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Caesar v. Beard

United States District Court, E.D. California

March 15, 2017

DANNY CAESAR, Plaintiff,
JEFFREY BEARD, Defendants.


         Plaintiff Danny Caesar is a state prisoner proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis in this civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Currently before the court are plaintiff's motions for a preliminary injunction, filed on July 18, 2016 (Doc. No. 35), and for a temporary restraining order, filed on February 27, 2017 (Doc. No. 37).


         On April 17, 2014, plaintiff filed his first amended complaint in this action. (Doc. No. 11.) In pertinent part, plaintiff alleges therein as follows. Plaintiff has suffered from a permanent degenerative medical condition known as “frostbite residuals, ” since 1976. Due to pain during prolonged standing and walking, he was issued a wheelchair at Pelican Bay State Prison. Plaintiff was later transferred to Kern Valley State Prison, where officials proposed to take away his wheelchair and other ADA accommodations and protections necessary for his daily functioning.

         Dr. Patel denied plaintiff access to a neurologist, the type of doctor most qualified to treat plaintiff's condition, with Dr. Patel claiming that he can diagnose plaintiff's diseased nervous system better than a neurologist. Dr. Patel also denied plaintiff the use of his wheelchair. Dr. Nanditha also requested and obtained the approval of Chief Medical Officer Lopez to take away plaintiff's permanent chrono for a wheelchair and various other ADA protections.

         On March 17, 2015, the then-assigned magistrate judge issued findings and recommendations addressing plaintiff's first amended complaint, recommending that this action be dismissed with prejudice due to plaintiff's failure to state a cognizable claim for relief. (Doc. No. 12.) After several extensions of time were granted within which to do so, due in part to plaintiff's transfer and change of address, plaintiff finally filed his objections to those findings and recommendations on February 8, 2016. (Doc. No. 35.)

         On February 23, 2017, the court declined to adopt the March 17, 2015 findings and recommendations. (Doc. No. 36.) The court determined that plaintiff's first amended complaint stated a cognizable claim for deliberate indifference to a serious medical need in violation of the Eighth Amendment against defendants Patel, Lopez, and Nanditha. Specifically, the court concluded that at this stage of the litigation, plaintiff had alleged facts sufficient to support the inference that defendants Patel, Lopez, and Nanditha responded to plaintiff's serious medical need with deliberate indifference by refusing to provide any treatment for plaintiff's medical condition. (Id.) The undersigned also determined that plaintiff had failed to state a cognizable claim under the ADA in his first amended complaint, but granted him leave to amend regarding that claim. Plaintiff was granted twenty-one days from the date of service of that order to file a second amended complaint to attempt to state a cognizable ADA claim. (Id. at 4 n.2.)


         The standards governing the issuance of temporary restraining orders are “substantially identical” to those governing the issuance of preliminary injunctions. Stuhlbarg Intern. Sales Co., Inc. v. John D. Brushy and Co., Inc., 240 F.3d 832, 839 n.7 (9th Cir. 2001); Am. Trucking Ass'n, Inc. v. City of Los Angeles, 559 F.3d 1046, 1052 (9th Cir. 2009). 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. Univ. of Texas v. Camenisch, 451 U.S. 390, 395 (1981). “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 Resources Defense Council, Inc., 555 U.S. 7, 20 (2008). “[A] preliminary injunction is an extraordinary and drastic remedy, one that should not be granted unless the movant, by a clear showing, carries the burden of persuasion.” Mazurek v. Armstrong, 520 U.S. 968, 972 (1997) (quotations and citations omitted) (emphasis in original). An injunction may only be awarded upon a clear showing that the plaintiff is entitled to relief. Id. at 22 (citation omitted).

         The pendency of this action does not give the court jurisdiction over prison officials in general. Summers v. Earth Island Institute, 555 U.S. 488, 491-93 (2009); Mayfield v. United States, 599 F.3d 964, 969 (9th Cir. 2010). The court's jurisdiction is limited to the parties in this action and to the viable legal claims upon which this action is proceeding. Summers, 555 U.S. at 491-93; Mayfield, 599 F.3d at 969. 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 Serv., 753 F.2d 719, 727 (9th Cir.1983); see Fed. R. Civ. P. 65(d) (listing persons bound by injunction).


         In plaintiff's initial motion for injunctive relief, he asserts that although his wheelchair chrono was taken away in 2013, precipitating the filing of this action, he was actually allowed to keep the wheelchair for several more years. Plaintiff asserts that on July 8, 2016, he was finally forced to surrender the wheelchair. Plaintiff attaches to his motion a Reasonable Modification or Accommodation Request, CDC Form 1824, stating that he was forced to surrender his wheelchair on July 8, 2016 and was given a walker, but that a walker is insufficient, and requesting that he be allowed to use a wheelchair for journeys over 100 yards. (Doc. No. 35, p. 2.) The form is dated July 10, 2016. Plaintiff seeks an order granting him injunctive relief and requiring that he be allowed to use a wheelchair until this action is resolved.

         In plaintiff's second motion for injunctive relief, he asserts that on February 17, 2017, he received the exhausted appeal denying his request for use of a wheelchair and accompanying ADA status. Among the documents attached to that motion are a health care appeal dated July 26, 2016, in which plaintiff seeks both to be examined by a podiatrist and neurologist and that he be allowed to use a wheelchair. (Doc. No. 37 at 9.) Plaintiff also attaches to his motion a Director's Level Decision on that appeal, dated February 13, 2017, stating that his appeal has been denied. (Id. at 5.) Plaintiff contends that prison officials “shun” his claim to medical treatment in regards to his frost-bitten feet, and that there is a conspiracy to deny him medical treatment. Plaintiff seeks a temporary restraining order requiring prison officials to provide him necessary medical aids.

         Plaintiff has not met the requirements for the injunctive relief he seeks in his pending motions. As to plaintiff's request for injunctive relief allowing him to use a wheelchair, the evidence he has submitted shows that he is now being treated by different medical staff than the defendants named in this action. That evidence also reflects that plaintiff has been provided a walker by prison officials to aid in his mobility. Although plaintiff asserts that he prefers a wheelchair for journeys of a certain distance, he has not submitted any evidence showing that he will suffer serious or irreparable harm by being denied a wheelchair. Furthermore, at this early stage of the litigation, the court does not find that plaintiff has shown a likelihood of succeeding on the merits. Rather, his claim in this action was allowed to proceed based on his allegations that he was not receiving any medical treatment for his condition from the defendants, not on any claim, or finding by the court, that he required a wheelchair which he was improperly denied. Plaintiff concedes that although his chrono was revoked by the defendants named in this action, he was ultimately allowed to retain his wheelchair for several more years, and was only forced to surrender it in July 2016 by those then providing his care. This action does not give the court jurisdiction over prison medical staff generally, and plaintiff has not shown that he has met the requirements to be granted preliminary relief before the merits of this case are decided.

         As to plaintiffs request in his second motion for injunctive relief, his wording is vague, and it is not clear what medical treatment he seeks to be provided through the temporary restraining order he has requested. Plaintiff asserts a need for extra bedding and clothing due to the lack of heating in housing and shower areas, but it is unclear that these alleged conditions of confinement are in any way related to his inadequate medical care claim presented in this action. Nor has plaintiff shown any possibility of irreparable harm or a likelihood of success on his claims, as ...

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