Sterling v. Riley et al (INMATE 1)

Filing 6

REPORT AND RECOMMENDATIONS of the Magistrate Judge that: (1)To the extent the plaintiff seeks enforcement of prior orders or consent decrees, all claims related to such orders/decrees be summarily DISMISSED with prejudice pursuant tothe directives of 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii); (2) With respect to those claims the plaintiff seeks to present regarding the legal rights or interests of other persons, these claims be DISMISSED with prejudice in accordance withthe provisions of 28 U.S.C.  7; 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii); (3) The plaintiffs claims arising from actions taken against him during his incarceration at the Limestone Correctional Facility be DISMISSED without prejudice to the rights of the plaintiff to file a separate 42 U.S.C. § 1 983 action in United States District Court for the Northern District of Alabama; (4) The plaintiffs request for class certification be DENIED; and (5) The plaintiffs motion for preliminary injunction be DENIED. Objections to R&R due by 3/3/2010 Signed by Honorable Wallace Capel, Jr on 2/18/2010. (cb, )

Download PDF
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT F O R THE MIDDLE DISTRICT OF ALABAMA N O R T H E R N DIVISION R E G IN A L D LYNN STERLING, A IS #139268, Plaintiff, v. ) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) C IV IL ACTION NO. 2:10-CV-117-TMH [W O ] B O B RILEY, et al., Defendants. R E C O M M E N D A T I O N OF THE MAGISTRATE JUDGE I . INTRODUCTION AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY T h is case is before the court on a 42 U.S.C. 1983 complaint filed by Reginald Lynn S terling ["Sterling"], a state inmate incarcerated at the Limestone Correctional Facility. In th is cause of action, Sterling complains the defendants have acted in direct contempt of a p re v io u s consent decree ordered by this court in Pugh v. Locke, 406 F. Supp. 318 (M.D. Ala. 1 9 7 6 ), James v. Wallace, 382 F. Supp. 1177 (M.D. Ala. 1976), and/or Newman v. Alabama, 3 4 9 F. Supp. 278 (M. D. Ala 1972), regarding prison conditions such as overcrowding and u n d e rs ta f f in g within correctional facilities operated by the Alabama Department of C o rre c tio n s ["ADOC"]. Sterling maintains the defendants are violating his right to be free f ro m unconstitutional conditions of confinement due to inadequate funding of the prison syste m causing increased overcrowding and leading to violence, an inability to provide basic h u m a n necessities and lack of adequate security. Sterling seeks reactivation of previous c o u rt orders/consent decrees "due to a special relationship owed" him by this court based on " th e ongoing, and continuous unconstitutional confinement conditions" to which he is now s u b je c te d . Plaintiff's Complaint - Court Doc. No. 1 at 13. Sterling requests that the d e f en d a n ts be ordered to show cause why they should not be held in contempt of previous c o n s e n t decrees with respect to the current state of alleged unconstitutional prison conditions. Id . at 33. Sterling names as defendants Governor Bob Riley, all state senators and state rep rese n tativ es , State Revenue Commissioner Tim Russell, State Finance Director Henry M a b ry, State Treasurer Kay Ivey, State Comptroller Robert Childree, the Director of the A la b a m a Department of Economic Community Affairs, Attorney General Troy King, C o m m is s io n e r Richard Allen, the Alabama Department of Pardons and Paroles, and Director o f ADOC Classification Carolyn Golson. Upon review of the pleadings filed in this matter, th e court concludes that this case is due to be dismissed prior to service of process.1 I I . DISCUSSION A . Claims Arising Under Court Orders or Decrees S te rlin g complains his rights secured under the Constitution have been violated by the The court granted Sterling leave to proceed in forma pauperis. Court Doc. No. 5. A prisoner who is allowed to proceed in forma pauperis in this court will have his complaint screened in accordance with the provisions of 28 U.S.C. 1915(e)(2)(B). This screening procedure requires the court to dismiss a prisoner's civil action prior to service of process if it determines that the complaint is frivolous, malicious, fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or seeks monetary damages from a defendant who is immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C. 1915(e)(2)(B)(i)-(iii). 1 2 s ta te prison system's failure to dissolve overcrowding in accordance with orders/decrees e n te re d by this court in Pugh v. Locke, supra, and other related cases. Sterling's claims are b a se d on his belief that the prior injunctive orders issued by this court in Pugh and other c a se s create an independent cause of action. Such allegation, however, fails to state a claim u p o n which relief may be granted. On December 28, 1988, this court entered an order and memorandum opinion in N ew m a n v. Alabama, Civil Action No. 3501-N, returning control of Alabama's prisons to s ta te officials.2 This memorandum opinion, in pertinent part, stated as follows: T h e re are pending cases in this Court, and presumably in the o th e r district courts in this State, which allege claims directly p rem ised upon violations of the injunctive orders of this Court in this case based on the failure of prison officials to comply w ith the precise and specific remedial requirements of these o r d e rs even if said orders required action which exceeds the req u irem en ts of the Constitution. At the risk of closing the barn g a te after the horse is out, it is the opinion of this Court that s u c h cases, to the extent they were filed on or after December 3, 1 9 8 4 , and seek [relief] based solely upon violations of this C o u rt's orders, are without merit because as of ... December 3, 1 9 8 4 , the prior injunctions were no longer in effect. To the e x te n t that such cases allege a present violation of the C o n s titu tio n , they may and should proceed to final adjudication o n the basis of the requirements of the Constitution. N ew m a n v. Alabama, Memorandum Opinion, December 28, 1988, at 16. Thus, to the extent S te rlin g premises his claims upon prior injunctive orders or decrees of this court, these claims 2 The court consolidated Pugh and other prison cases which raised similar claims with Newman 3 a re due to be dismissed in accordance with the provisions of 28 U.S.C. 1915 (e)(2)(B)(ii) a s they provide no basis on which relief may be granted.3 B . Claims Presented on Behalf of Other Inmates S ta n d in g is a cornerstone of American jurisprudence on which jurisdiction lies. "[A] litig a n t may only assert his own constitutional rights or immunities." McGowan v. Maryland, 3 6 6 U.S. 420, 429 (1961), citing United States v. Raines, 362 U.S. 17, 22 (1960); Schlesinger v . Reservists Committee to Stop the War, 418 U.S. 208, 218-219 (1974) (plaintiff must assert a legally cognizable injury in fact before federal courts have jurisdiction). "The essence of a standing question is whether the plaintiff has alleged `such a personal stake in the outcome o f the controversy as to assure that concrete adverseness which sharpens the presentation of is s u e s upon which the court so largely depends for the illumination of difficult constitutional q u estio n s[.]' Baker v. Carr, 369 U.S. 186, 204, 82 S.Ct. 691, 703 7 L.Ed.2d 663 (1962)." S a la d in v. City of Milledgeville, 812 F.2d 687, 690 (11th Cir.1987); Harris v. McRae, 448 U .S . 297, 320 (1981) (same). S ta n d in g involves two aspects. The first is the minimum "case or controversy" c o n s titu tio n a l requirement of Article III. Saladin, 812 F.2d at 690. "To satisfy this Plaintiff is further advised that remedial orders of a federal court do not create rights enforceable under the Constitution or laws of the United States. See Green v. McKaskle, 788 F.2d 1116 (5th Cir.1986); see also DeGidio v. Pung, 704 F. Supp. 922 (D.C. Minn. 1989) (agreeing with McKaskle ), aff'd on unrelated grounds, 920 F.2d 525 (8th Cir. 1990); Cagle v. Sutherland, 334 F.3d 980 (11th Cir. 2003) (a violation of a consent decree, standing alone, does not establish a violation of a plaintiff's constitutional rights of a kind actionable under 1983). 3 4 `irre d u c ib le ' constitutional minimum required for standing, a litigant must show 1) that he p e rs o n a lly has suffered an actual or prospective injury as a result of the putatively illegal c o n d u c t; 2) that the injury can be fairly traced to the challenged conduct; and 3) that the in ju ry is likely to be redressed through court action." Saladin, 812 F.2d at 690, citing Valley F o r g e Christian College v. Americans United for Separation of Church and State, 454 U.S. 4 6 4 , 472 (1982); Warth v. Seldin, 422 U.S. 490, 499 (1975). If any element is lacking, a p la in tif f 's claim is not viable. In addition, the Supreme Court has established several re q u ire m e n ts based on prudential considerations. Saladin, 812 F.2d at 690 (internal citations o m itte d ) ("The Supreme Court has also stated that, in addition to these essential c o n stitu tio n al requirements, a court should consider the case in light of three principles which m ig h t counsel judicial constraint, referred to as `prudential' considerations.... Those c o n sid e ra tio n s are 1) whether the plaintiff's complaint falls within the zone of interests p ro te c te d by the statute or constitutional provision at issue; 2) whether the complaint raises a b stra c t questions amounting to generalized grievances which are more appropriately re s o lv e d by the legislative branches; and 3) whether the plaintiff is asserting his or her own lega l rights and interests rather than the legal rights and interests of third parties."). In the instant complaint, Sterling seeks to assert several claims relative to conditions o f confinement to which other inmates have been subjected at correctional facilities th ro u g h o u t the Alabama prison system. Sterling lacks standing to assert the constitutional rig h ts of other persons. Saladin, supra.; Allen v. Wright, 468 U.S. 737, 751 (1984). The 5 p ru d e n tial limitation applicable in this case is that a litigant may not assert the legal rights o r interests of another person. With respect to the claims arising from alleged violations of o th e r inmates' constitutional rights, Sterling is not "asserting his ... own legal rights and in te re sts [but] rather ... the legal rights and interests of third parties." Saladin, 812 F.2d at 6 9 0 . These claims, therefore, entitle Sterling to no relief. C . Request for Class Certification S te rlin g seeks to represent the interests of all male inmates confined in prison facilities th ro u g h o u t the State who he believes have been subjected to unconstitutional conditions of c o n f in e m e n t and, therefore, requests class certification of this action. The court construes th is request as a motion to certify class under Rule 23, Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Sterling cannot adequately represent the interests of the putative class. Among the re q u ire m e n ts which litigants must meet in order to maintain an action as a class action is that a class representative must "fairly and adequately protect the interests of the class." Rule 2 3 (a )( 4 ), Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. While a pro se litigant may bring his own c la im s to federal court, he may not litigate the claims of others. See 28 U.S.C. 1654.4 The c o m p e te n c e of a layman is "clearly too limited to allow him to risk the rights of others." O x e n d in e v. Williams, 509 F.2d 1405, 1407 (4th Cir.1975); see also Hummer v. Dalton, 657 4 28 U.S.C. 1654 provides: In all courts of the United States the parties may plead and conduct their own cases personally or by counsel as, by the rules of such courts, respectively, are permitted to manage and conduct causes therein. 6 F .2 d 621, 623 (4 th Cir. 1981); Ethnic Awareness Organization v. Gagnon, 568 F.Supp. 1186, 1 1 8 7 (E.D. Wis. 1983); Inmates, Washington County Jail v. England, 516 F. Supp. 132, 144 (E .D . Tenn. 1980). The court also finds that, with respect to the claims presented in the in s ta n t action, the prosecution of separate civil actions will not create a risk of inconsistent o r varying adjudications with respect to any general claims for relief. Rule 23(b)(1)(A), F e d e r a l Rules of Civil Procedure. Additionally, the questions of fact common to proposed c l a s s members do not predominate over such questions affecting projected individual m e m b e rs . Rule 23(b)(3), Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. See also Inmates, Washington C o u n ty Jail, 516 F. Supp. at 144 (denying pro se plaintiffs' request to certify action as a c la ss action and finding that "any declaratory relief granted ... would likely inure to the b e n e fit of other similarly-situated individuals" even without granting the request to certify c a se as a class action). Thus, Sterling's request to certify this case as a class action is due to b e denied. D . The Remaining Claims T o the extent Sterling seeks to challenge the prison conditions under which he is p re se n tly housed, the court concludes that such claims are due to be summarily dismissed. S te rlin g is presently incarcerated at the Limestone Correctional Facility which is located w ith in the jurisdiction of the United States District Court for the Northern District of A la b a m a . Any claims presented in the instant complaint which challenge actions taken a g a in s t Sterling during his confinement at the Limestone Correctional Facility should be 7 d is m is s e d without prejudice to allow the plaintiff an opportunity to file a complaint raising th e se claims in the appropriate federal court.5 E . Motion for Preliminary Injunction T h e decision to grant or deny a preliminary injunction "is within the sound discretion o f the district court...." Palmer v. Braun, 287 F.3d 1325, 1329 (11 th Cir. 2002). This court m a y grant a preliminary injunction only if Sterling demonstrates each of the following p re re q u is ite s: (1) a substantial likelihood of success on the merits; (2) a substantial threat irre p a ra b le injury will occur absent issuance of the injunction; (3) the threatened injury o u tw e ig h s the potential damage the requested injunction may cause the non-moving parties; a n d (4) the injunction would not be adverse to the public interest. Palmer, 287 F.3d at 1329; M c D o n a ld 's Corp. v. Robertson, 147 F.3d 1301, 1306 Cate v. Oldham, 707 F.2d 1176 (11 th C ir. 1983); Shatel Corp. v. Mao Ta Lumber and Yacht Corp., 697 F.2d 1352 (11 th Cir. 1983). " In this Circuit, `[a] preliminary injunction is an extraordinary and drastic remedy not to be g ra n te d unless the movant clearly established the "burden of persuasion"' as to the four re q u is ite s." McDonald's, 147 F.3d at 1306; All Care Nursing Service, Inc. v. Bethesda M e m o r ia l Hospital, Inc., 887 F.2d 1535, 1537 (11 th Cir. 1989) (a preliminary injunction is iss u e d only when "drastic relief" is necessary); Texas v. Seatrain Int'l, S.A., 518 F.2d 175, Although the defendants named to the present action all reside in the Middle District of Alabama, they are subject to service of process throughout the state and commonly defend suits in all federal courts of this state. Moreover, the court notes that a majority of witnesses and evidence associated with allegations regarding the conditions of confinement at a penal institution located in the jurisdiction of the Northern District of Alabama would primarily be located in the jurisdiction of the Northern District of Alabama. 5 8 1 7 9 (5 th Cir. 1975) (grant of preliminary injunction "is the exception rather than the rule," a n d movant must clearly carry the burden of persuasion). The moving party's failure to d e m o n s tra te a "substantial likelihood of success on the merits" may defeat the party's claim, re g a rd le s s of the party's ability to establish any of the other elements. Church v. City of H u n tsv ille , 30 F.3d 1332, 1342 (11 th Cir. 1994); see also Siegel v. Lepore, 234 F.3d 1163, 1 1 7 6 (11 th Cir. 2000) (noting that "the absence of a substantial likelihood of irreparable in ju ry would, standing alone, make preliminary injunctive relief improper"). "`The chief f u n c ti o n of a preliminary injunction is to preserve the status quo until the merits of the co n tro v ersy can be fully and fairly adjudicated.' Northeastern Fl. Chapter of Ass'n of Gen. C o n tra c to rs of Am. v. City of Jacksonville, Fl., 896 F.2d 1283, 1284 (11 th Cir.1990)." S u n tr u s t Bank v. Houghton Mifflin Co., 268 F.3d 1257, 1265 (11 th Cir. 2001). T u rn in g to the first prerequisite for issuance of preliminary injunctive relief, it is clear S ter lin g has failed to demonstrate a substantial likelihood of success on the merits of his c laim s. Sterling also fails to demonstrate a substantial threat that he will suffer the requisite irre p a ra b le injury absent issuance of a preliminary injunction. Finally, each of the remaining f a c to rs, balancing potential harm to the parties and the public interest element, appear to w e ig h more heavily in favor of the defendants. Thus, Sterling has failed to meet his burden o f demonstrating the existence of each prerequisite necessary to warrant issuance of a p re lim in a ry injunction. I I I . CONCLUSION 9 A c c o rd in g ly, it is the RECOMMENDATION of the Magistrate Judge that: 1 . To the extent the plaintiff seeks enforcement of prior orders or consent decrees, all c laim s related to such orders/decrees be summarily DISMISSED with prejudice pursuant to the directives of 28 U.S.C. 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii). 2 . With respect to those claims the plaintiff seeks to present regarding the legal rights o r interests of other persons, these claims be DISMISSED with prejudice in accordance with the provisions of 28 U.S.C. 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii). 3 . The plaintiff's claims arising from actions taken against him during his in c a rc e ra tio n at the Limestone Correctional Facility be DISMISSED without prejudice to the rig h ts of the plaintiff to file a separate 42 U.S.C. 1983 action in United States District Court f o r the Northern District of Alabama. 4. The plaintiff's request for class certification be DENIED. 5 . The plaintiff's motion for preliminary injunction be DENIED It is further O R D E R E D that the parties are DIRECTED to file any objections to the R e c o m m e n d a tio n on or before March 3, 2010. Any objections filed must specifically id e n tif y the findings in the Magistrate Judge's Recommendation to which a party objects. F r iv o lo u s , conclusive or general objections will not be considered by the District Court. The p a rtie s are advised that this Recommendation is not a final order of the court and, therefore, it is not appealable. 10 F a ilu re to file written objections to the proposed findings and recommendations in the M a g i s tra te Judge's report shall bar the party from a de novo determination by the District C o u rt of issues covered in the report and shall bar the party from attacking on appeal factual f in d in g s in the report accepted or adopted by the District Court except upon grounds of plain e rr o r or manifest injustice. Nettles v. Wainwright, 677 F.2d 404 (5 th Cir. 1982). See Stein v . Reynolds Securities, Inc., 667 F.2d 33 (11 th Cir. 1982). See also Bonner v. City of P r ic h a r d , 661 F.2d 1206 (11 th Cir. 1981, en banc), adopting as binding precedent all of the d e c is io n s of the former Fifth Circuit handed down prior to the close of business on S e p te m b e r 30, 1981. D o n e this 18th day of February, 2010. /s / Wallace Capel, Jr. W A L L A C E CAPEL, JR. UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE 11

Disclaimer: Justia Dockets & Filings provides public litigation records from the federal appellate and district courts. These filings and docket sheets should not be considered findings of fact or liability, nor do they necessarily reflect the view of Justia.

Why Is My Information Online?