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Hill-Johnson v. Deangelis

United States District Court, W.D. Pennsylvania

November 14, 2019



          Marilyn J. Horan, United States District Judge.

         Plaintiff, Daelon Hill-Johnson, an inmate at Allegheny County Jail, filed the present Complaint on October 7, 2019, seeking relief for various claims related to his incarceration. (ECF Nos. 1, 18). Alongside the Complaint, Mr. Hill-Johnson also filed a Motion for Leave to Proceed In Forma Pauperis (IFP), a Motion for Appointment of Counsel, and a Motion for Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) against Defendants Allegheny County Bureau of Corrections (also referred to as Allegheny County Jail, or ACJ) and Warden Orlando Harper. (ECF Nos. 1, 21, 22). The Court granted the IFP Motion. (ECF No. 2). The Court also granted the Motion for Appointment of Counsel, but solely for the purposes of the Motion for TRO and related hearing. (ECF No. 4). The Court scheduled a hearing on the Motion for TRO for October 24, 2019. (ECF Nos. 3, 9). At the scheduled date and time for the hearing, the relevant Defendants and their Counsel, as well as Counsel for Mr. Hill-Johnson, appeared, but despite the Court's issuance of a Writ of Habeas Corpus Ad Testificandum, (ECF No. 6), Allegheny County Jail did not produce Mr. Hill-Johnson. The hearing was then rescheduled for November 7, 2019, and the parties agreed to combine the TRO hearing with the hearing for preliminary injunction. (ECF No. 17). At the hearing, the parties presented evidence in the form of witness testimony and documents, and they argued the merits of the Motion.

         For the following reasons, Mr. Hill-Johnson's Motion for Temporary Restraining Order and Preliminary Injunction will be denied.

         I. Background[1]

         Daelon Hill-Johnson is currently incarcerated at the Allegheny County Jail (ACJ), awaiting trial on several criminal charges. Mr. Hill-Johnson was first arrested and incarcerated related to these charges in February or March 2016. He testified that he remained incarcerated at ACJ for eleven and a half months, was released, but then was locked up again in April 2017.[2]Mr. Hill-Johnson has remained incarcerated at ACJ since that time. Presently, the trial date for his pending state charges is January 15, 2020, almost four years after his arrest.

         Mr. Hill-Johnson brings a long list of claims against the Defendants in this matter, including claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, 42 U.S.C. § 1985, and the Americans with Disabilities Act, as well as claims for selective and vindictive prosecution, negligence, and sexual harassment. (ECF No. 18, at 1). Of these claims, Mr. Hill-Johnson seeks preliminary injunctive relief related to alleged violations of his rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments, against Defendants ACJ and Warden Orlando Harper. (ECF Nos. 15, 22).

         Specifically, Mr. Hill-Johnson contends that he has been discriminated against because of his disabilities in violation of the ADA, specifically that (1) spending time in the Restricted Housing Unit (RHU) and the lack of counseling make his psychiatric conditions worse, and (2) he has an ongoing substance abuse problem for which he keeps getting "misconducts," both of which prevent him getting the counseling and treatment he needs. He also alleges that Defendants have acted with deliberate indifference to his mental health, substance abuse, and medical needs, in violation of the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments. Lastly, Mr. Hill-Johnson contends that the amount of time he has spent in restraint chair constitutes impermissible punishment in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment, and excessive force in violation of the Eighth Amendment. Accordingly, Mr. Hill-Johnson seeks a court order prohibiting Defendant ACJ from placing him in the RHU, enjoining the use of the restraint chair as punishment, and requiring that Defendant ACJ place him in the substance abuse program and provide him with counseling.

         II. Discussion

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 65 allows a court to enter a temporary restraining order or a preliminary injunction, measures that the Supreme Court has described as "extraordinary remed[ies] never awarded as of right." Winter v. Natural Resources Defense Council, Inc., 555 U.S. 7, 24 (2008). Courts employ a four-factor balancing test to determine whether a party is entitled to a preliminary injunction. Reilly v. City of Harrisburg, 858 F.3d 173, 176 (3d Cir. 2017). First, the moving party must show that he has "a likelihood of success on the merits" and that he "will suffer irreparable harm if the injunction is denied." Doe v. Boyertown Area Sch Dist., 897 F.3d 518, 526 (3d Cir. 2018) (internal quotations omitted). If the moving party establishes both, the court balances those two factors against whether there will be irreparable injury to the opposing party if the injunction is granted and whether public interest favors an injunction. Osorio-Martinez v. AG United States, 893 F.3d 153, 178 (3d Cir. 2018); Doe v. Boyertown Area Sch Dist, 897 F.3d 518, 526 (3d Cir. 2018).

         In establishing a likelihood of success on the merits, the moving party must make "a showing significantly better than negligible but not necessarily more likely than not." Reilly, 858 F.3d at 179. "'How strong a claim on the merits is enough depends on the balance of the harms: the more net harm an injunction can prevent, the weaker the plaintiffs claim on the merits can be while still supporting some preliminary relief.'" Id. (quoting Hoosier Energy Rural Elec. Coop., Inc. v. John Hancock Life Ins. Co., 582 F.3d 721, 725 (7th Cir. 2009)). As to the second element of irreparable harm, the moving party must "demonstrate that irreparable injury is likely in the absence of an injunction," not just that irreparable injury is possible. Winter v. Natural Resources Defense Council, Inc., 555 U.S. 7, 22 (2008) (emphasis added). A mere possibility of irreparable injury is "too lenient" of a standard, because "[i]ssuing a preliminary injunction based only on a possibility of irreparable harm is inconsistent with [the Supreme Court's] characterization of injunctive relief as an extraordinary remedy." Id. Moreover, a court should not issue a preliminary injunction "simply to prevent the possibility of some remote future injury," Id. (internal quotations omitted), or "merely to allay the fears and apprehensions or to soothe the anxieties of the parties." Grant Heilman Photography, Inc. v. John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 864 F.Supp.2d 316, 325 (E.D. Pa. 2012).

         A. Likelihood of success on the merits

         i ADA

         In order for an inmate to establish that a jail violated the ADA, he must allege that "(1) he is a qualified individual with a disability; (2) he was either excluded from participation in or denied the benefits of some public entity's services, programs, or activities; and (3) such exclusion, denial of benefits, or discrimination was by reason of his disability." Lopez v. Beard, 333 Fed.Appx. 685, 687 n.l (3d Cir. 2009) (citing 42 U.S.C. § 12132). Mr. Hill-Johnson testified, and Defendants agreed, that he is diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), paranoia, anxiety, and depression, and that he also struggles with drug addiction. Mr. Hill-Johnson contends, and Defendants do not dispute, that his mental health diagnoses and drug addiction make him a qualified individual with a disability under the ADA. Additionally, Mr. Hill-Johnson testified that he has not been allowed to participate in counseling or substance abuse treatment, but has instead been placed in the RHU or been given other disciplinary measures. Defendants acknowledge that Mr. Hill-Johnson has been subjected to disciplinary measures, and that such measures prevented his participation in treatment services. Accordingly, the first two elements of Mr. Hill-Johnson's ADA claim are met, and the likelihood of success of this claim turns on whether the disciplinary measures and subsequent exclusion from or denial of services were because of Mr. Hill-Johnson's disability.

         Mr. Hill-Johnson provided testimony about specific incidents in which he was pepper-sprayed, tased, or otherwise restrained for, in Mr. Hill-Johnson's view, asking for help. In one such incident, for example, Mr. Hill-Johnson stood in line to try to get into a substance abuse program. When it was his turn to speak with the staff member, he was denied entry into the program and was told to go. He refused and continued to stand there. Consequently, he was restrained and removed. In another incident, during a strip search, Mr. Hill-Johnson again requested mental health services. Despite demands that he remove his clothes, Mr. Hill-Johnson repeatedly asked for services and did not comply with the strip search. Officers ultimately sprayed him with mace. He indicated that he believed there was no reason for any force at all, as he repeatedly stated that during this incident, he kept his arms raised and his legs crossed. He further testified, however, that he gets "misconducts," that is, receives disciplinary write-ups, because he refuses to comply with strip searches and refuses to go in ...

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