United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Charleston Division
OPINION AND ORDER
CAMERON MCGOWAN CURRIE, SENIOR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Darrell Williams (“Williams”) brought this
pro se action alleging violations of his Equal
Protection rights while incarcerated at Lieber Correctional
Institution in the South Carolina Department of Corrections.
ECF No. 1. This matter is before the court on Williams'
Motion for Temporary Restraining Order (“TRO”)
and Preliminary Injunction, filed July 9, 2018. ECF No.
Williams complains his Equal Protection rights have been
violated as inmates on “faith-based or character
units” have access to privileges Williams and inmates
in other housing units do not. Id.
accordance with 28 U.S.C. § 636(b) and Local Civil Rule
73.02 (B)(2)(d), D.S.C., the matter was referred to United
States Magistrate Judge Mary Gordon Baker for pre-trial
proceedings. On August 21, 2018, the Magistrate Judge issued
a Report recommending Williams' motions for TRO and
preliminary injunction be denied. ECF No. 22. The Magistrate
Judge advised Williams of the procedures and requirements for
filing objections to the Report and the serious consequences
if he failed to do so. Williams filed objections on August
29, 2018. ECF No. 28. On August 31, 2018, the court received
a letter from Williams enclosing a page from his objections
he alleges was returned to him despite being in a sealed
envelope with the rest of his objections (which were received
by this court). ECF No. 30.
court declined to adopt the Report or to rule on the motion
for a TRO/Preliminary Injunction until Defendants had an
opportunity to respond. ECF No. 32. Defendants filed their
response in opposition on November 7, 2018. ECF No. 55.
Plaintiff filed his reply on December 10, 2018. ECF No. 75.
On December 13, 2018, the Magistrate Judge issued a Report
recommending Plaintiff's motions (ECF Nos. 3, 14) be
denied. The Magistrate Judge advised Williams of the
procedures and requirements for filing objections to the
Report and the serious consequences if he failed to do so.
Williams filed objections on January 16, 2019. ECF No. 97.
Magistrate Judge makes only a recommendation to this court.
The recommendation has no presumptive weight, and the
responsibility to make a final determination remains with the
court. Mathews v. Weber, 423 U.S. 261 (1976). The
court is charged with making a de novo determination
of those portions of the Report to which specific objection
is made, and the court may accept, reject, or modify, in
whole or in part, the recommendation of the Magistrate Judge,
or recommit the matter to the Magistrate Judge with
instructions. See 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1). The
court reviews only for clear error in the absence of an
objection. See Diamond v. Colonial Life & Accident
Ins. Co., 416 F.3d 310, 315 (4th Cir. 2005) (stating
that “in the absence of a timely filed objection, a
district court need not conduct a de novo review,
but instead must ‘only satisfy itself that there is no
clear error on the face of the record in order to accept the
recommendation.'”) (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 72
advisory committee's note).
Magistrate Judge concluded Williams failed to show any of the
four requirements for issuance of a preliminary injunction:
that he is likely to succeed on the merits, that he will
suffer irreparable harm, that the balance of equities tips in
his favor, or that an injunction is in the public interest.
ECF No. 78 at 3-4. The Report considered Williams' Equal
Protection claim and, in an abundance of caution, also
evaluated the allegations as a conditions of confinement
claim. Id. at 4.
offers several objections to the Report. First, he argues the
court should employ a subjective test, instead of the
Winter test, such that “one does not have to
wait the consummation of threatened injury to obtain
preventative relief.” ECF No. 97 at 2. He argues he
seeks to enforce Defendants' compliance with their own
policies, which he contends allow general population inmates
showers three times per week. Id. at 3. He further
argues the policies violate Equal Protection, specifically a
shower restriction for one group, but not another, and
Defendants failed to provide justification for this
restriction. Id. Williams notes Defendants have not
shown he was the cause of the riot at Lee Correctional, or
that the riot was caused by or during shower time.
Id. He further argues no legitimate penological
interest is advanced by the denial of phone and recreation
opportunities. Id. at 5. Williams argues the
correctional institution staff members are not
“reasonably upholding security, ” and that
inmates in the character/faith unit are bringing contraband
into the prison. Id. at 6-7. Finally, he states he
is a member of a class of general population inmates with
serious medical conditions, and he has alleged facts
“to overcome the reasonableness applied to prison
policies.” Id. at 7-8.
court adopts the Report as to the conditions of confinement
claims, as it agrees a preliminary injunction or TRO will not
issue based on his alleged infrequent showers, denial of
access to the courts, or lack of vocational and recreational
programs. However, as to the Equal Protection claim, the
court reaches the same conclusion: a preliminary injunction
or TRO will not issue, but not due to Williams'
issue as to the Equal Protection claim is whether the state
had a rational basis for the lockdown of general population
versus non-lockdown of character and faith-based units.
Defendants' response and the Report appear to rely, at
least in part, on Williams' disciplinary history as a
basis for finding the restrictions are reasonably related to
security. However, Williams' current presence on lockdown
is not because of his disciplinary history, as all general
population inmates are on lockdown. He is on lockdown merely
due to his presence in general population.
prevail, Williams must show general population inmates are
similarly situated to character and faith-based inmates, such
that the difference in treatment is not reasonably related to
legitimate penological interests. See Veney v.
Wyche, 293 F.3d 726, 731-32 (4th Cir. 2002). This he has
failed to do. The record reveals a systematic statewide
lockdown and gradual, staggered release was imposed following
a riot at one institution in which seven inmates died. The
Department of Corrections determined to impose the lockdown
on all general population inmates statewide, but not to
impose the lockdown on inmates in character and faith-based
units. See Id. at 732 (“Prison safety and
security are legitimate penological interests that we must
consider.”). There is no evidence the decision was
based on anyone's membership in a protected class, but
rather was based on security levels. See McKune v.
Lile, 536 U.S. 24, 26 (2002) (“It is well-settled
that the decision where to house inmates is at the core of a
prison administrator's expertise.”). Likewise,
Williams has made no showing the decision was not reasonably
related to legitimate penological interests. Accordingly,
Williams has failed to show likelihood of success on the
court agrees Williams also has not met his burden on the
other three factors: likelihood of irreparable harm, balance
of equities, and public interest. As Williams has failed to
make a “clear showing” each factor supports his
request for preliminary injunction, his motion is denied.