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Sahakyan v. Diaz

United States District Court, E.D. California

October 28, 2019

RALPH DIAZ, et al., Defendants.


         Plaintiff Karen Sahakyan (“Plaintiff”) is appearing pro se and in forma pauperis in this civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983.

         Currently before the Court is Plaintiff's request for a temporary restraining order and motion for preliminary injunction, filed May 20, 2019. (ECF No. 2.) For the reasons set forth below, it is recommended that Plaintiff's motion be denied.


         Plaintiff 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. On December 12, 2017, Defendant Allison wrote a memo explaining the expansion of such a merger. On July 19, 2018, inmate representatives at Plaintiff's facility submitted a group statement to Defendant Ndoh voicing their concerns and disagreement with the proposed merger.

         On September 10, 2018, Defendant Diaz authored a department memorandum outlining the schedule for the merging of the yards. At the time the Complaint and motion for injunctive relief were filed, Plaintiff was housed at Avenal State Prison, which was scheduled for merger of the SNY and GP populations in January 2019.[1] Plaintiff has since filed a notice of change of address, indicating that he moved to Soledad State Prison on September 19, 2019. (ECF No. 9.)

         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 the Eighth Amendment. Plaintiff seeks injunctive relief enjoining defendants from merging the SNY and GP inmates at Avenal State Prison, as well as declaratory relief.


         Procedurally, a federal district court may issue emergency injunctive relief only if it has personal jurisdiction over the parties and subject matter of the lawsuit. See Murphy Bros., Inc. v. Michette 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, 25 (2008) (citation omitted); Epona v. Cty. of Ventura, 876 F.3d 1214, 1227 (9th Cir. 2017) (same).

         To justify injunctive relief, the moving party must demonstrate: (1) that he is likely to succeed on the merits; (2) that he is likely to suffer irreparable harm in the absence of injunctive relief; (3) that the balance of equities tips in his favor; and (4) that an injunction is in the public interest. 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 more 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 998-99 (9th Cir. 2000).

         The Supreme Court has also counseled that injunctive relief should only be granted rarely in cases ...

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