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Knapp v. Cate

June 16, 2009

ERIC CHARLES RODNEY KNAPP, PLAINTIFF,
v.
MATTHEW CATE, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Gary S. Austin United States Magistrate Judge

ORDER RE MOTIONS FOR INJUNCTIVE RELIEF, RECONSIDERATION, WITHDRAWAL OF CONSENT TO MAGISTRATE JURISDICTION

(Docs. 13, 15, 16)

Plaintiff Eric Charles Rodney Knapp ("Plaintiff") is a state prisoner proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis in this civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and Title II of the Americans With Disabilities Act ("ADA"). Pending before the court are Plaintiff's motions for (1) a temporary restraining order/preliminary injunction (Doc. #13); (2) reconsideration of the Court's April 13, 2009 screening order (Doc. #15); and (3) withdrawal of consent to magistrate judge jurisdiction (Doc. #16).

I. Background

Plaintiff is currently in the custody of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation ("CDCR") at the Kern Valley State Prison in Delano, California. However, the events in his complaint took place while Plaintiff was incarcerated at the Sierra Conservation Center in Jamestown, California. Plaintiff alleges that his rights under the First and Eighth Amendment and the ADA were violated when prison officials notified Plaintiff of their decision to revoke his single cell status and house Plaintiff with a cell mate. Plaintiff contends that prison officials were deliberately indifferent to his medical needs because his post traumatic stress disorder required that he be housed in a single cell. Plaintiff also alleges that prison officials retaliated against him because of his mother's political activism.

II. Discussion

A. Motion for Temporary Restraining Order/Preliminary Injunction

The purpose of a preliminary injunction is to preserve the status quo if the balance of equities so heavily favors the moving party that justice requires the court to intervene to secure the positions until the merits of the action are ultimately determined. University of Texas v. Camenisch, 451 U.S. 390, 395 (1981). A preliminary injunction is available to a plaintiff who "demonstrates either (1) a combination of probable success and the possibility of irreparable harm, or (2) that serious questions are raised and the balance of hardship tips in its favor." Arcamuzi v. Continental Air Lines, Inc., 819 F. 2d 935, 937 (9th Cir. 1987). Under either approach the plaintiff "must demonstrate a significant threat of irreparable injury." Id. Also, an injunction should not issue if the plaintiff "shows no chance of success on the merits." Id. At a bare minimum, the plaintiff "must demonstrate a fair chance of success of the merits, or questions serious enough to require litigation." Id.

Federal courts are courts of limited jurisdiction, and as a preliminary matter, the court must have before it an actual case or controversy. City of Los Angeles v. Lyons, 461 U.S. 95, 102 (1983); Valley Forge Christian Coll. v. Ams. United for Separation of Church and State, Inc., 454 U.S. 464, 471 (1982); Jones v. City of Los Angeles, 444 F.3d 1118, 1126 (9th Cir. 2006). If the court does not have an actual case or controversy before it, it has no power to hear the matter in question. Id. "A federal court may issue an injunction if it has personal jurisdiction over the parties and subject matter jurisdiction over the claim; it may not attempt to determine the rights of persons not before the court." Zepeda v. United States Immigration Service, 753 F.2d 719, 727 (9th Cir. 1985) (emphasis added). By order issued April 13, 2009, the court dismissed Plaintiff's complaint, with leave to amend, for failure to state any claims upon which relief may be granted. Thus, at this point in time, there is no case or controversy before the court, and the court has no jurisdiction to issue any temporary restraining orders or preliminary injunctions. Therefore, Plaintiff's motion for a temporary restraining order/preliminary injunction is denied.

B. Motion for Reconsideration

Plaintiff asks the Court to revisit its April 13, 2009 screening order and reconsider its finding that Plaintiff's complaint failed to state any cognizable claims. Specifically, Plaintiff claims that the court erred when it determined: (1) that defendants do not violate Plaintiff's rights when they retaliate against him for his mother's exercise of First Amendment rights (Request By Plaintiff for Reconsideration, Modification, and/or Clarification By The District Court Of The Magistrate Judge's Ruling 4:28-5:2); (2) that defendants do not violate Plaintiff's rights when they threaten to forcibly cell him with other prisoners (Req. By Pl. For Reconsideration 5:4-12); and (3) that defendants do not violate Plaintiff's rights under the RA and/or the ADA when they ignore the recommendations to single-cell Plaintiff made by CDCR mental health doctors (Req. By Pl. For Reconsideration 5:13-19). Plaintiff also claims (4) that it was erroneous of the Court to prohibit Plaintiff from adding new or unrelated claims in his amended complaint. The Court will address each argument in turn.

1. Plaintiff Lacks Standing to Seek Redress for Defendants' Alleged Interference with his Mother's First Amendment Rights

Plaintiff, in his Original Complaint, alleged that Defendants retaliated against him for his mother's exercise of free speech. Plaintiff's mother is a vocal advocate for the rights of prisoners like her son, and was critical of the policies and practices of CDCR that threatened those rights. Plaintiff alleges generally that the maltreatment he received while in CDCR custody was retaliation for his mother's political activism.

Assuming, without deciding, that Plaintiff alleges sufficient facts to support a retaliation claim, it states a claim for retaliation against his mother for his mother's exercise of her rights under the First Amendment. The Court dismissed Plaintiff's claim because, given the facts alleged, a claim for retaliation more properly lies with Plaintiff's mother, as it is her rights being interfered with. Plaintiff has ...


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