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Rotroff v. Ahlin

United States District Court, E.D. California

September 5, 2014

DENIS K. ROTROFF, Plaintiff,
v.
PAM AHLIN, et al., Defendants.

FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATION THAT PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR A PRELIMINARY INJUNCTION BE DENIED (ECF Nos. 4 and 5) OBJECTIONS DUE WITHIN FOURTEEN DAYS

MICHAEL J. SENG, Magistrate Judge.

I. PROCEDURAL HISTORY

Plaintiff Denis K. Rotroff is a civil detainee proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis in this civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. ยง 1983. (ECF No. 1.) On December 10, 2013, Plaintiff filed motions seeking a preliminary injunction and waiver of a security requirement. (ECF Nos. 4 and 5.) Plaintiff requests a court order directing Defendants to provide a privacy curtain in his room. (ECF No. 4 at 2.)

Defendants filed a motion to dismiss on January 9, 2014. (ECF No. 11.) The Defendants argue that Plaintiff's allegations fail to state a claim and the injunction should be denied as moot. ( Id. at 14.)

II. SUMMARY OF CLAIMS

Plaintiff's essential allegations can be summarized as follows:

Plaintiff is a seventy year old civil detainee with no history of violence at Coalinga State Hospital (CSH), where he has been confined since 2007. In 2012, an inspection of CSH found that privacy curtains in detainees' rooms posed a safety hazard because they concealed detainees from employees. The curtains subsequently were removed by staff.

Plaintiff responded by creating makeshift screens. Staff removed the screens and/or "wrote up" Plaintiff or threatened to do so. Plaintiff lost numerous privileges. His health has suffered dramatically as a result of the lack of privacy and the animosity which has arisen between himself and staff. (ECF No. 4.)

III. LEGAL STANDARD FOR INJUNCTIVE RELIEF

Injunctive relief, whether temporary or permanent, is an "extraordinary remedy never awarded as of right." Winter v. Natural Res. Defense Council , 555 U.S. 7, 24 (2008). The standards for a temporary restraining order are essentially the same as that for a preliminary injunction. "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." Am. Trucking Ass'ns, Inc. v. City of Los Angeles , 559 F.3d 1046, 1052 (9th Cir. 2009) (quoting Winter , 555 U.S. at 20). An injunction may only be awarded upon a clear showing that the plaintiff is entitled to relief. Winter , 555 U.S. at 22; Rizzo v. Goode , 423 U.S. 362, 378 (1976) (Injunctive relief is to be granted "sparingly, and only in [ ] clear and plain case[s].").

IV. ANALYSIS

Plaintiff argues that he is likely to succeed on the merits. He asserts that as a civil detainee the Fourteenth Amendment dictates that he cannot be subjected to conditions that amount to punishment. In Jones v. Blanas , 393 F.3d 918 (9th Cir. 2004) the Ninth Circuit found "when a SVPA detainee is confined in conditions identical to, similar to, or more restrictive than, those in which his criminal counterparts are held, we presume that the detainee is being subjected to punishment.'" Id . at 932. Plaintiff contends that without a privacy curtain his quarters are too similar to prison living conditions and therefore violate his Fourteenth Amendment rights. The Court disagrees.

While Plaintiff is not a convicted criminal, he is involuntarily serving a civil commitment term at a secure facility; he is not a free individual with a full panoply of rights. Civil detainees are entitled to more considerate treatment and conditions of confinement than criminals whose conditions of confinement are designed to punish, Youngberg v. Romeo , 457 U.S. 307, 321-2 (1982), but maintaining facility security and effectively managing the facility are unquestionably legitimate, non-punitive government interests, Jones , 393 F.3d at 932 (quotation marks omitted).

Plaintiff alleges that the privacy curtains were determined to be a security risk during an inspection by state officials from outside CSH. Thus, though he suggests Defendants were overly aggressive in pursuing the no-curtain ...


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