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Freeman v. Martin

United States District Court, E.D. California

May 23, 2014

DEMETRIUS TERRELL FREEMAN, Plaintiff,
v.
A. MARTIN, et al., Defendants.

ORDER DENYING PLAINTIFF'S REQUEST FOR COURT ORDERS (Doc. 5.)

GARY S. AUSTIN, Magistrate Judge.

I. BACKGROUND

Demetrius Terrell Freeman ("Plaintiff") is a federal prisoner proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis with this civil rights action pursuant to Bivens vs. Six Unknown Agents , 403 U.S. 388 (1971). Plaintiff filed the Complaint commencing this action on April 21, 2014. (Doc. 1.)

On May 19, 2014, Plaintiff filed a motion in which he requests court orders as follows: (1) prohibiting prison officials from retaliating against him and requiring prison officials to return his personal property, (2) requiring the preservation of evidence, (3) combining this case with another case filed by Plaintiff, and (4) ruling on the exhaustion issue in this case. (Doc. 5.)

II. PRELIMINARY INJUNCTIVE RELIEF

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, 103 S.Ct. 1660, 1665 (1983); Valley Forge Christian Coll. v. Ams. United for Separation of Church and State, Inc. , 454 U.S. 464, 471, 102 S.Ct. 752, 757-58 (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 . Thus, "[a] federal court may issue an injunction [only] 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).

Discussion

Plaintiff seeks court orders prohibiting prison officials from retaliating against him, and requiring prison officials to return his personal property. Plaintiff is presently incarcerated at the United States Penitentiary (USP)-Beaumont in Beaumont, Texas. Plaintiff alleges that he is being retaliated against by prison officials there for using the administrative remedy process. Plaintiff also alleges that a prison counselor at USP-Beaumont vandalized his cell and confiscated some of his personal property.

The events at issue in Plaintiff's Complaint allegedly occurred at USP-Atwater in Atwater, California when Plaintiff was incarcerated there. Therefore, the court orders Plaintiff requests, directed at prison officials at USP-Beaumont, would not remedy any of the claims arising at USP-Atwater upon which this action proceeds. Plaintiff requests court orders protecting him from present and future actions by prison officials. Because such orders would not remedy any of the claims upon which this action proceeds, the court lacks jurisdiction to issue the order sought by Plaintiff, and Plaintiff's motion for preliminary injunctive relief must be denied.

Moreover, Plaintiff is advised that "a federal court may [only] 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). Because none of the defendants have appeared in this action, the Court does not have jurisdiction to issue an order prohibiting any of them from acting against Plaintiff.

III. PRESERVATION OF EVIDENCE

"Spoliation of evidence is the destruction or significant alteration of evidence, or the failure to preserve property for another's use as evidence, in pending or future litigation.'" Kearney v. Foldy & Lardner, LLP , 590 F.3d 638, 649 (9th Cir. 2009) (quoting Hernandez v. Garcetti , 68 Cal.App.4th 675, 680, 80 Cal.Rptr.2d 443 (1998)). "Litigants owe an uncompromising duty to preserve what they know or reasonably should know will be relevant evidence in a pending lawsuit, or one in the offing...." JUDGE WILLIAM W. SCHWARZER ET AL., FEDERAL CIVIL ...


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