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Gentry v. State

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

July 18, 2017

THE STATE OF TENNESSEE et al., Defendants.



         Before the court is plaintiff John Anthony Gentry's Objection (Doc. No. 72) to the magistrate judge's June 5, 2017 Report and Recommendation ("R&R") (Doc. No. 70), recommending that Mr. Gentry's Emergency Motion for a Temporary Restraining Order and Preliminary Injunction ("TRO Motion") (Doc. No. 19) be denied. For the reasons set forth herein, the court will overrule the Objection and deny the TRO Motion.

         I. Background

         The plaintiff, proceeding pro se, filed his original Verified Complaint in this court on January 9, 2017, alleging claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 based on alleged violations of his constitutional rights. (Doc. No. 1.) He named as defendants the Tennessee Board of Judicial Conduct ("TBJC"), the Honorable Judge Chris Craft, Timothy R. Discenza, Unnamed Members of Investigative Panel, Unnamed Liability Insurance Carrier(s), and the State of Tennessee. On January 11, 2017, the undersigned entered an Order referring the case to the magistrate judge for case management, decision on all pretrial, non-dispositive motions, and report and recommendation on all dispositive motions under 28 U.S.C. § 626(b)(1) and Rule 72 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. (Doc. No. 4.)

         On February 27, 2017, the plaintiff filed his TRO Motion, requesting that the court preliminarily enjoin the TBJC, Judge Chris Craft, Timothy Discenza, and "all persons acting on behalf of the [TBJC]" from "destroying, disposing of, or in any way hiding or concealing hard copy original documents or electronic copies of (1) any complaints filed against judges with the [TBJC], (2) notices or letters disposing or dismissing complaints, (3) names or lists of names and addresses of complainants, and (4) and communications between members of the [TBJC] regarding dispositions and or determinations of dispositions of complaints." (Doc. No. 19, at 1-2.) In support of this request, the plaintiff asserts that, "unless enjoined by this Honorable Court, Defendants will likely destroy, dispose or otherwise conceal evidence necessary to Plaintiffs case" and that a TRO is necessary to preserve the status quo. (Id. at 2-3.) In his Memorandum in support of the TRO Motion, the plaintiff argues that he is likely to succeed at trial, resulting in embarrassment and exposure of corruption on the part of the defendants against whom the TRO is sought. On this basis, the plaintiff asserts that the defendants "will most certainly make every effort to prevent discovery and there is a substantial likelihood that Defendant will even destroy, or otherwise dispose of, evidence to hide their wrongful conduct." (Doc. No. 20, at 6.)

         On March 13, 2017, the defendants filed their Response in Opposition to the TRO Motion (Doc. No. 29), arguing that the request was moot because they were already complying with their obligation to preserve relevant information and that there was a high likelihood that their then-pending Motion to Dismiss would be granted.

         The plaintiff filed a first Amended Verified Complaint (Doc. No. 32) on March 16, 2017, and a Second Amended Verified Complaint (Doc. No. 36) on March 27, 2017. In both of these, the plaintiff abandoned his claims against the TBJC, Judge Chris Craft, Timothy Discenza, and the Unnamed Members of Investigative Panel of the TB JC, and he asserted new claims against lawyers Pamela Anderson Taylor, Brenton Hall Lankford, and Sarah Richter Perky. The only defendants common to both the original and amended pleadings are the State of Tennessee and Unnamed Liability Insurance Carrier(s).

         The magistrate judge recommends that the TRO Motion be denied on the grounds that (1) the motion has been rendered moot by the plaintiffs filing of an Amended Complaint that no longer names as defendants those individuals whose conduct is the focus of the TRO Motion; and (2) the plaintiff has not shown that any of the relevant factors weigh in favor of his request for preliminary injunctive relief.

         In his Objections, the plaintiff disputes that his TRO Motion has been mooted, arguing that "pages 49 through 54 . . . include the same facts and allegations contained in Plaintiffs original complaint but strengthened with additional facts and causes of action." (Doc. No. 19, at 4.) He also insists that the allegations in his Memorandum in support of the TRO Motion as well as his Amended Complaint demonstrate that he will suffer irreparable harm if the requested relief is not granted.

         II. Review of the Plaintiffs Motion

         The standard of review to be employed by the court when examining a Report and Recommendation is set forth in 28 U.S.C. § 636. The court is to "make a de novo determination of those portions of the report or specified proposed findings or recommendations to which objection is made." 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1). The court "may accept, reject or modify, in whole or in part, the findings or recommendations made by the magistrate." Id.

         The plaintiffs Objections were timely, and he has filed specific objections to the R&R. This court has reviewed the TRO Motion de novo in light of the plaintiffs Objections and finds that the plaintiff is not entitled to the relief sought.

         Temporary restraining orders and preliminary injunctions are extraordinary remedies "which should be granted only if the movant carries his or her burden of proving that the circumstances clearly demand it." Overstreet v. Lexington-Fayette Urban Co. Gov't, 305 F.3d 566, 573 (6th Cir. 2002). As a threshold matter, as the magistrate judge correctly noted, a federal court generally may not enter an injunction against a person who is not a party to the case before it. See In re N.A.A.C.P., 849 F.2d 1473 (Table), 1988 WL 61504, at *3 (6th Cir. June 13, 1988) (noting that a court's decree is generally only binding on parties). The TBJC, Chris Craft, and Timothy Discenza are not named in the Second Amended Complaint, which "supersedes all previous complaints." Parry v. Mohawk Motors of Mich., Inc., 236 F.3d 299, 306 (6th Cir. 2000). It therefore appears that the TBJC, Craft, and Discenza are no longer parties to this action.

         The Sixth Circuit has acknowledged that a court may exercise jurisdiction over a ...

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