Spreadbury v. Bitterroot Public Library et al
FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS re 70 MOTION for Preliminary Injunction filed by Michael E. Spreadbury. Objections to F&R due by 8/22/2011 Signed by Jeremiah C. Lynch on 8/3/2011. (TCL, ) Modified on 8/3/2011 to reflect copy mailed to Spreadbury this date (APP, ).
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF MONTANA
MICHAEL E. SPREADBURY,
BITTERROOT PUBLIC LIBRARY,
CITY OF HAMILTON,
LEE ENTERPRISES, INC.,
BOONE KARLBERG, P.C.,
DR. ROBERT BROPHY, TRISTA SMITH,
NANSU RODDY, JERRY STEELE,
STEVE SNAVELY, STEVEN BRUNER-MURPHY,
RYAN OSTER, KENNETH S. BELL, and JENNIFER LINT,
Before the Court is Plaintiff Michael Spreadbury’s motion for injunctive
relief. For the reasons stated below, the Court recommends that the motion be
A detailed description of the background facts giving rise to this action is
set forth in the Court’s findings and recommendation entered July 28, 2011. (Dkt.
# 75.) For present purposes, a brief summary of those facts will suffice.
Spreadbury became embroiled in a dispute with Defendant Nansu Roddy,
the assistant director of the Bitterroot Public Library in Hamilton, Montana. As a
result of that dispute, Spreadbury’s library privileges were terminated. Roddy also
obtained a court order of protection against Spreadbury. Ultimately, Spreadbury
was charged with criminal trespass for subsequently entering the library, and
felony intimidation for conduct directed toward Roddy.
Defendant Lee Enterprises, Inc. published articles about Spreadbury’s
tribulations. When Spreadbury attempted to prevent Lee Enterprises from
publishing further articles, Defendant Ryan Oster, the Hamilton Chief of Police,
directed Spreadbury to stay away from Lee Enterprises’ business offices.
Spreadbury advances numerous claims for relief against the various
Defendants. His pleading sets forth claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for violations
of his rights under the United States Constitution. He also asserts claims under
Montana law, including claims for defamation. His pleading includes requests for
injunctive relief which form the basis for his present motion for injunctive relief.
Spreadbury’s request for injunctive relief is, in substance, a motion for a
preliminary injunction. “A plaintiff seeking a preliminary injunction must
establish that he is likely to succeed on the merits, that he is likely to suffer
irreparable harm in the absence of preliminary relief, that the balance of equities
tips in his favor, and that an injunction is in the public interest.” Network
Automation, Inc. v. Advanced Systems Concepts, Inc., 638 F.3d 1137, 1144 (9th
Cir. 2011) (quoting Winter v. Natural Resources Defense Council, Inc., 555 U.S.
7, 20 (2008)). After Winter, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals still employs a
“sliding scale” analysis as follows: “the elements of the preliminary injunction
tests are balanced, so that a stronger showing of one element may offset a weaker
showing of another.” Vanguard Outdoor, LLC v. City of Los Angeles,
2011 WL 2175891, *3 (9th Cir. 2011) (quotation omitted). The sliding
scale/balancing test may support the issuance of a preliminary injunction if “the
likelihood of success is such that serious question[s] going to the merits were
raised and the balance of hardships tips sharply in [plaintiff’s] favor.” Id.
(quotation omitted). See also Alliance for the Wild Rockies v. Cottrell, 632 F.3d
1127, 1131-32 (9th Cir. 2011) (referring to the “serious questions” test). Even so,
the plaintiff must still demonstrate that the other two elements of the preliminary
injunction standard also support the request for an injunction. Vanguard Outdoor,
LLC, 2011 WL 2175891 at 3; Alliance, at 1132.
The party seeking a preliminary injunction bears the burden of
demonstrating that he or she is entitled to the injunction. United States v. Arizona,
641 F.3d 339, 344 n.1 (9th Cir. 2011). In view of this burden, “a request for a
preliminary injunction may be denied on the sole ground that the plaintiff has
failed to raise even ‘serious questions’ going to the merits.” Vanguard Outdoor,
LLC, 2011 WL 2175891 at *3 (citation omitted). If the court finds the plaintiff
has failed to raise serious questions and failed to demonstrate a fair chance of
success on the merits, then the motion may be denied without consideration of the
other factors. Id. Finally, the district court has discretion in determining whether
to grant or deny a request for a preliminary injunction. Thalheimer v. City of San
, 2011 WL 2400779, *3 (9th Cir. 2011).
Spreadbury presents very cursory and limited arguments in support of his
request for injunctive relief. Spreadbury’s moving papers merely refer to the
allegations in his pleading, and his requests for injunctive relief in Counts 22
through 25. Based only on those allegations, Spreadbury now moves for an order
(1) preventing Defendant Boone Karlberg, P.C. from engaging in further
defamation,1 (2) preventing Defendant Lee Enterprises from defaming his
character, (3) preventing “the Hamilton Montana Police Department” from further
violating his constitutional rights, and (4) requiring Defendant Bitterroot Public
The details of Boone Karlberg’s role in this case are discussed in the
Court’s recommendation entered July 21, 2011 (Dkt. # 67), and need not be
restated in this recommendation.
Library to reinstate his library privileges. Spreadbury also requests the Court
“quash a civil order of protection[.]”
Upon review of Spreadbury’s motion, the Court finds Spreadbury has
entirely failed to meet his burden of demonstrating his entitlement to a preliminary
injunction. Other than reiterating his claims for injunctive relief, Spreadbury
presents no further arguments or evidence in support of his requests, and he does
not address any of the elements of the standard for the issuance of a preliminary
injunction. Significantly, he has made no effort to demonstrate any likelihood of
success under the “serious questions” test as to any of his claims for injunctive
A. Boone Karlberg
On July 21, 2011, the Court recommended that Spreadbury’s claims
against Boone Karlberg be dismissed. Dkt. # 67. Therefore, he is not entitled to a
preliminary injunction against Boone Karlberg.
B. Lee Enterprises
Similarly, on July 28, 2011, the Court recommended that a majority of
Spreadbury’s claims against Lee Enterprises be dismissed leaving only the limited
factual predicate basis regarding the “comments” Lee Enterprises allegedly
published about Spreadbury. That surviving claim, however, may also be subject
to dismissal under the Communications Decency Act. See Dkt. # 75 at 11 n.2.
Consequently, Spreadbury has not identified any serious questions as to the merits
of that remaining claim, has not demonstrated that the balance of hardships tips
sharply in his favor, and has not shown that he will suffer irreparable harm.
C. Bitterroot Public Library
Spreadbury is also not entitled to injunctive relief against Defendant
Bitterroot Public Library. Spreadbury alleges the Library deprived him of his
liberty interest in his library privileges in violation of his “procedural due process
rights.” See Dkt. # 10 at 7-9. But, he has not shown any likelihood of success on
The Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States
Constitution provides that a state shall not “deprive any person of life, liberty, or
property, without due process of law[.]” U.S. Const. Amend. XIV, § 1. The
clause provides a basis for both substantive and procedural due process claims.
To succeed with a procedural due process claim, “the plaintiff must
establish the existence of ‘(1) a liberty or property interest protected by the
Constitution; (2) a deprivation of the interest by the government; [and] (3) [a] lack
of process.’” Shanks v. Dressel, 540 F.3d 1082, 1090 (9th Cir. 2008) (quoting
Portman v. County of Santa Clara, 995 F.2d 898, 904 (9th Cir. 1993)).
A protected liberty interest may arise from either the Due Process Clause
itself, or a provision of state law. Carver v. Lehman, 558 F.3d 869, 872 (9th Cir.
2009). To determine whether a state law gives rise to a liberty interest, the court
should “ascertain from state law the expectations and entitlements of the parties.”
Miller v. California, 355 F.3d 1172, 1176 (9th Cir. 2004) (quoting Smith v. Org. of
Foster Families for Equal. & Reform, 431 U.S. 816, 845-46 (1977)). Thus, to
create a liberty interest, the state law “must set forth ‘substantive predicates’ to
govern official decision making and [...] it must contain ‘explicitly mandatory
language,’ i.e., a specific directive to the decisionmaker that mandates a particular
outcome if the substantive predicates have been met.” Valdez v. Rosenbaum, 302
F.3d 1039, 1044 (9th Cir. 2002) (citation and quotations omitted).
Here, Spreadbury alleges he was deprived of his library privileges in
violation of Montana law. The applicable statute at Mont. Code Ann. § 22-1-311
provides as follows:
Every library established under the provisions of this part shall be free to the
use of the inhabitants of the city or the county supporting such library. The
board may exclude from the use of the library any and all persons who shall
willfully violate the rules of the library. The board may extend the privileges
and use of the library to persons residing outside of the city or county upon
such terms and conditions as it may prescribe by its regulations.
Even assuming the library privileges described in Mont. Code Ann. § 22-1311 give rise to a protected liberty interest under federal law, Spreadbury fails to
demonstrate that the Bitterroot Public Library did not afford him the required
procedural protections attendant to the loss of that interest. A procedural due
process claim requires a plaintiff to prove he was denied adequate procedural
protection. Pinnacle Armor, Inc. v. United States,
, 2011 WL
2040870, *5 (9th Cir. 2011). The plaintiff must demonstrate a lack of notice and
opportunity for hearing prior to the deprivation of a liberty interest. Lone Star
Security & Video, Inc. v. City of Los Angeles, 584 F.3d 1232, 1236 (9th Cir. 2009).
Although Spreadbury alleges he was deprived of any opportunity to be heard in
his efforts to appeal his loss of his library privileges, he has wholly failed to show
that he is likely to succeed on the merits of those allegations. Spreadbury has not
demonstrated the existence of serious questions as to the lack of procedural
protections, or that the balance of hardships tip in his favor with respect to his loss
of his library privileges.
D. City of Hamilton — Ryan Oster
With respect to the Hamilton Police Department or the City of Hamilton,
Spreadbury’s only argument in his motion pertains to Defendant Ryan Oster, the
Chief of Police. He simply alleges Oster violated his right to liberty protected
under the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution. He
further alleges Oster has failed to take action to correct violations of his rights.
Spreadbury does not identify Oster’s specific conduct on which he bases his
request for injunctive relief. Absent specification from Spreadbury, it appears he
is referring to Oster’s conduct in directing Spreadbury to stay away from Lee
Enterprises’ offices. Those circumstances, however, fail to demonstrate that
Spreadbury has a protected liberty interest in accessing the business offices of Lee
Enterprises — a private entity. Therefore, Spreadbury has failed to demonstrate a
likelihood of success on that due process claim.
E. Order of Protection
Finally, Spreadbury does not identify or articulate any grounds in support of
his request for an injunction quashing the order of protection obtained by Roddy.
Having failed to meet his burden of demonstrating any merit to this request, he is
not entitled to injunctive relief on that matter.
For the reasons discussed, IT IS HEREBY RECOMMENDED that
Spreadbury’s motion for a preliminary injunction be DENIED.
DATED this 3rd day of August, 2011.
/s/ Jeremiah C. Lynch
Jeremiah C. Lynch
United States Magistrate Judge
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