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Alexander v. Stirling

United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Greenville Division

April 3, 2019

John Douglas Alexander, Plaintiff,
v.
Bryan Stirling, B. McGee, Charles Williams, Kurt Stevens, M. Barker, and the South Carolina Department of Corrections, Defendants.

          REPORT OF MAGISTRATE JUDGE

          KEVIN F. MCDONALD, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         This matter is before the court on the motion “for mandatory injunction and restraining order” (doc. 27) filed by the plaintiff, a state prisoner proceeding pro se. Pursuant to the provisions of Title 28, United States Code, Section 636(b)(1)(B), and Local Civil Rule 73.02(B)(2)(d) (D.S.C.), this magistrate judge is authorized to review all pretrial matters in cases filed under 42, United States Code, Section 1983 and submit findings and recommendations to the District Court.

         In his motion, the plaintiff claims that the defendants have deprived him of access to the courts by affording him, at most, eight hours per month to visit the law library (doc. 27 at 1). As a result, he claims that his motions, objections, replies, and cases are being dismissed by the federal and state courts (id.). He requests that the court order the defendants to provide him with eight hours per week to visit the law library (id.). The plaintiff's complaint itself does not raise a claim of denial of access to the courts (see doc. 1-1).

         “Preliminary injunctions are not to be granted automatically.” Wetzel v. Edwards, 635 F.2d 283, 286 (4th Cir. 1980) (citation omitted). Such relief regarding the administration of a state prison should be granted only in compelling circumstances. See Taylor v. Freeman, 34 F.3d 266, 269-70 (4th Cir. 1994). Usually, preliminary injunctions “aim to maintain the status quo and prevent irreparable harm while a lawsuit remains pending.” Pashby v. Delia, 709 F.3d 307, 319 (4th Cir. 2013). On the other hand, mandatory preliminary injunctions, which compel action, “do not preserve the status quo and normally should be granted only in those circumstances when the exigencies of the situation demand such relief.” Wetzel, 635 F.2d at 286 (citation omitted). A plaintiff seeking a preliminary injunction or temporary restraining order (“TRO”) must establish the following elements: (1) he is likely to succeed on the merits; (2) he is likely to suffer irreparable harm in the absence of preliminary relief; (3) the balance of equities tips in his favor; and (4) an injunction is in the public interest. Winter v. Nat. Res. Def. Council, Inc., 555 U.S. 7, 20 (2008).

         “To prevail on a claim of denial of access to the court, prisoners must demonstrate actual injury.” Long v. Vaughan, 652 Fed.Appx. 176, 178 (4th Cir. 2016) (citing Lewis v. Casey, 518 U.S. 343, 350-51 (1996)). “Thus, a prisoner must show that the prison policies ‘hindered his effort to pursue a legal claim.'” Id. (quoting Lewis, 518 U.S. at 351). The plaintiff alleges that his “motions, objections, replies, and ultimately cases are being dismissed and denied by the federal and state courts” because he is only allowed eight hours per month to visit the law library (doc. 27 at 2). He references an order from the Honorable Henry M. Herlong, Senior United States District Judge, denying his motion to alter or amend judgment in a federal case in which the plaintiff sought habeas corpus relief pursuant to Title 28, United States Code, Section 2254 (doc. 27-1 at 11-13). See Alexander v. Cartledge, C.A. No. 6:16-600-HMH-KFM (doc. 55). He also references a state court case in which his motion for default was denied because he failed to properly serve the defendants with the summons and complaint (doc. 27-1 at 18). However, there is no indication that the denial of these motions was as a result of some actual deprivation of access to the courts. The defendants note that, due to security, inmates are not allowed an unlimited amount of time in the institution law library, and, after research in the library, inmates can spend additional time analyzing their case and preparing motions, pleadings, and responses (doc. 35 at 3). The record in this case reflects that the plaintiff has filed numerous motions, replies, and objections since the filing of this case just over two months ago (see docs. 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 23, 24, 27, 29, 33, 39, 43, 44). The above record belies any assertion that the plaintiff is likely to suffer irreparable harm in the absence of preliminary relief. In addition, the balance of the equities does not tip in the plaintiff's favor, and he has not shown that an injunction or TRO would be in the public interest.

         Wherefore, based upon the foregoing, the plaintiff's motion (doc. 27) should be denied.

         IT IS SO RECOMMENDED.

         Notice of Right to File Objections to Report and Recommendation

         The parties are advised that they may file specific written objections to this Report and Recommendation with the District Judge. Objections must specifically identify the portions of the Report and Recommendation to which objections are made and the basis for such objections. “[I]n 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.'” Diamond v. Colonial Life & Acc. Ins. Co., 416 F.3d 310 (4th Cir. 2005) (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 72 advisory committee's note).

         Specific written objections must be filed within fourteen (14) days of the date of service of this Report and Recommendation. 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1); Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(b); see Fed.R.Civ.P. 6(a), (d). Filing by mail pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 5 may be accomplished by mailing objections to:

Robin L. Blume, Clerk United States District Court 300 East Washington Street Greenville, South Carolina 29601

         Failure to timely file specific written objections to this Report and Recommendation will result in waiver of the right to appeal from a judgment of the District Court based upon such Recommendation. 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1); Thomas v. Arn,474 U.S. 140 (1985); Wright v. Collins,766 ...


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