Richardson v. Cullen et al

Filing 20

ORDER RE: 4 DENYING MOTION FOR PRELIMINARY INJUNCTION. Signed by Judge Richard Seeborg on 2/25/11.(rslc3, COURT STAFF) (Filed on 2/25/2011)

Download PDF
Richardson v. Cullen et al Doc. 20 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 FORREST M. RICHARDSON, Plaintiff, v. VINCENT CULLEN, Acting Warden, San Quentin State Prison, et al., Defendants. ___________________________________/ **E-filed 2/25/11** IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE NORTHERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA SAN FRANCISCO DIVISION No. C 11-00459 RS ORDER DENYING MOTION FOR PRELIMINARY INJUNCTION United States District Court 11 For the Northern District of California 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 I. INTRODUCTION Plaintiff Forrest Richardson, an inmate at the California State Prison, San Quentin (San Quentin) filed suit against Vincent Cullen, San Quentin Acting Warden; Dr. Reyes, a member of the San Quentin medical staff; and several San Quentin correctional officers. In his suit, Richardson alleges defendants are depriving him of medications for high blood pressure and pain management that had been prescribed by his treating physician. He brings claims for violation of his civil rights under: (1) the Eight Amendment for deprivation constituting deliberate indifference to his medical needs; (2) the First Amendment alleging that acts were taken in retaliation for a previously filed suit; and (3) 42 U.S.C. 1985(2) and 1985(3) proscribing conspiracies to interfere with civil rights. NO. C 11-00459 RS ORDER DENYING MOTION FOR PRELIMINARY INJUNCTION Dockets.Justia.com 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 Richardson moved for a temporary restraining order (TRO) and a preliminary injunction to enjoin defendants from withholding his medications and from preventing or discouraging him from seeking medical assistance from the medical staff at San Quentin. At a hearing on the TRO, the Court denied Richardson's motion and requested additional information from defendants prior to ruling on the motion for preliminary injunction. Pursuant to Civil Local Rule 7-1(b), the motion for preliminary injunction is suitable for disposition without oral argument. For the reasons stated below, the motion is denied. II. DISCUSSION Injunctive relief is an "extraordinary remedy, never awarded as of right." Winter v. NRDC, Inc., 129 S. Ct. 365, 376 (2008). In order to obtain injunctive relief, a plaintiff must demonstrate that: (1) he is likely to succeed on the merits; (2) he is likely to suffer irreparable injury; (3) that the balance of hardships tips in his favor; and (4) that an injunction is in the public interest. See Winter, 129 S. Ct. at 374. In a sliding scale version of these requirements, relief may be granted where the plaintiff establishes that serious questions on the merits exist and the balance of hardships tips sharply in his favor. See Alliance for the Wild Rockies v. Cottrell, 613 F.3d 960, 968 (9th Cir. 2010). The plaintiff also must demonstrate a likelihood of irreparable harm and that the public interest favors granting the injunction. Id. Although grounded in different constitutional or statutory rights, each of Richardson's claims for civil rights violations essentially relies on his allegation that the withholding of particular medications constitutes an illegitimate medical decision. In order to state an Eighth Amendment challenge, he must demonstrate: (1) that his medical need is objectively serious; and (2) that officials acted with deliberate indifference to his health or safety. See Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 834 (1994). A prison official acts with deliberate indifference when the officer "knows of and disregards an excessive risk to inmate health or safety." Id. at 837. At the hearing on the motion for TRO, the parties indicated that Richardson was presently receiving high blood pressure medication. Thus, Richardson's principal complaint involves the San Quentin staff's decision to terminate the pain medication he receives, namely morphine sulfate and gabapentin. Richardson claims that the action was motivated by retaliation for a lawsuit he has NO. C 11-00459 RS ORDER DENYING MOTION FOR PRELIMINARY INJUNCTION United States District Court 11 For the Northern District of California 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 2 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 previously filed against correctional staff at the California State Prison, Solano. Defendants dispute that the medical and correctional staff at San Quentin, when taking the actions at issue, were even aware of Richardson's prior claims involving the Solano prison. In addition, defendants contend that Richardson was investigated for possession of illegal narcotics and found guilty at a disciplinary hearing in December 2010. They maintain that the discontinuation of morphine is both consistent with his medical needs and warranted by Richardson's suspected drug abuse. The Court requested that defendants identify a physician, not a party to the present suit, to review Richardson's medical file and to provide the Court with a report on whether his medical problems are being adequately treated by his current pain medication regimen. Defendants submitted the report of Dr. Lisa Pratt, the chief physician and surgeon at San Quentin. She states that Richardson had been receiving morphine and gabapentin for shoulder and back pain. She found that, after shoulder surgery, there is no longer "objective finding of [that] disease" and his recovery is "normal." With regard to back pain, she also concludes that objective findings are lacking to support Richardson's subjective complaints. Thus, Dr. Pratt states that "non-opioid pain management is appropriate treatment." She also comments that medications for nerve pain (according to Richardson, the gabapentin) were "rejected," apparently for lack of objective evidence. According to Dr. Pratt's comments and the copy of Richardson's medical records introduced by him, the medical file makes several references to the discontinuation of his medications based on the investigation into his illegal possession of morphine. Although Dr. Pratt was not told of the purpose for the request, she was informed that her report was being submitted to a federal judge. As Richardson suggests, Dr. Pratt could infer that Richardson had filed suit over the withholding of his medication. Nonetheless, Dr. Pratt provided her medical opinion that Richardson's present medical conditions are adequately treated. Based on her conclusion, Richardson has not shown that the withholding of his prior pain medications likely constitutes an "excessive risk" to his health. While his retaliation and conspiracy claims may not require the same showing of risk to his health, defendants have suggested viable reasons for discontinuing morphine. In short, Richardson has not demonstrated the likelihood of NO. C 11-00459 RS ORDER DENYING MOTION FOR PRELIMINARY INJUNCTION United States District Court 11 For the Northern District of California 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 3 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 success on the merits of his suit that is required to obtain the "extraordinary remedy" of injunctive relief. III. CONCLUSION Richardson's motion for preliminary injunction is denied. IT IS SO ORDERED. Dated: 2/25/11 RICHARD SEEBORG UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE United States District Court 11 For the Northern District of California 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 NO. C 11-00459 RS ORDER DENYING MOTION FOR PRELIMINARY INJUNCTION 4

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?