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Hamwmler v. Director of CDCR

United States District Court, E.D. California

September 4, 2019

DIRECTOR OF CDCR, et al., Defendants.



         Plaintiff is a state prisoner proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis with a civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiff claims prison officials failed to provide him with safe living conditions in violation of the Eighth Amendment. Presently before the court is plaintiff's motion to enforce a court order and his sixth motion requesting injunctive relief. (ECF Nos. 69, 70.) For the reasons set forth below, the court will deny as moot his motion to enforce and recommend that his motion for preliminary injunction be denied.


         In objections filed on July 1, 2019 (ECF No. 58), plaintiff alleged that inmate Chavez, housed in a neighboring cell, gave plaintiff several pieces of metal and instructed plaintiff to “slash” a correctional officer. Plaintiff stated that he showed the metal to several staff members but was not issued a rules violation report. In light of the allegations in the objections, the court directed counsel for defendant to inform the court of plaintiff's housing status and any measures taken to address plaintiff's safety concerns. (ECF No. 61.)

         On July 25, 2019, counsel for defendant filed a response containing the declaration of Correctional Counselor Sanchez, as well as various exhibits related to plaintiff's recent classification committee hearings and the rules violation report plaintiff received for possession of weapons on June 15, 2019. (ECF No. 64.) Sanchez's declaration states that he reviewed plaintiff's central file and housing assignment records. (ECF No. 64 at 1.) Sanchez noted that plaintiff and inmate Chavez are no longer housed in the same building and that they have been documented as enemies of one another. (ECF No. 64 at 3.) Sanchez further stated that plaintiff was endorsed for transfer to California Correctional Institution (CCI) after he completes his Security Housing Unit (SHU) term on October 29, 2019. (ECF No. 64 at 3.)

         Plaintiff now moves for an order from this court to enforce its July 11, 2019 order (ECF No. 61). Plaintiff argues that the response submitted by counsel for defendant does not address his safety concerns. Plaintiff claims Sanchez's declaration fails to inform the court that plaintiff has been placed on a list to be sent to California Correctional Institution (CCI).[1] Plaintiff states that CCI “is worse than [Kern Valley State Prison] and [Salinas Valley State Prison] together fore [sic] being the designated prison for SNY gangs including Chavez's gang the ‘Independent Riders.'” (ECF No. 69 at 4.) Plaintiff further argues that Sanchez did not speak to plaintiff directly in preparing his declaration.

         Because defendants have filed a response that complies with the court's July 11, 2019 order, the court will deny plaintiff's motion to enforce as moot.


         Plaintiff also moves for injunctive relief and requests an order from this court directing that he be: (1) retained in the SHU and not be placed on a SNY; (2) designated single cell status; (3) placed on video escort; and (4) transferred to the Psychiatric Services Unit (PSU) at California State Prison, Sacramento (CSP-SAC). (ECF No. 70 at 1-2.)

         Plaintiff argues that the declaration filed in defendant's response, shows that CDCR officials are aware of the danger plaintiff faces while housed in the same facility as inmate Chavez. Plaintiff states that officials have placed documentation in his central file stating that he and Chavez are enemies. Plaintiff claims that Chavez is an influential member of a gang and any fellow gang member plaintiff comes into contact with, will act on Chavez's behalf. Plaintiff argues that it makes no sense to acknowledge that Chavez is a danger to plaintiff, without also finding that plaintiff faces danger from his fellow gang members. Plaintiff states prison officials must be aware that if plaintiff is placed on a SNY yard he will be targeted by a member of the gang.

         I. Legal Standards

         A party requesting preliminary injunctive relief must show 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 Res. Def. Council, 555 U.S. 7, 20 (2008). The propriety of a request for injunctive relief hinges on a significant threat of irreparable injury that must be imminent in nature. Caribbean Marine Serv. Co. v. Baldridge, 844 F.2d 668, 674 (9th Cir. 1988).

         Alternatively, under the so-called sliding scale approach, as long as the plaintiff demonstrates the requisite likelihood of irreparable harm and can show that an injunction is in the public interest, a preliminary injunction may issue so long as serious questions going to the merits of the case are raised and the balance of hardships tips sharply in plaintiff's favor. Alliance for the Wild Rockies v. Cottrell, 632 F.3d 1127, 1131-36 (9th Cir. 2011) (concluding that the “serious questions” version of the sliding scale test for preliminary injunctions remains viable after Winter).

         The principle purpose of preliminary injunctive relief is to preserve the court's power to render a meaningful decision after a trial on the merits. See 9 Charles Alan Wright & Arthur R. Miller, Federal Practice and Procedure § 2947 (3d ed. 2014). Implicit in this required showing is that the relief awarded is only temporary and there will be a full hearing on the merits of the claims raised in the injunction when the action is brought to trial. Preliminary injunctive relief is not appropriate until the court finds that the plaintiff's complaint presents cognizable claims. See Zepeda v. United States Immigration Serv., 753 F.2d 719, 727 (9th ...

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