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Mendez v. Cook

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

September 9, 2019

Juan Mendez, Plaintiff,
v.
C/O Cook and C/O Cleveland, Defendants.

          REPORT OF MAGISTRATE JUDGE

          KEVIN F. MCDONALD, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         This matter is before the court on the plaintiff's motion to order Broad River Correctional Institution (“BRCI”) to let him go to the law library (doc. 45). The plaintiff, a state prisoner proceeding pro se, seeks relief pursuant to Title 42, United States Code, Section 1983. Pursuant to the provisions of Title 28, United States Code, Section 636(b)(1)(B), and Local Civ. Rule 73.02(B)(2)(d) (D.S.C.), this magistrate judge is authorized to review all pretrial matters in cases filed under Title 42, United States Code, Section 1983, and submit findings and recommendations to the District Court.

         In his motion, the plaintiff claims that he has written requests asking to go to the law library and for certain law books, but the BRCI staff “always [has] some type of excuse.” He states that he needs to do research so that he can “better prepare for [his] case.” He requests that the court order BRCI that he “can go to the library as well [as] be able to get law books” (doc. 45 at 1). The plaintiff's complaint itself does not raise a claim of denial of access to the courts (see doc. 1). Notably, the plaintiff's motion is not directed at the defendants in this case but rather to the institution itself.

         Because the relief the plaintiff seeks is injunctive in nature, the court will treat this motion as seeking a preliminary injunction. “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 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); The Real Truth About Obama, Inc. v. Fed. Election Comm'n, 575 F.3d 342, 346-47 (4th Cir. 2009), vacated on other grounds by 559 U.S. 1089 (2010), reinstated in relevant part on remand by 607 F.3d 355 (4th Cir. 2010). A plaintiff must make a clear showing that he is likely to succeed on the merits of his claim. Winter, 555 U.S. at 22; Real Truth, 575 F.3d at 345-46. Similarly, he must make a clear showing that he is likely to be irreparably harmed absent injunctive relief. Winter, 555 U.S. at 20-23; Real Truth, 575 F.3d at 347. Only then may the court consider whether the balance of equities tips in the plaintiff's favor. See Real Truth, 575 F.3d at 346-47. Finally, the court must pay particular regard to the public consequences of employing the extraordinary relief of injunction. Id. at 347 (quoting Winter, 555 U.S. at 24).

         “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 has failed to make such a showing. The record in this case reflects that the plaintiff has filed numerous motions, replies, and objections since the filing of this case just over six months ago (see docs. 23, 27, 44, 55, 58, 59). 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 would be in the public interest. In so finding, the court adheres to the well-established principle “that absent the most extraordinary circumstances, federal courts are not to immerse themselves in the management of state prisons or substitute their judgment for that of the trained penological authorities charged with the administration of such facilities.” Taylor, 34 F.3d at 268.

         The plaintiff also states in the motion that he is now incarcerated in the same prison (BRCI) where the incident at issue[1] in this case occurred and that one of the defendants “has been around [him]” (doc. 45 at 1). To the extent that the plaintiff is requesting that the court order that he be transferred to another prison, the motion should be denied. The plaintiff has not satisfied the required elements for a preliminary injunction and has failed to demonstrate that the circumstances warrant the extraordinary remedy he seeks. Winter, 555 U.S. at 22 (stating that a mere possibility of harm is not sufficient to warrant injunctive relief).

         Wherefore, based upon the foregoing, the plaintiff's motion (doc. 45) should be denied. IT IS SO RECOMMENDED.

         The attention of the parties is directed to the important notice on the next page.

         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 871 F.Supp. (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 ...

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