Ashby v. Arnone et al
RULING denying 20 Motion for Preliminary Injunction. Signed by Judge Stefan R. Underhill on 10/15/13. (Sbalbi, B.)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
DISTRICT OF CONNECTICUT
LEO ARNONE, et al.,
Case No. 3:13-cv-223 (SRU)
RULING ON PLAINTIFF’S MOTION FOR TEMPORARY RESTRAINING ORDER
AND PRELIMINARY INJUNCTION [Doc. #20]
Plaintiff Lazale Ashby has filed a motion seeking a preliminary injunction ordering that
the defendants provide him a diet appropriate to his religious dietary requirements. For the
reasons that follow, the plaintiff’s motion is denied.
Standard of Review
Interim injunctive relief “is an extraordinary and drastic remedy, one that should not be
granted unless the movant, by a clear showing, carries the burden of persuasion.” Mazurek v.
Armstrong, 520 U.S. 968, 972 (1997) (per curiam) (emphasis, internal quotation marks and
citation omitted). Preliminary injunctive relief is designed “to preserve the status quo and
prevent irreparable harm until the court has an opportunity to rule on the lawsuit’s merits.”
Devose v. Herrington, 42 F.3d 470, 471 (8th Cir. 1994) (per curiam).
To obtain preliminary injunctive relief, the moving party must establish “(1) irreparable
harm and (2) either (a) a likelihood of success on the merits, or (b) sufficiently serious questions
going to the merits of its claims to make them fair ground for litigation, plus a balance of
hardships tipping decidedly in favor of the moving party.” Lynch v. City of New York, 589 F.3d
94, 98 (2d Cir. 2009) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted), cert. denied, 131 S. Ct. 415
(2010). Although a showing that the plaintiff will suffer irreparable injury before a decision on
the merits of the claim can be reached is insufficient, standing alone, to warrant preliminary
injunctive relief, it is the most significant condition that must be demonstrated. See Daniels v.
Murphy, 3:11cv286 (SRU), 2012 WL 5463072 (D. Conn. Nov. 8, 2012).
If a party seeks a mandatory injunction, i.e, an injunction that alters the status quo by
commanding the defendant to perform a positive act, he must meet a higher standard. “[I]n
addition to demonstrating irreparable harm, ‘[t]he moving party must make a clear or substantial
showing of a likelihood of success’ on the merits, . . . a standard especially appropriate when a
preliminary injunction is sought against government.” D.D. ex rel. V.D. v. New York City Bd. of
Educ., 465 F.3d 503, 510 (2d Cir. 2006) (citations omitted). Questionable claims would not meet
the likelihood of success requirement. See Grupo Mexicano de Desarrollo S.A. v. Alliance Bond
Fund, Inc., 527 U.S. 308, 340 (1999). Here, Ashby seeks to change the status quo by obtaining a
special diet. Thus, he must meet this higher standard.
Although a hearing is generally required on a properly supported motion for preliminary
injunction, oral argument and testimony are not required in all cases. Maryland Cas. Co. v.
Realty Advisory Bd. on Labor Relations, 107 F.3d 979, 984 (2d Cir. 1997). Where, as here, “the
record before a district court permits it to conclude that there is no factual dispute which must be
resolved by an evidentiary hearing, a preliminary injunction may be granted or denied without
hearing oral testimony.” 7 James W. Moore, et al., Moore’s Federal Practice ¶ 65.04 (2d ed.
1995). Upon review of the record, oral testimony and argument are not necessary in this case.
Ashby seeks a diet that accommodates his religious beliefs. He does not specify his
religious dietary requirements in this motion or in his complaint. In an Inmate Request attached
to the complaint, Ashby states: “Due to my religion (Universalism) I can no longer consume the
following: meats that are ‘unified’ meaning killed in the name of my god. I cannot eat corn
kernal, solanum tuberosum (potato) or glycinemax (soybean).” Doc. #1 at 15. In another
request, he states that he requires a diet without “potato, soy, cabbage and corn kernal.” Doc. #1
The plaintiff has provided no evidence to support his allegation that Universalism
requires him to refrain from eating certain foods. The defendants have consulted religious
experts and scholarly research and can identify no such requirement for Universalism in general
or Unitarian Universalism, one of the largest Universalist organizations in America, in particular.
At this time, it does not appear that the plaintiff is likely to prevail on any claim for a special
religious diet. Thus, preliminary injunctive relief is not warranted.
In addition, even if the plaintiff could support his claim, providing the specific diet
requested by each inmate is not required. For example, Rastafarians observe a diet which varies
among individuals and Rastafarian sects. The Second Circuit upheld the district court’s denial of
the Rastafarian dietary claim and noted that “the varied individual practices ‘would impose
undue financial and administrative burdens on defendants.’” Benjamin v. Coughlin, 905 F.2d
571, 579 (2d Cir.), cert. denied, 498 U.S. 951 (1990). See also Williams v. Morton, 343 F.3d 212
(3d Cir. 2003) (denying inmate request for Halal meats for reasons of budget and security and to
simplify food service); Kahey v. Jones, 836 F.2d 948, 950 (5th Cir. 1998) (“prisons need not
respond to particularized religious diets”).
The plaintiff’s motion for preliminary injunction and temporary restraining order [Doc.
#20] is DENIED.
SO ORDERED this 15th day of October 2013 at Bridgeport, Connecticut.
/s/ Stefan R. Underhill
Stefan R. Underhill
United States District Judge
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