Miller v. Holt et al
MEMORANDUM (Order to follow as separate docket entry)Signed by Honorable Malachy E Mannion on 3/24/17. (ep)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
MIDDLE DISTRICT OF PENNSYLVANIA
B. MILLER a/k/a/ STRANDON
C.O. S.L. HOLT, et al.,
CIVIL ACTION NO. 3:16-0605
This civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §1983 proceeds on an
amended complaint filed by Plaintiff B. Miller on October 7, 2016. (Doc. 25.)
Miller is currently incarcerated at the State Correctional Institution at Frackville
(SCI-Frackville), Pennsylvania. Named as defendants in the amended
complaint are the following correctional officers at SCI-Frackville: S.L. Holt,
R.E. Lynn, S.P. Allen, and S.M. Holezman. Plaintiff appears to allege that
Defendants Lynn, Allen and Holezman took his tablet from him for no reason
when he was coming in from the exercise yard on September 20, 2016. He
claims that this was done pursuant to the order of Defendant Holt in retaliation
for suing Holt.
On October 27, 2016, Defendant Holt filed a motion to dismiss or, in the
alternative, for summary judgment with respect to the claims set forth against
him in the amended complaint. (Doc. 26.) The motion is based on Plaintiff’s
failure to exhaust the claims set forth in the complaint. In support of the
motion, Holt has also filed a brief and the unsworn declaration of Jennifer
Newberry, Assistant to the Superintendent at SCI-Frackville. (Docs. 31, 32.)
Plaintiff has failed to oppose this motion. In addition, although waiver of
service documents and the amended complaint were mailed to the other three
(3) defendants, they have not acknowledged service or responded to the
Presently before the Court is Plaintiff’s Motion for Injunctive Relief. (Doc.
35.) Plaintiff’s filing has been construed to be both his motion and his brief.
(Doc. 38.) Plaintiff requests that he immediately be placed in the general
population because Officers Downs and Reese are denying him privileges in
retaliation for exercising his constitutional rights. In support of his argument,
he cites generally to Smith v. Mensinger, 293 F.3d 641 (3d Cir. 1999) and
Mitchell v. Horn, 318 F.3d 523 (3d Cir. 2003). Plaintiff further alleges that his
allegations are proven by a misconduct that was issued against him.
Injunctive Relief Standard
It is clear that Plaintiff fails to qualify for injunctive relief. It is well
established that preliminary injunctive relief is extraordinary in nature and is
granted only in the most limited of circumstances. American Tel. and Tel. Co.
v. Winback and Conserve Program, Inc., 42 F.3d 1421, 1426-27 (3d Cir.
1994), cert. denied, 514 U.S. 1103 (1995). Moreover, issuance of such relief
is at the discretion of the trial judge. Orson, Inc. v. Miramax Film, Corp., 836
F. Supp. 309, 311 (E.D. Pa. 1993). In determining whether to grant a motion
seeking preliminary injunctive relief, courts in the Third Circuit consider the
following four factors:
(1) likelihood of success on the merits;
(2) irreparable harm resulting from a denial of relief;
(3) the harm to the non-moving party if relief is
(4) the public interest.
Meekins v. Beard, No. 3:06-CV-290, 2008 WL 474250 *2 (M.D. Pa. Feb. 20,
2008) citing United States v. Bell, 238 F. Supp. 2d 696, 699 (M.D. Pa. 2003).
It is the moving party that bears the burden of satisfying these factors. (Id.)
Perhaps the most important prerequisite for the issuance of a
preliminary injunction is a demonstration that if it is not granted, the applicant
is likely to suffer irreparable harm before a decision on the merits can be
rendered. See Continental Group, Inc., v. Amoco Chems. Corp., 614 F.2d
351, 356 (3d Cir. 1980). Irreparable injury is “potential harm which cannot be
redressed by a legal or equitable remedy following a trial.” Instant Air Freight
Co. v. C.F. Air Freight, Inc., 882 F.2d 797, 801 (3d Cir. 1989). A court may not
grant preliminary injunctive relief unless “[t]he preliminary injunction [is] the
only way of protecting the plaintiff from harm.” Id. The relevant inquiry is
whether the party moving for the injunctive relief is in danger of suffering the
irreparable harm at the time the preliminary injunctive relief is to be issued. Id.
Speculative injury does not constitute a showing of irreparable harm.
Continental, 614 F.2d at 359; see also Public Serv. Co. v. West Newbury, 835
F.2d 380, 383 (1st Cir. 1987). “The possibility that adequate compensatory or
other corrective relief will be available at a later date, in the ordinary course
of litigation, weights heavily against a claim of irreparable harm.” Instant Air
Freight, 882 F.2d at 801 (quoting Sampson v. Murray, 415 U.S. 61, 90
(1964)). “[A] failure to show a likelihood of success or a failure to demonstrate
irreparable injury must necessarily result in the denial of a preliminary
injunction.” In Re Arthur Treacher’s Franchise Litigation, 689 F.2d 1137, 1143
(3d Cir. 1982).
In considering the factors outlined above, it is clear that injunctive relief
is not warranted. First, it is well established that a prisoner has no justifiable
expectation that he will be incarcerated in any particular prison. See Olim v.
Wakinekona, 461 U.S. 238, 245 (1983). There is no protected liberty interest
arising from the Due Process Cause to be assigned to a particular custody
level, security classification or place of confinement. See Wilkinson v. Austin,
545 U.S. 209, 221-22 (2005)(finding that the Constitution does not give rise
to liberty interest in avoiding transfers to more adverse conditions of
confinement); see also Thomaston v. Meyer, No. 12-4563, 2013 WL 2420891
(3d Cir. June 5, 2013)(holding that denial of inmate’s request for Z code
status is not a deprivation of a protected liberty interest.) As such, Plaintiff’s
request to be moved to the general population is without merit.
Further, it is unlikely that Plaintiff will suffer irreparable harm if
preliminary injunctive relief is not granted. He has adequate legal remedies
available, and has come forth with no evidence that he will suffer irreparable
harm if he is not granted injunctive relief. Most importantly, however, is the
fact that currently pending is Defendant Holt’s motion to dismiss or, in the
alternative, for summary judgment that is based squarely on Plaintiff’s failure
to exhaust his claims. Plaintiff has not responded to this motion. As such, it
is clear that Plaintiff is unable to demonstrate his likelihood of success on the
merits at this juncture.
Even if the Court were to find that Plaintiff somehow qualified for the
injunctive relief sought, he makes allegations in his motion against two
officers that are not even named as defendants in this action. He does not
reference Defendant Holt in his motion, or even the named Defendants that
have not yet been served with the amended complaint. Because Plaintiff
seeks injunctive relief against individuals who are not parties to this action,
any request for injunctive relief must be denied. See DeBeers Consol. Mines
v. United States, 325 U.S. 212, 220 (1945)(holding that a preliminary
injunction is available when the same relief may be granted in the final
resolution of the case); Devose v, Herrington, 42 F.3d 470, 471 (8th Cir.
1994)(finding that inmate’s new assertions might support additional claims,
but could not provide the basis for a preliminary injunction in the lawsuit.) In
addition, the balancing of potential harm to the parties weighs more heavily
in favor of Defendants at this point because the issuance of the requested
relief would have an unduly adverse affect on the ability of prison staff to
exercise their professional judgment in managing the prison. It would
encourage filings by inmates seeking to obtain transfers to other parts of the
prison or other facilities they feel is necessary in situations where they
disagree with where they are currently housed. “It is well-settled that the
decision where to house inmates is at the core of prison administrators’
expertise.” McKune v. Lile, 536 U.S. 24, 39 (2002). For all of these reasons,
Plaintiff’s motion for injunctive relief will be denied.
An appropriate order shall issue.
s/ Malachy E. Mannion
MALACHY E. MANNION
United States District Judge
Date: March 24, 2017
O:\Mannion\shared\MEMORANDA - DJ\CIVIL MEMORANDA\2016 MEMORANDA\16-0605-01.wpd
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