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Pinson v. U.S. Department of Justice

United States District Court, District of Columbia

April 8, 2016

JEREMY PINSON, Plaintiff,
v.
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE, et al., Defendants. Re Document Nos. 249, 257

MEMORANDUM OPINION

RUDOLPH CONTRERAS United States District Judge

Denying Plaintiff’s Motion For Preliminary Injunction; and Denying Plaintiff’s Motion for Order to Supplement

I. INTRODUCTION

Pro se Plaintiff Jeremy Pinson (“Plaintiff”) is currently incarcerated in federal prison. While in prison, Plaintiff filed a complaint against the Department of Justice alleging violations of the Freedom of Information Act and the Privacy Act. In his amended operative complaint, Plaintiff further alleged that Federal Bureau of Prisons (“BOP”) Director Charles Samuels and another BOP official, John Dignam, retaliated against him for communicating with the media and for filing several lawsuits against the BOP. See 2d Am. Compl. at 15, ECF No. 32. Plaintiff brought the retaliation claims against Defendants Dignam and Samuels in their individual capacities pursuant to Bivens v. Six Unknown Named Agents of Federal Bureau of Narcotics (“Bivens”). Plaintiff alleged that Defendants unconstitutionally retaliated against him by transferring him to a prison in Florence, Colorado (“ADX Florence”) based on false information, by refusing to investigate his complaints regarding his safety at ADX Florence, and by harassing him through strip searches, meal deprivation, separating him from another inmate, and restricting his mail. See 2d Am. Compl. at 13-16.

Plaintiff now seeks to preliminarily enjoin the alleged ongoing severe retaliation against him. See Pl.’s Mot. Prelim. Inj. (“Mot. Prelim. Inj.”) at 1, 4, ECF No. 249. Plaintiff claims that Defendant Samuels and BOP officials are retaliating against him for bringing several lawsuits against BOP officials including Director Samuels. See id., Ex. 1 at 1. Plaintiff states that Defendant Samuels ordered him to be placed in severe conditions of solitary confinement under false allegations and discontinued most of his access to mental health treatment. See Id. at 2, Ex. 1 at 1-2. Plaintiff claims that these acts of retaliation have rendered him suicidal and that Defendant Samuels is attempting to “drive [Plaintiff] mad.” See Id. at 1. Specifically, Plaintiff seeks a return to the “status quo” prior to his placement in solitary confinement on August 10, 2015, including restored access to the STAGES housing unit, full daily access to mental health treatment, daily access to the court filings in this case, and access to the law library. See Id. at 4, Ex. 1 at 1.

For the reasons set forth more fully below, the Court denies Plaintiff’s motion for preliminary injunction on the ground of mootness.

II. FACTUAL BACKGROUND

On August 10, 2015, Plaintiff was placed in the Special Housing Unit (“SHU”) (what Plaintiff refers to as “solitary confinement”) at ADX Florence. See Id. Ex. 1 at 1. Defendants claim that Plaintiff was placed in solitary confinement “for reasons of safety, institutional order, and protecting staff and inmates” after Plaintiff allegedly “attempt[ed] to break a chair, yell[ed], caus[ed] his nose to bleed, and attempt[ed] to throw blood onto staff and other inmates.” See Defs.’ Opp’n to Mot. Prelim. Inj. (“Defs.’ Opp’n”) at 2-3, ECF No. 253. However, Plaintiff argues that he was exonerated of these charges on December 22, 2015 and that the charges were “false and retaliatory from inception.” Pl.’s Reply to Defs.’ Opp’n to Mot. Prelim. Inj. (“Pl.’s Reply”), Ex. A at 1, ECF No. 260.

Plaintiff also claims that BOP officials stated that his litigation was “really pissing off Director Samuels” and that they would “bury [him] in SHU” if he did not stop litigating. See Mot. Prelim. Inj., Ex. 1 at 1. Plaintiff states that BOP officials told him that Director Samuels personally ordered his placement in solitary confinement because Dr. Samuels “was furious about [Plaintiff’s] lawsuit and wanted [him] to suffer.” See Id. Additionally, Plaintiff states that he was threatened to drop his lawsuit against Defendant Samuels or else BOP officials would fabricate a threat assessment to keep him in solitary confinement. See Id. at 2. Plaintiff claims that the BOP official followed through on this threat after Plaintiff refused to dismiss his lawsuit against Director Samuels. See id., Ex. 1 at 2.

Defendants refute all of these allegations. See Defs.’ Opp’n at 3-4. Director Samuels denies personally ordering Plaintiff to be placed in solitary confinement. See id., Ex. B at 2. He also denies stating that he was “furious” about Plaintiff’s litigation and wanted Plaintiff “to suffer.” See Id. Likewise, the other BOP officials deny making any threats or imposing any ultimatums on Plaintiff to drop his lawsuit. See id., Ex. C at 2; id., Ex. D at 2. Additionally, Defendants provide law library usage records demonstrating Plaintiff’s use of the library on twenty-six occasions between August 10, 2015 and December 3, 2015. See Defs.’ Opp’n at 4-5, Ex. A Attach. 3.

Although Defendants did not respond to Plaintiff’s allegation that he was denied access to his mail and court filings in their opposition to Plaintiff’s preliminary injunction motion, Defendants later asserted in a subsequent pleading that Plaintiff regularly received mail between January and March of this year. See Defs.’ Opp’n to Pl.’s Mot. for Order to Show Cause at 2, ECF No. 271. Moreover, Defendants argue that “those difficulties [regarding Plaintiff’s access to mail] should now be moot, as plaintiff recently was transferred to a facility in Pennsylvania.” See Id. at 3. Plaintiff was in fact transferred to another prison and notified the court that his new address is P.O. Box 3000, White Deer, PA, 17887. See Pl.’s Notice of Change of Address, ECF No. 273.

III. LEGAL STANDARD

A preliminary injunction is “an extraordinary and drastic remedy, one that should not be granted unless the movant, by a clear showing, carries the burden of persuasion.” Mazurek v. Armstrong, 520 U.S. 968, 972 (1997); see also Abdullah v. Obama, 753 F.3d 193, 197 (D.C. Cir. 2014). To warrant a preliminary injunction, a movant must establish that: (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. See Winter v. Natural Res. Def. Council, 555 U.S. 7, 20 (2008).

This circuit has traditionally balanced these four factors on a “sliding scale” whereby a movant’s unusually strong showing on one factor could compensate for weaker showings on one or more other factors. See, e.g., Davis v. Billington, 76 F.Supp. 3d 59, 63-64 (D.D.C. 2014) (citing Davis v. Pension Benefit Guar. Corp., 571 F.3d 1288, 1291-92 (D.C. Cir. 2009)); Nat’l Mining Ass’n v. Jackson, 768 F.Supp.2d 34, 48 (D.D.C. 2011). Despite the flexibility of this approach, it is critical for the movant to show at least some harm in order to warrant preliminary injunctive relief. See Chaplaincy of Full Gospel Churches v. England, 454 F.3d 290, 297 (D.C. Cir. 2006) (“A movant’s failure to show any irreparable harm is . . . grounds for refusing to issue a preliminary injunction, even if the other three factors entering the calculus merit such relief.”). What is more, “[a]bsent a ‘substantial indication’ of likely success on the merits, ‘there would be no justification for the court’s intrusion into the ordinary processes of ...


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