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Blakeney v. Gilmore

United States District Court, W.D. Pennsylvania

December 12, 2019

SUPT. GILMORE, et al., Defendants.


          Lisa Pupo Lenihan, United States Magistrate Judge.

         This case is before the Court on the “Affidavit Petition for Special Preliminary Injunctions and Emergency Temporary Restraining Orders, ” filed by Plaintiff Herbert Blakeney (“Plaintiff”) on November 22, 2019. (ECF No. 2.) For purposes of this Opinion, it will be construed as a Motion for Preliminary Injunction.

         I. Introduction

         On November 22, 2019, Plaintiff, a capital case prisoner currently incarcerated at the State Correctional Institution at Greene (“SCI Greene”), commenced this action by filing the instant Motion for Preliminary Injunction. See (ECF No. 1.) This Motion, however, was unaccompanied by a complaint or filing fee/motion for leave to proceed in forma pauperis. On December 9, 2019, Plaintiff a Motion to Appoint Counsel (ECF No. 3) and a Motion to Transfer Case to the Middle District of Pennsylvania (ECF No. 4).

         In his Motion, Plaintiff claims that he has been denied access to the courts by staff members at SCI-Greene. When he filed a grievance about the issue, he was met with retaliation by those staff members from whom he later sought separations and/or a transfer to the State Correctional Institution Phoenix (“SCI Phoenix”). These requests were denied but Plaintiff was offered “self lock-up” although it is unclear whether he elected this form of custody. Plaintiff claims that he has been subjected to retaliation ever since and is now in fear of his life and property.

         Presumably in support of his access to courts claim, Plaintiff states that he has been denied access to his legal materials and property and that he has court ordered deadlines in his criminal case that he cannot meet without it. He also claims that he has been denied access to extra time in the law library, which he alleges is inadequate, and that his eyeglasses were stolen to prevent him from litigating.

         Plaintiff also makes several complaints unrelated to his criminal case such as being denied his “open face head warmer” that protects him from the cold temperature since he has a metal plate in his face. He also states that correctional staff lie to him daily, never answer or delay in answering his request slips and enforce invalid write-ups against him. He claims that they denied him a hardship transfer and put him on phone restrictions, both without legal cause, and denied him job assignments for which he qualified. He generally asserts that they fail to investigate his grievances and cover-up wrongdoing.

         He requests that this Court order his immediate transfer to SCI-Phoenix with all his personal and legal property, order the return of his head warmer and the “restart” of his grievance appeals for the invalid write-ups.

         II. Legal Standard

         Motion for preliminary injunctive relief are governed by Rule 65 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure[1] and are judged against exacting legal standards. To obtain a preliminary injunction or a temporary restraining order, a movant “must satisfy the traditional four-factor test: (1) a likelihood of success on the merits; (2) he or she will suffer irreparable harm if the injunction is denied; (3) granting relief will not results in even greater harm to the non-moving party; and (4) the public interest favors such relief.” Miller v. Mitchell, 598 F.3d 139, 147 (3d Cir. 2010). It is the movant's burden to show a likelihood of success on the merits. Campbell Soup Co. v. ConAgra Inc., 977 F.2d 86, 90 (3d Cir. 1992).

         Preliminary injunctive relief is not granted as a matter of right. Kershner v. Mazurkiewicz, 670 F.2d 440, 443 (3d Cir. 1982), see also Thomas v. Pennsylvania Dep't of Corr., 3:13-CV-2661, 2014 WL 3955105, at *1 (M.D. Pa. Aug. 13, 2014) (“An injunction is an ‘extraordinary remedy' that is never awarded as of right.”). Rather, the decision to grant or deny such relief is committed to the discretion of the district court. United States v. Price, 688 F.2d 204, 210 (3d Cir. 1982).

         Generally, preliminary injunctive relief is an extraordinary remedy that places precise burdens on the moving party, and “[t]he 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). “It has been well stated that 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). Further, where the requested preliminary injunctive relief “is directed not merely at preserving the status quo but . . . at providing mandatory relief, the burden on the moving party is particularly heavy.” Punnet v. Carter, 621 F.2d 578, 582 (3d Cir. 1980). Mandatory injunctions should be used sparingly. United States v. Price, 688 F.2d 204, 212 (3d Cir. 1982).

         For a party to sustain his burden of proof that he is entitled to preliminary injunctive relief under Rule 65, he must demonstrate both a reasonable likelihood of success on the merits and irreparable harm if the requested relief is not granted. Abu-Jamal v. Price, 154 F.3d 128, 133 (3d Cir. 1998); Kershner, 670 F.2d at 443. “As these elements suggest, there must be ‘a relationship between the injury claimed in the party's motion and the conduct asserted in the complaint.'” Ball v. Famiglio, 396 Fed.Appx. 836, 837 (3d Cir. 2010) (quoting Little v. Jones, 607 F.3d 1245, 1251 (10th Cir. 2010) (quoting Devose v. Herrington, 42 F.3d 470, 471 (8th Cir. 1994)). “To establish a reasonable probability of success on the merits, the moving party must produce sufficient evidence to satisfy the essential elements of the underlying cause of action.” Sutton v. Cerullo, 3:CV-10-1899, 2014 WL 3900235, at *5 (M.D. Pa. Aug. 8, 2014). To establish irreparable injury, “the moving party must establish that the harm is imminent and probable.” Stilp v. Contino, 629 F.Supp.2d 449, 466 (M.D. Pa. 2009). “The mere risk of injury is not sufficient to meet this standard.” Id. And the burden of showing irreparable injury “is not an easy burden” to meet. Moore v. Mann, 3:CV-13-2771, 2014 WL 3893909, at *2 (M.D. Pa. Aug 7, 2014). In assessing a motion for preliminary injunctive relief, the court must also consider the harm to the defendants and whether granting the preliminary injunction will be in the public interest. New Jersey Retail Merchants Ass'n v. Sidamon-Eristoff, 669 F.3d 374, 388 (3d Cir. 2012).

         III. ...

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