housed and receiving medical care.

         For the reasons set forth below, we concur.

         II. Discussion

         Jeri's complaint seeks prospective relief only in the form of an order directing medical care for his internal bleeding. It is undisputed, however, that Jeri is no longer housed in this district but rather has been transferred to the Federal Medical Center Butner, in Butner, North Carolina.

         This immutable fact effects this litigation in at least two ways. First, it suggests that, in this district, this case is now moot. The mootness doctrine recognizes a fundamental truth in litigation: “[i]f developments occur during the course of adjudication that eliminate a plaintiff's personal stake in the outcome of a suit or prevent a court from being able to grant the requested relief, the case must be dismissed as moot.” Blanciak v. Allegheny Ludlum Corp., 77 F.3d 690, 698-99 (3d Cir. 1996). In this case, Jeri sought to enjoin prison officials at FCI Schuylkill to provide him with specific forms of medical care. Yet, it is entirely undisputed that Jeri is no longer in the defendants' custody and, therefore, no longer receives these services from the prison defendants named in this case.

         This simple fact raises a threshold, and insurmountable, obstacle to this motion for injunctive relief relating to treatment at a prison where Jeri is no longer incarcerated. Upon consideration, we conclude that the plaintiffs transfer renders his motion for injunctive relief in this district moot. In this setting, the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit has observed that, when addressing inmate requests for injunctive relief:

As a preliminary matter, we must determine whether the inmates' claims are moot because “a federal court has neither the power to render advisory opinions nor to decide questions that cannot affect the rights of litigants in the case before them." Preiser v. Newkirk, 422 U.S. 395, 401 (1975) (quotations omitted); see also Abdul-Akbar v. Watson, 4 F.3d 195, 206 (3d Cir.1993). An inmate's transfer from the facility complained of generally moots the equitable and declaratory claims. Abdul-Akbar, 4 F.3d at 197 (former inmate's claim that the prison library's legal resources were constitutionally inadequate was moot because plaintiff was released five months before trial).

Sutton v. Rasheed, 323 F.3d 236, 248 (3d Cir. 2003). See Griffin v. Beard, No. 09- 4404, 2010 WL 4642961 (3d Cir. Nov. 17, 2010) (transfer from SCI Huntingdon renders inmate injunctive relief claim moot). Indeed, as this court has previously observed, in a case such as this, where an inmate seeks injunctive relief against his jailers but is no longer housed at the prison where these injunctive claims arose:

[H]is request[] to enjoin the defendants from interfering with his [rights] is academic. In other words, [the prisoner-plaintiff s] transfer to another institution moots any claims for injunctive or declaratory relief.

Fortes v. Harding, 19 F.Supp.2d 323, 326 (M.D. Pa. 1998). citing Abdul-Akbar v. Watson, 4 F.3d 195, 206-07 (3d Cir. 1993); Weaver v. Wilcox, 650 F.2d 22, 27 (3d Cir. 1981); Muslim v. Frame, 854 F.Supp. 1215, 1222 (E.D. Pa. 1994).

         However, while we may be unable to afford Jeri any relief in this court, his medical needs, which are being addressed by federal officials in North Carolina, may remain an active matter of dispute and concern. This consideration cautions in favor of the transfer of this case to the United States District Court for the Eastern District of ...

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