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Mitchell v. Cate

United States District Court, E.D. California

June 25, 2014

ROBERT MITCHELL, et al., Plaintiff,
MATTHEW CATE, et al., Defendants.


TROY L. NUNLEY, District Judge.

This matter is before the Court pursuant to Plaintiffs Mitchell and Quezada's (collectively referred to as "Plaintiffs") Motion for Preliminary Injunction.[1] (ECF No. 156.) Defendants Cate, Kernan, McDonald, Giurbino, Tilton, Felker, Wright, Foulk, Vanderville, Owen and Hellwig, (collectively hereinafter referred to as "Defendants") oppose Plaintiffs' motion. (ECF No. 214.) The Court has carefully considered the arguments raised by both parties. For the reasons set forth herein, Plaintiffs' Motion for a Preliminary Injunction (ECF No. 156) is DENIED.


Plaintiff Robert Mitchell ("Mitchell") initiated this case pro se on May 30, 2008, to challenge, among other things, a series of allegedly race-based lockdowns to which he was subjected to while imprisoned at High Desert State Prison ("HDSP") beginning on September 12, 2006. (Compl., ECF No. 1 at 12-14.)[2] In his original complaint, Mitchell alleged that he filed administrative appeals concerning the lockdown policy as it was applied to him and, in response to his appeals, the prison staff informed Mitchell that it was the policy of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation ("CDCR") that "when there is an incident involving any race, all inmates of that race are locked up." (ECF No. 1 at 15.) Mitchell further alleged that the CDCR policy utilized ethnic groups as a classification in segmenting the inmate population during the process of establishing a regular program following an incident. (ECF No. 1 at 15.) Mitchell alleged that he was subjected to cruel and unusual punishment in violation of his Eighth Amendment rights as a result of the lockdowns and that the lockdowns violated his rights to equal protection and due process. (ECF No. 1 at 17, 30-31, 38-44.) Mitchell further asserted that prison officials took adverse actions against him in response to his filing of grievances and lawsuits. He alleged that their conduct constituted unlawful retaliation, obstruction of justice and denial of access to the courts, thereby violating his due process and equal protection rights. (ECF No. 1 at 17-27, 32-37, 45-48.) Lastly, Mitchell asserted state law claims of negligence and intentional infliction of emotional distress. (ECF No. 1 at 48-51.)

The case was originally assigned to District Court Judge John A. Mendez, but was reassigned to visiting Judge Richard A. Jones of the Western District of Washington in January 2009. (ECF No. 7.) During pretrial proceedings, the court appointed counsel for Mitchell for the limited purpose of assisting him in settlement negotiations with Defendants. (ECF No. 60.) Counsel for Mitchell subsequently agreed to continue providing continuing representation to Mitchell and sought to amend the complaint in order to transform the case into a class action challenging the allegedly race-based lockdowns throughout California's men's' prisons. (ECF Nos. 70, 74.) Judge Jones directed the transfer of the case back to a judge within the Eastern District of California, concluding that it was "far from ideal for a judge sitting in the Western District of Washington to consider presiding over an action challenging policies at all of California's prisons." (ECF No. 82 at 1.) The case accordingly was reassigned to Judge John A. Mendez and Magistrate Judge Edmund F. Brennan, who granted the motion to amend on September 22, 2011. (ECF No. 83.) Mitchell filed the second amended complaint ("SAC") on September 23, 2011. (ECF No. 84.)

The SAC changed the case in the following ways:

(1) Adding three plaintiffs to the claims for injunctive and declaratory relief regarding CDCR's lockdown policies who seek to act, along with Mitchell, as representatives of a class of "all prisoners who are now or will in the future be housed in a men's prison under the jurisdiction of CDCR and who are now or will in the future be subject to CDCR's policy and practice of implementing race-based lockdowns" and a similar class of prisoners who are or will be "subject to CDCR's policy and practice of implementing excessively lengthy lockdowns" (ECF No. 84 at 6);

(2) Adding Defendants CDCR Secretary Matthew Cate, CDCR Undersecretary of Operations Scott Kernan, CDCR Chief Deputy Secretary for Adult Operations Terri McDonald, and CDCR Director of the Division of Adult Institutions George Giurbino in their official capacities to the injunctive and declaratory relief claims (ECF No. 84 at 4-5);

(3) Deleting the claims for retaliation, denial of access to courts, and obstruction of justice;

(4) And deleting Defendants T. Barnard, R. Beamon, R. Blanthorn, C. Buckley, D. Cade, T. Kimzey, D. Leiber, T. Lockwood, A. Masuret, J. Mayfield, J. McClure, and J. Walker (ECF No. 84).

The case was further narrowed on Defendants' November 2, 2011, motion to dismiss. (ECF No. 92.) The court dismissed Mitchell's Eighth and Fourteenth Amendment claims based on lockdowns that occurred before September 12, 2006 as unexhausted and limited his state law damages claims to the period from February 28, 2007 through December 5, 2007. (ECF Nos. 107, 114.)

On March 5, 2013, Plaintiffs filed a motion to certify class as well as a motion for preliminary injunction. (ECF Nos. 155, 156.) On April 3, 2013, this case was assigned to the undersigned. (ECF No. 178.) Subsequently, Plaintiffs filed a request for the district court to hear its pending motions for class certification and injunctive relief pursuant to Eastern District of California Local Rule 302(d). (ECF No. 182.) Before the Court had an opportunity to rule on Plaintiffs' request, Defendants filed their motion for summary judgment. (ECF No. 253.) On August 5, 2013, the Court granted Plaintiffs' request stating that "because Plaintiffs' class certification and preliminary injunction motion, as well as Defendants' summary judgment motion, are likely to require de novo review, this Court finds that judicial economy would be best served by this Court retaining all future motions associated with this case." (ECF No. 278.) Thus, this Court retained all matters associated with this case going forward.

This Court ruled on Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment on February 11, 2014. (ECF No. 317.) The Court dismissed Plaintiffs Trujillo and Abdullah's claims for declaratory and injunctive relief as moot. The Court also dismissed Plaintiffs' Eighth Amendment claims against Defendants Felker, Vanderville, Owen, Hellwig, Tilton, Foulk and Wright. (ECF No. 317.) Plaintiffs' suriving claims include: Mitchell and Quezada's claims for injunctive relief based on Fourteenth Amendment violations; Plaintiff Mitchell's Fourteenth Amendment claim; and Mitchell's state law claims for intentional infliction of emotional distress, negligence, and negligent infliction of emotional distress. (ECF No. 317.) The Court addresses Plaintiffs' Motion for a Preliminary Injunction below.[3]


Injunctive relief is "an extraordinary remedy that may only be awarded upon a clear showing that the plaintiff is entitled to such relief." Winter v. Natural Res. Def. Council, Inc., 555 U.S. 7, 22 (2008) (citing Mazurek v. Armstrong, 520 U.S. 968, 972 (1997) (per curiam)). "The purpose of a preliminary injunction is merely to preserve the relative positions of the parties until a trial on the merits can be held." University of Texas v. Camenisch, 451 U.S. 390, 395 (1981) (emphasis added); see also Costa Mesa City Employee's Assn. v. City of Costa Mesa, 209 Cal.App.4th 298, 305 (2012) ("The purpose of such an order is to preserve the status quo until a final determination following a trial.") (internal quotation marks omitted);, Inc. v. Walt Disney, Co., 202 F.3d 1199, 1210 (9th Cir. 2000) ("The status quo ante litem refers not simply to any situation before the filing of a lawsuit, but instead to the last uncontested status which preceded the pending controversy.") (internal quotation marks omitted). In cases where the movant seeks to alter the status quo, preliminary injunction is disfavored and a higher level of scrutiny must apply. Schrier v. University of ...

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