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Muhammad v. Director of Corrections

August 6, 2008


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Gregory G. Hollows United States Magistrate Judge


Plaintiff is a state prisoner proceeding pro se with a civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Pending before the court is plaintiff's January 22, 2008, motion for a preliminary injunction in which he claims that he is forced to sleep on a mattress contaminated by bodily fluids and bodily fluid stains. On July 30, 2008, an evidentiary hearing was held as to this motion.

For the following reasons, the court recommends that plaintiff's motion for injunctive relief be denied.

Legal Standard

The legal principles applicable to a request for injunctive relief are well established. To prevail, the moving party must show either a likelihood of success on the merits and the possibility of irreparable injury, or that serious questions are raised and the balance of hardships tips sharply in the movant's favor. See Coalition for Economic Equity v. Wilson, 122 F.3d 692, 700 (9th Cir. 1997); Oakland Tribune, Inc. v. Chronicle Publ'g Co., 762 F.2d 1374, 1376 (9th Cir. 1985). The two formulations represent two points on a sliding scale with the focal point being the degree of irreparable injury shown. Oakland Tribune, 762 F.2d at 1376. "Under any formulation of the test, plaintiff must demonstrate that there exists a significant threat of irreparable injury." Id. In the absence of a significant showing of possible irreparable harm, the court need not reach the issue of likelihood of success on the merits. Id.

In cases brought by prisoners involving conditions of confinement, any preliminary injunction "must be narrowly drawn, extend no further than necessary to correct the harm the court finds requires preliminary relief, and be the least intrusive means necessary to correct the harm." 18 U.S.C. § 3626(a)(2).


On May 1, 2008, defendants filed an opposition to plaintiff's motion. Defendants stated that mattresses found to be contaminated with bodily fluids cannot be used by inmates. In this situation, inmates are provided with either a new or used replacement mattress, depending on the availability of mattresses at the time.

Defendants stated that when plaintiff requested a replacement mattress, he was offered an acceptable used mattress that did not have any bodily fluids or bodily fluid stains. According to defendants, plaintiff refused this mattress and demanded a new mattress, which was apparently not available.

On May 19, 2008, plaintiff filed a reply to defendants' opposition. It was unclear whether plaintiff claimed that he was currently sleeping on a contaminated mattress. Accordingly, the court ordered plaintiff to file a short declaration addressing 1) whether the mattress he is currently sleeping on contains bodily fluids or bodily fluid stains; and 2) whether he refused a replacement mattress that did not contain bodily fluids or bodily fluids or stains.

On June 11, 2008, plaintiff filed a declaration stating that the mattress he currently slept on contained bodily fluids or bodily fluid stains. He also stated that on June 26, 2006, he requested a mattress that was not contaminated. Plaintiff stated that the mattress offered to him was in the same condition or worse than the mattress he had.

Because of the disputed material facts, the court ordered the evidentiary hearing. At the evidentiary hearing, defendants offered as exhibits photographs of the mattress plaintiff currently sleeps on. This mattress appears to be in relatively good condition with only a few small stains. To the court, the stains look as if they could have been caused by spilled coffee. At the hearing, no evidence was offered regarding what actually caused these stains.

At the hearing, plaintiff testified that he did not know what caused the stains. He testified that he could not smell them (assuming they have any odor at all) because he had sprinkled oil on his mattress and covered it with a blanket and a sheet. Contrary to his June 11 declaration, he testified that he had brought this present mattress with him from his previous cell to his new cell because it was in fairly good condition.*fn1

Because the mattress plaintiff currently sleeps on is in adequate condition, the court finds that plaintiff has failed to demonstrate the existence of a threat of irreparable injury if his motion for injunctive relief is not granted. Because plaintiff has not demonstrated the threat of irreparable injury, the court need not consider the ...

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