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Pitts v. Espinda

United States District Court, D. Hawaii

March 20, 2018

JOSEPH PITTS, Plaintiff,
v.
NOLAN ESPINDA, et al., Defendants. JOSEPH PITTS, Plaintiff,
v.
SGT. TUITAMA, et al., Defendants.

          ORDER DENYING MOTION FOR PRELIMINARY INJUNCTION

          J. Michael Seabright Judge

         I. INTRODUCTION

         On February 7, 2018, Plaintiff Joseph Pitts filed one Motion for Preliminary Injunction in two separate cases - Pitts v. Espinda, et al., Civ. No. 15-00483 JMS-KJM and Pitts v. Tuitama, et al., Civ. No. 17-00137 JMS-KJM. ECF No. 165.[1] On February 22, 2018, some Defendants in Civ. No. 15-00483 JMS-KJM filed responses. ECF Nos. 173, 174. On February 26, 2018, Plaintiff filed a Declaration in Response (“Pitts Decl.”), and on March 8, 2018, Plaintiff filed a “Response to Defendants' Memorandum in Opposition” (“Reply”). ECF Nos. 175, 176. No Defendant in Tuitama, Civ. No. 17-00137 JMS-KJM, filed a response. On February 7, 2018, Walter Schoettle filed a Disclaimer clarifying that he is Plaintiff's counsel in a state-court criminal appeal only and not in these civil cases. ECF No. 167. Schoettle filed declarations regarding Plaintiff's Motion on March 9 and 12, 2018. ECF Nos. 178, 179.

         Pursuant to Local Rule 7.2(d), the court finds this matter suitable for disposition without a hearing. For the reasons discussed below, the Motion for Preliminary Injunction is DENIED.

         II. DISCUSSION

         A. Background

         Plaintiff's underlying cases arise from an alleged physical assault by correctional officers at Halawa Correctional Facility (“HCF”) on July 9, 2014, Espinda, Civ. No. 15-00483 JMS-KJM, and alleged violations of his constitutional rights (1) with respect to prison mail policies and practices, and (2) in retaliation for filing lawsuits and grievances, Tuitama, Civ. No. 17-00137 JMS-KJM. In both cases, Plaintiff seeks transfer to another facility in Hawaii, as well as damages and other injunctive relief. See First Am. Compl. at 22, ECF No. 82; see also Tuitama, Civ. No. 17-00137 JMS-KJM, Sec. Am. Compl. at 22, ECF No. 30.

         Plaintiff now seeks a preliminary injunction ordering his transfer from HCF to another facility located in Hawaii. Plaintiff does not seek transfer to a particular correctional facility, but he identifies as possible sites the Federal Detention Center, Honolulu (“FDC”) and State of Hawaii correctional facilities at Kulani or Waiawa. Mot. at PageID #997, ECF No. 165-3; Pitts Decl. at 1, 3, ECF No. 175; Reply at 5 (seeking transfer to “FDC or another facility on the island of Oahu”).

         Plaintiff bases this request on allegations that (1) because he is housed in the same facility as Defendants, he “could be attacked, assaulted, falsely written up, killed, starved and denied all constitutional rights, ” Mot. at PageID #979; (2) Defendants are denying him access to his counsel for an appeal of his state criminal conviction, Mot. at PageID #983-84; Schoettle Decl. at 1-4, ECF No. 178; (3) Defendants' are denying him access to the law library, Mot. at PageID #986, 993, 996; and (4) Defendants are interfering with and/or mishandling his legal and personal mail, id. at PageID #980-92, 998.

         More specifically, Plaintiff alleges that since the July 2014 assault, while at HCF (1) he sees “several of the defendants who gang assaulted [him] everyday, ” id. at PageID #984; (2) he has been strip-searched multiple times, removed from his job, and denied food, id. at PageID # 986; (3) he is not scheduled for law library despite submitting timely requests, id. at PageID # 993; and (4) Defendants refuse to mail more than one letter per week, regardless of whether it is personal or legal, and despite assurances to the court that legal mail would be sent, id. at PageID #981.

         B. Legal Standard

         “A preliminary injunction is an extraordinary and drastic remedy [that] is never awarded as of right.” Munaf v. Geren, 553 U.S. 674, 689-90 (2008) (citation and quotation signals omitted). To obtain a preliminary injunction, a plaintiff “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.” Winter v. Nat. Res. Def. Council, Inc., 555 U.S. 7, 20 (2008). Generally, as long as the other two parts of the Winter test are met, a preliminary injunction may issue where the plaintiff demonstrates the existence of “serious questions going to the merits . . . and the balance of hardships tips sharply in the plaintiff's favor.” All. for the Wild Rockies v. Cottrell, 632 F.3d 1127, 1135 (9th Cir. 2011) (citation and quotation marks omitted).

         However, where a plaintiff seeks an injunction requiring the defendant to take affirmative action - such as ordering Plaintiff transferred to another facility - it is considered a mandatory injunction[2] and is “particularly disfavored.” Marlyn Nutraceuticals, Inc. v. Mucos Pharma GmbH & Co., 571 F.3d 873, 879 (9th Cir. 2009) (citations omitted). A mandatory injunction is “not granted unless extreme or very serious damage will result and [is] not issued in doubtful cases or where the injury complained of is capable of compensation in damages.” Id. (quoting Anderson v. United States, 612 F.2d 1112, 1115 (9th Cir. 1980); Park Vill. Apartment Tenants Ass'n v. Mortimer Howard Tr., 636 F.3d 1150, 1160 (9th Cir. 2011)). That is, the court “should deny such relief ‘unless the facts and law clearly favor the moving party.'” Garcia v. Google, Inc., 786 F.3d 733, 740 (9th Cir. 2015) (quoting Stanley v. Univ. of S. Cal., 13 F.3d 1313, 1320 (9th Cir. 1994)) (emphasis added).

         Further, a preliminary injunction may not be issued absent a “relationship between the injury claimed in the motion for injunctive relief and the conduct asserted in the underlying complaint.” Pac. Radiation Oncolgy, LLC v. Queen's Med. Ctr., 810 F.3d 631, 636 (9th Cir. 2015). Such a relationship is “sufficiently strong where the preliminary injunction would grant ‘relief of the same character as that which may be granted finally.'” Id. (quoting De Beers Consol. Mines v. United States, 325 ...


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