The opinion of the court was delivered by: Honorable Janis L. SammartinoUnited States District Judge
ORDER DENYING PLAINTIFF'S EX PARTE APPLICATION FOR TEMPORARY RESTRAINING (ECF No. 3)
Presently before the Court is Plaintiff Kevin L. Greenfield's ("Plaintiff") ex parte application for temporary restraining order ("TRO"). (TRO, ECF No. 3) Also before the Court are Defendants' opposition, (Resp. in Opp'n, ECF No. 6), and Plaintiff's reply in support, (Reply in Supp., ECF No. 8). Having considered the parties' arguments and the law, the Court DENIES Plaintiff's application.
Until recently, Plaintiff was employed as a civilian Captain in the Camp Pendleton Police Department, holding the position of Operations Officer. Beginning approximately one year after he was hired, from about April 2009 to July 2010, Plaintiff was allegedly subjected to a hostile work environment. Specifically, as alleged in the complaint, Plaintiff experienced acts of work-place violence that were not acted upon despite Plaintiff's reports to supervisors; his authority was undermined by certain Civilian Police Lieutenants, who directed malicious and racist statements toward and about Plaintiff; he was denied a salary adjustment though similarly situated white police officers were allowed to have their salaries reviewed and adjusted; and his cell phone was stolen in an attempt to inhibit his job performance.
In light of all this, Plaintiff began pursuing a hostile work environment claim by filing an Equal Employment Opportunity ("EEO") complaint. Soon after initiating the investigation of his EEO complaint, however, Plaintiff became the subject of several internal investigations regarding his job performance. Ultimately, in July 2011, he was placed on administrative leave pending an investigation, and, on December 16, 2011, Plaintiff was served with a notice of proposed removal from federal service. Hence, the instant action seeking, inter alia, to enjoin Defendants from terminating Plaintiff's employment. But, before the Court had a chance to rule on Plaintiff's application for a TRO to enjoin his termination, Defendants removed him from service.
Temporary restraining orders are governed by the standard applicable to preliminary injunctions. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 65. A plaintiff seeking a preliminary injunction 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. Natural Res. Def. Council, Inc., 555 U.S. 7, 20 (2008); see also Sierra Forest Legacy v. Rey, 577 F.3d 1015, 1021 (9th Cir. 2009). Although all four factors must be met, they operate on a sliding scale. "Under this approach, the elements of the preliminary injunction test are balanced, so that a stronger showing of one element may offset a weaker showing of another." Alliance for the Wild Rockies v. Cottrell, 632 F.3d 1127, 1131 (9th Cir. 2011). For example, "a stronger showing of irreparable harm to plaintiff might offset a lesser showing of likelihood of success on the merits." Id. at 1135.
A preliminary injunction is an "extraordinary remedy that may only be awarded upon a clear showing that the plaintiff is entitled to such relief." Winter, 555 U.S. at 22. The typical preliminary injunction is prohibitory, and seeks to "maintain the status quo pending a trial on the merits." Mastrovincenzo v. City of N.Y., 435 F.3d 78, 89 (2d Cir. 2006); see also Marlyn Nutraceuticals, Inc. v. Mucos Pharma GmbH & Co., 571 F.3d 873, 878--89 (9th Cir. 2009). A mandatory injunction, in contrast, "orders a responsible party to take action . . . [and] goes well beyond simply maintaining the status quo." Marlyn Nutraceuticals, 571 F.3d at 879 (citations omitted) (internal quotation marks omitted). Mandatory injunctions are particularly disfavored, and should not be granted "unless extreme or very serious damage will result." Id.
Defendants' primary argument for why Plaintiff's application should be denied is that it is moot. (Resp. in Opp'n 3, ECF No. 6) Plaintiff's application for a TRO seeks to enjoin Defendants from terminating Plaintiff:
Plaintiff requests the Court . . . enjoin and restrain Defendants, its
agents, servants, and employees from engaging in, committing, or
performing, directly or indirectly, from terminating Plaintiff from
his Federal Employment as a Civilian Police Captain in the United
States Marine Corps Police Department, Camp Pendleton, until the
conclusion of the litigation in this matter. (TRO 3, ECF No. 3) But,
effective February 28, 2012, Plaintiff was terminated.*fn2
(Resp. in Opp'n 3, ECF No. 6) And so, according to
Defendants, "injunctive relief is no longer available to Plaintiff,"
and his "application must be denied as moot." (Id.) Plaintiff counters
that "[t]o allow Defendants to simply resolve the matter of the TRO by
terminating Plaintiff prior to this Court's adjudication of the
matter" would be inequitable. (Reply in Supp. 2, ECF No. 8)
The mootness doctrine "requires that an actual, ongoing controversy exist at all stages of federal court proceedings." Pitts v. Terrible Herbst, ...