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Tankesly v. Corrections Corp. of America

United States District Court, M.D. Tennessee, Nashville Division

September 17, 2014

CALVIN TANKESLY, JR. # 90944, Plaintiff,
v.
CORRECTIONS CORPORATION OF AMERICA, ET AL., Defendants.

REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

JOE B. BROWN, Magistrate Judge.

Before the court are plaintiff's motions for: 1) a preliminary injunction and temporary restraining order (TRO) with supporting affidavit filed May 28, 2014 (Docs. 11, 13); 2) a preliminary injunction and TRO with supporting affidavit filed June 23, 2014 (Docs. 18-19); and 3) appointment of counsel with supporting memorandum and affidavit filed August 25, 2014 (Docs. 51-53). For the reasons explained below, the Magistrate Judge recommends that plaintiff's motions (Docs. 11, 18, 51) be DENIED.

I. INTRODUCTION AND BACKGROUND

Plaintiff seeks injunctive relief to prevent what he characterizes as arbitrary and capricious retaliatory acts including: 1) termination of his prison job; 2) denial of medical care; and 3) deductions from his trust fund account for medical care in connection with a "chronic" medical problem. Plaintiff asserts that the alleged actions are in retaliation for his having filed this lawsuit, and that the actions alleged violate both the First Amendment and 42 U.S.C. § 12203(a)-(b) (Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA)). Plaintiff also demands that he be reinstated to his prison job, and that he be paid his lost wages.

II. ANALYSIS

A. Demand for Injunctive Relief

In deciding motion for a preliminary injunction, the district court considers: 1) whether the movant has a strong likelihood of success on the merits; 2) whether the movant would suffer irreparable injury without the injunction; 3) whether issuance of the injunction would cause substantial harm to others; and 4) whether the public interest would be served by issuance of the injunction. City of Pontiac Retired Employees Ass'n. v. Schimmel, 751 F.3d 427, 430 (6th Cir. 2014)(internal citations and quotation marks omitted). The court considers the same four factor when deciding a motion for a TRO. See Kentucky v. U.S. ex rel. Hagel, ___ F.3d ___, 2014 WL 3558044 (6th Cir. 2014).

While none of the four factors enumerated above generally has controlling weight, injunctive relief may not issue where there is no likelihood of success on the merits. See Farnsworth v. Nationstar Mortg., LLC, ___ Fed.Appx. ___, 2014 WL 2743508 *4 (6th Cir. 2014)(citing Mich. State AFL-CIO v. Miller, 103 F.3d 1240, 1249 (6th Cir. 1997)). The party seeking injunctive relief bears the burden of justifying such relief. Mich. Catholic Conf. & Catholic Family Serv's. v. Burwell, 755 F.3d 372, 382 (6th Cir. 2014)(internal citations and quotation marks omitted). The proof required for injunctive relief is more stringent than the proof required to survive summary judgment. McNeilly v. Land, 684 F.3d 611, 615 (6th Cir. 2012)(internal citation and quotation marks omitted).

As an initial matter, the Magistrate Judge notes that, to make a prima facie showing under the ADA, plaintiff must demonstrate three things, key among which is that an alleged adverse employment action, i.e., in this case, plaintiff's loss of his prison job, was due to a disability. Henschel v. Clare County Road Com'n., 737 F.3d 1017, 1022 (6th Cir. 2013). Plaintiff, however, claims that the alleged retaliatory actions against him were due to his having filed the instant lawsuit, not because of any disability that he might have. Consequently, the ADA does not apply in the context of the motions pending before the court. On the other hand, filing a lawsuit constitutes protected conduct under the First Amendment. Therefore, the First Amendment does apply.

To state a claim for relief on a First Amendment retaliation claim - the subject of the first two motions - plaintiff must show that: 1) he engaged in protected conduct; 2) an adverse action was taken against him that would deter a person of ordinary firmness from continuing to engage in that conduct; and 3) there is a causal connection between elements one and two, i.e., the adverse action alleged was motivated at least in part by the plaintiff's protected conduct. Hill v. Lappin, 630 F.3d 468, 472 (6th Cir. 2010)(internal citations and quotation marks omitted).

1. Job Termination

Plaintiff avers in his May 28, 2014 affidavit that he was terminated from his job as a library assistant "for a rules violation." (Doc. 13, ¶ 17, p. 2) Although he claims that thirty of the forty inmates in his unit violate/have violated the same rule(s), he does not deny that he violated prison rules. (Doc. 13, ¶ 19, p. 3) In his June 23, 2014 affidavit, plaintiff states that defendant Daniel Pritchard, the prison official at the South Central Correctional Facility (SCCF) who terminated plaintiff's job, "discover[ed] an alleged unit rule violation" on May 8, 2014. (Doc. 19, ¶ 18, p. 3) Although plaintiff claims in his second affidavit that twenty to sixty inmates in his unit violate/have violated the same rule(s) (Doc. 19, ¶ 24, p. 2), he once again does not deny that he violated the rules. Instead, he argues that, "[p]ursuant to TDOC [Tennessee Department of Correction] Policy both men in a cell are normally disciplined, " but his cell mate was not punished. (Doc. 19, ¶ 18, p. 3)

The only clarification on the matter comes from defendant Pritchard who states in his July 28, 2014 declaration that "the locking mechanism in [plaintiff's] cell door had been tampered with, " and that plaintiff "informed [him] that he had tampered with his lock because he believed that he had to be able to get out of his cell to do his job as a library assistant." (Doc. 41, ¶¶ 4-5, p. 1) Defendant Pritchard states that he terminated plaintiff's job because his "reason for tampering with the door was work related... and posed a significant security risk...." (Doc. 41, ¶ 6, p. 1)

Plaintiff tacitly admits that he violated prison rules. The law is well established that courts are ill-equipped to intervene in matters pertaining to the enforcement/management of prison rules and regulations. See Shaw v. Murphy, 532 U.S. 223, 229 (2001); Jones v. Caruso, 569 F.3d 258, 278 (6th Cir. 2009). Moreover, violating prison rules does not constitute protected conduct. Because violating prison rules, regardless of how many other inmates may have done so, does not constitute protected conduct, plaintiff cannot make a prima facie showing of retaliation. Because plaintiff cannot make a prima facie showing of retaliation, he ...


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