United States District Court, District of Columbia
MEMORANDUM OPINION DENYING PLAINTIFF'S MOTIONS
FOR PRELIMINARY INJUNCTION AND MOTION TO APPOINT
RUDOLPH CONTRERAS, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
se Plaintiff Jeremy Pinson (“Pinson”), an
inmate at the United States Penitentiary in Tucson, Arizona,
began this case by filing a Freedom of Information Act
(“FOIA”) complaint in December 2016. Pinson now
files three motions for preliminary injunction, and in the
alternative seeks the appointment of counsel. Pinson asks
this Court to enjoin the United States Department of Justice
(“DOJ”) from withholding court filings, denying
access to e-mail communications and the law library, failing
to provide stamps, and disseminating information to other
inmates. Pinson separately asks the Court to require the
Bureau of Prisons (“BOP”) to respond to a
particular FOIA request in compact disc format. The Court
denies the motions for preliminary injunction because Pinson
has not shown that she will be irreparably harmed in the
absence of a preliminary injunction or is likely to succeed
on the merits. Pinson has also failed to show that the
appointment of counsel is justified.
FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
together with two other individuals now no longer a part of
this action, initially filed a complaint in December 2016
against the DOJ and the Central Intelligence Agency
(“Defendants”). See Pl.'s Compl. at
1, ECF No. 1. After Pinson was denied leave to proceed in
forma pauperis, she petitioned the D.C. Circuit for a
writ of mandamus in March 2017. See In re: Jeremy
Pinson, 17-5039, ECF No. 1664975 (D.C. Cir. Mar. 7,
2017). On February 21, 2018, the D.C. Circuit remanded the
matter back to this Court after it granted Pinson's
petition. See Circuit Court Order, ECF No. 3.
complaint, Pinson alleged that Defendants violated FOIA, 5
U.S.C. § 552, after she submitted a “dozen”
FOIA requests to seven entities and did not receive a
response within the time frame provided under the
statute. See Pl.'s Compl. at 1-2.
Pinson further claimed that the BOP's Office of Internal
Affairs maintained documents and e-mails containing false
conclusions and information about Pinson that the CIA refused
to allow her to contest. See Id. at 2. Pinson
requested the release of the records and correction of the
false information. Id.
11, 2018, Defendants moved to dismiss Pinson's complaint.
See Defs.' Mot. to Dismiss and Mot. for More
Definite Statement at 1, ECF No. 9-1. Defendants pointed to
Pinson's inability to identify the subject matter or
dates of the FOIA requests, and to the lack of any indication
as to what information about her was purportedly false.
Id. at 2. Pinson filed an amended complaint on June
22, 2018, which added alleged violations of the
Administrative Procedure Act, 5 U.S.C. § 702, and First
and Eighth Amendments. See Pl.'s First Am.
Compl. at 1, ECF No. 16.
filed her first motion for preliminary injunction on May 29,
2018, alleging that DOJ employees have not given her any
filings in the case; have blocked an e-mail address that she
used to access records and research needed to amend her
complaint, firstname.lastname@example.org; and have been
disseminating information to a fellow inmate about a Prison
Rape Elimination Act (“PREA”) investigation
involving her, in violation of the Privacy Act, 5 U.S.C.
§ 552a. See Pl.'s First Mot. for
Preliminary Inj. (“Pl.'s First Mot.”) at 1,
ECF No. 11; First Decl. of Jeremy Pinson (“First Pinson
Decl.”) ¶ 3, ECF No. 11. Pinson requests that the
Court “enjoin (i) continued withholding of mail
relating to [the] litigation[, ] (ii) continued blockage of
engaging in legal activities with email@example.com,
(iii) disseminating contents of agency files to Tyreise
Swain.” Pl.'s First Mot. at 2.
state in their opposition to Pinson's first motion that
they first learned Pinson had not received a copy of the
Defendants' motion to dismiss on May 31, 2018.
See Decl. of Brian Field (“Field Decl.”)
¶ 5, ECF No. 12-1. Defendants argue that notices from
the court or the United States Attorney's Office to
Pinson are not tracked and therefore that it is impossible to
fully determine whether she receives legal mail. See
First Decl. of Clinton Stroble (“First Stroble
Decl.”) ¶ 8, ECF No. 12-2; Defs.' Opp'n to
Pl.'s First Mot. for Preliminary Inj. (Defs.' First
Opp'n) at 4, ECF No. 12. Defendants, however, assert that
Pinson was delivered a copy of all docket entries in the case
to “[her] current incarceration location” on June
7, 2018. Field Decl. ¶ 7; Defs.' First
Opp'n at 2.
Defendants argue that an Administrative Remedy Report
produced by the BOP reflects that Pinson submitted 78
grievance requests at the BOP's Institutional, Regional,
or Central Office levels from June 2017 to June 2018, but
none expressed a concern about not receiving filings
regarding her FOIA case or access to e-mail services.
See First Stroble Decl. ¶¶ 4-5; Defs.'
First Opp'n at 6. Defendants also argue that Pinson's
ability to e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org was terminated
after the BOP learned that representatives from
helpfromoutside.com were sending messages to third parties on
inmates' behalf in violation of BOP monitoring
procedures. See First Stroble Decl. ¶ 9;
Defs.' First Opp'n at 6.
11, 2018, Pinson filed her second motion for preliminary
injunction, and in the alternative, sought the appointment of
counsel. Pl.'s Second Mot. for Preliminary Inj. and Mot.
to Appoint Counsel (“Pl.'s Second Mot.”), ECF
No. 13. Pinson requests that the Court enjoin DOJ from
depriving her of stamps needed to mail items to the court and
of the ability to “send legal mail or [access] a law
library terminal during lengthy lockdowns.”
Id. at 3. Pinson states that during a ten-day
lockdown period from May 25, 2018 to June 4, 2018, no one
provided her with any postage despite her requests, no one
came to pick up her outgoing legal mail, and all out-of-cell
movement was suspended. See Second Decl. of Jeremy
Pinson (“Second Pinson Decl.”) ¶¶ 3-4,
ECF No. 13.
oppose Pinson's second motion on similar grounds to her
first motion. See Defs.' Opp'n to Pl.'s
Second Mot. for Preliminary Inj. (“Defs.' Second
Opp'n”), ECF No. 17. In response to Pinson's
alleged inability to access the law library terminal during
prison lockdowns, Defendants argue that although inmates are
not allowed to access the law library during lockdowns, they
are permitted to request materials from the library.
See Second Decl. of Clinton Stroble (“Second
Stroble Decl.”) ¶¶ 3-4, ECF No. 17-1;
Defs.' Second Opp'n at 4. While Pinson's prison
is no longer on lockdown status, Defendants insist that a BOP
employee had personally picked up mail from her during the
previous lockdown. See Second Stroble Decl. ¶
4; Defs.' Second Opp'n at 5. Defendants also contend
that Pinson was provided ten postage stamps during the
previous lockdown, pursuant to a general policy that inmates
are permitted twenty stamps for legal mail and five stamps
for social mail monthly. See Second Stroble Decl.
¶ 4; Defs.' Second Opp'n at 5. Defendants assert
that Pinson has no pending administrative appeal regarding
her claims for access to legal mail, lack of stamps, or use
of the inmate law library. See Defs.' Second
Opp'n at 5.
August 27, 2018, Pinson filed her third motion for
preliminary injunction. Pl.'s Third Mot. for Preliminary
Inj. (“Pl.'s Third Mot.”), ECF No. 21. Pinson
asks that the Court require the BOP to supply the production
of documents in FOIA No. 2017-01605 in compact disc format.
Id. at 1. Defendants incorporate their grounds for
opposition to Pinson's first two motions in their
opposition to her third motion. See Defs.'
Opp'n to Pl.'s Third Mot. for Preliminary Inj.
(“Defs.' Third Opp'n”), ECF No. 23.
Defendants argue that Pinson seeks relief beyond that
available through a preliminary injunction. Id. at
three motions for preliminary injunction, and the motion for
appointment of counsel, are now before this Court.
preliminary injunction is an injunction to protect [the]
plaintiff from irreparable injury and to preserve the
court's power to render a meaningful decision after a
trial on the merits.” Select Milk Producers, Inc.
v. Johanns, 400 F.3d 939, 954 (D.C. Cir. 2005) (quoting
11A Charles Alan Wright, Arthur R. Miller, & Mary Kay
Kane, Federal Practice and Procedures § 2947 (2d ed.
1992)). “[T]he decision to grant injunctive relief is a
discretionary exercise of the district court's equitable
powers.” John Doe Co. v. Consumer Fin. Prot.
Bureau, 235 F.Supp.3d 194, 201 (D.D.C. 2017) (quoting
Sea Containers Ltd. v. Stena AB, 890 F.2d 1205, 1209
(D.C. Cir. 1989)). A preliminary injunction is an
“extraordinary remedy, ” and one is “never
awarded as of right.” Winter v. Nat'l Res. Def.
Council, Inc., 555 U.S. 7, 24 (2008).
warrant preliminary injunctive relief, the moving party
“must establish that [it] is likely to succeed on the
merits, that [it] is likely to suffer irreparable harm in the
absence of preliminary relief, that the balance of the
equities tips in [its] favor, and that an injunction is in
the public interest.” Id. at 20. Of these
factors, likelihood of success on the merits and irreparable
harm are particularly crucial. See Sherley v.
Sebelius, 644 F.3d 388, 393 (D.C. Cir. 2011) (reading
Winter “to suggest if not to hold ‘that
a likelihood of success is an independent, free-standing
requirement for a preliminary injunction'”)
(quoting Davis v. Pension Benefit Guar. Corp., 571
F.3d 1288, 1296 (2009) (Kavanaugh, J., concurring));
Chaplaincy of Full Gospel Churches v. England, 454
F.3d 290, 297 (D.C. Cir. 2006) (internal citations and
quotation marks omitted) (“[A] movant must demonstrate
at least some injury for a preliminary injunction to issue,
for the basis of injunctive relief in federal courts has
always been irreparable harm.”).
Appointment of Counsel
civil litigant is not guaranteed counsel, see Gaviria v.
Reynolds, 476 F.3d 940, 943 (D.C. Cir. 2007), federal
courts are authorized by statute to “request an
attorney to represent any person unable to afford
counsel.” 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(1); accord
Willis v. FBI, 74 F.3d 531, 532 (D.C. Cir. 2001).
“The district court judge controls the
‘discretionary' decision of whether to appoint
counsel, and that decision ‘will be set aside only for
abuse.'” Pinson v. DOJ, 273 F.Supp.3d 1, 4
(D.D.C. 2017) (quoting Willis, 74 F.3d at 532).