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Perez v. Diaz

United States District Court, E.D. California

July 17, 2019

ARTHUR PEREZ, Plaintiff,
RALPH DIAZ, et al., Defendants.



         Plaintiff is a state prisoner, proceeding without counsel. Plaintiff filed a civil rights complaint under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, and a motion for a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction seeking to enjoin the CDCR plan to merge Special Needs Yard inmates with the general population at Avenal State Prison, where plaintiff is currently housed. For the reasons stated herein, plaintiff's motion for injunctive relief should be denied.

         I. Plaintiff's Allegations

         In his complaint, plaintiff, a member of the general population, alleges that defendants are acting with deliberate indifference to conditions posing a substantial risk of serious harm to plaintiff by planning to merge Special Needs Yard (“SNY”) (formerly known as protective custody) inmates with General Population (“GP”) inmates onto a yard known as a “Non-Designated Programming Facility” (“NDPF”) Yard. (ECF No. 1 at 18.) On December 12, 2017, defendant Allison, Director of the CDCR, wrote a department memo announcing the expansion of such merger. On July 19, 2018, inmate representatives submitted a group statement to defendant Warden Ndoh voicing concerns and objections to the proposed merger. On September 10, 2018, defendant Diaz, Secretary of the CDCR, wrote a memo setting a schedule for the merger, and scheduling Avenal State Prison for such merger in January of 2019. Plaintiff alleges that both courts and CDCR officials have long understood that SNY inmates cannot safely be housed with GP inmates, and there are well-documented incidents of violence when SNY inmates have been housed with GP inmates. Plaintiff argues that this merger will put plaintiff at serious risk of harm or injury, and violates his Eighth Amendment right to be protected from violence. Plaintiff seeks injunctive relief enjoining defendants from merging the SNY and GP inmates, as well as declaratory relief.

         II. Motion for Temporary Restraining Order/Preliminary Injunction

         A. Legal Standards

         Procedurally, a federal district court may issue emergency injunctive relief only if it has personal jurisdiction over the parties and subject matter jurisdiction over the lawsuit. See Murphy Bros., Inc. v. Michetti Pipe Stringing, Inc., 526 U.S. 344, 350 (1999) (noting that one “becomes a party officially, and is required to take action in that capacity, only upon service of summons or other authority-asserting measure stating the time within which the party served must appear to defend.”). A temporary restraining order is an extraordinary measure of relief that a federal court may impose without notice to the adverse party if, in an affidavit or verified complaint, the movant “clearly show[s] that immediate and irreparable injury, loss, or damage will result to the movant before the adverse party can be heard in opposition.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 65(b)(1)(A). The standard for issuing a temporary restraining order is essentially the same as that for issuing a preliminary injunction. Stuhlbarg Int'l Sales Co. v. John D. Brush & Co., 240 F.3d 832, 839 n.7 (9th Cir. 2001) (analysis for temporary restraining orders and preliminary injunctions is “substantially identical”).

         “A preliminary injunction is an extraordinary remedy never awarded as of right.” Winter v. Nat. Res. Def. Council, Inc., 555 U.S. 7, 24 (2008) (citation omitted); Epona v. Cty. of Ventura, 876 F.3d 1214, 1227 (9th Cir. 2017) (same). Also, “the grant of a preliminary injunction is a matter committed to the discretion of the trial judge.” (internal quotation marks and citation omitted). “‘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.'” Glossip v. Gross, 135 S.Ct. 2726, 2736-37 (2015) (quoting Winter, 555 U.S. at 20). “Under Winter, plaintiffs must establish that irreparable harm is likely, not just possible, in order to obtain a preliminary injunction.” Alliance for the Wild Rockies v. Cottrell, 632 F.3d 1127, 1131 (9th Cir. 2011).

         In addition, the PLRA requires prisoners to satisfy additional requirements when seeking preliminary injunctive relief against prison officials:

Preliminary injunctive relief must be narrowly drawn, extend no further than necessary to correct the harm the court finds requires preliminary relief, and be the least intrusive means necessary to correct that harm. The court shall give substantial weight to any adverse impact on public safety or the operation of a criminal justice system caused by the preliminary relief and shall respect the principles of comity set out in paragraph (1)(B) in tailoring any preliminary relief.

18 U.S.C. § 3626(a)(2). Section 3626(a)(2) places significant limits upon a court's power to grant preliminary injunctive relief to inmates, and “operates simultaneously to restrict the equity jurisdiction of federal courts and to protect the bargaining power of prison administrators -- no longer may courts grant or approve relief that binds prison administrators to do more than the constitutional minimum.” Gilmore v. People of the State of California, 220 F.3d 987, 998-99 (9th Cir. 2000).

         B. Plaintiff's Motion

         In his motion, plaintiff claims he will be placed in a dangerous condition of confinement posing a serious risk to his safety if he is housed with SNY inmates. Plaintiff argues it is well documented that housing prisoners with safety concerns (SNY inmates) with GP inmates creates an excessive risk of assault or death. (ECF No. 1 at 11.) He contends that there have been a “prevalence of assaults” in situations where such mergers have occurred. Plaintiff argues that because defendants have stated such merger will take place at Avenal State Prison in plaintiff's specific housing unit, plaintiff is threatened with irreparable harm, citing the declaration of Kim McGill, Organizer, Youth Justice Coalition. (ECF No. 1 at 12, citing 1 at 18-22.) Plaintiff maintains that these two populations have been separated for well over two decades due to safety concerns well-known by the CDCR. Further, plaintiff claims he will likely succeed on the merits of his claims because prison officials are required to protect inmates from known threats of violence and assaults by other inmates under the Eighth ...

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