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Adams v. Tennessee Department of Correction

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

January 11, 2018

MICHAEL BRANDON ADAMS Plaintiff,
v.
TENNESSEE DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS, et al. Defendants.

          Crenshaw Judge.

          REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

          JEFFERY S. FRENSLEY U.S. Magistrate Judge.

         This matter is before the court upon the pro se Plaintiff's Motion for Temporary Restraining Order and Preliminary Injunction. Docket No. 162. Plaintiff has filed a supporting memorandum of law with attachments (Docket No. 163) and his supporting declaration (Docket No. 164). The CoreCivic Defendants have filed a Response in Opposition. Docket No. 168. For the reasons set forth herein, the undersigned recommends that the Plaintiff's Motion be DENIED.

         BACKGROUND

         The Plaintiff is a pro se prisoner who brought this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiff alleges that on February 5, 2015, he was found guilty following a disciplinary hearing of various prison offenses. Docket No. 163, p. 1. Plaintiff filed an inmate grievance on March 26, 2015 alleging misconduct against certain prison guards related to the alleged confiscation of legal material pertinent to litigation being pursued by the Plaintiff. Id. at p. 2. On April 1, 2015, Plaintiff was transferred to the Whiteville Correctional Facility (“WCF”) and advised that his transfer was due to his disciplinary conviction. Id. On May 14, 2015, he was transferred to South Central Correctional Facility (“SCCF”). Id. Both of these facilities are operated by CoreCivic. On July 5, 2015, Plaintiff was notified that the disciplinary conviction had been overturned and removed from the Prison Reporting System. Id. On January 19, 2016, Plaintiff was transferred to the Turney Center Industrial Complex (“TCIX”). Id.

         Plaintiff alleges that his transfer to WCF was in retaliation for his family raising concerns to “certain political figures, as well as Defendant Lewis” regarding the confiscation of his legal materials. Id. He asserts that once his disciplinary conviction was overturned he should have been reclassified and returned to Riverbend per TDOC policy. Id. at p. 4. He brought this action seeking to be returned to his original institution under his prior classification arguing there was “no legit reason from the side of defendants to justify the malicious transfer and cloaking it as a ‘disciplinary' transfer.” Id. at p. 11.

         In the Court's review of Plaintiff's complaint and pursuant to 28 U.S.C. 1915(A), the Court allowed inter alia, the claim that he had been denied an appropriate security classification to proceed. In the motion now before the court, Plaintiff asks that he “be reclassified back to his original custody level of “minimum trusty;” that he be returned to Riverbend Maximum Security Institution and be placed back into the brick masonry class or alternatively that he be transferred to Lois M. DeBerry Special Needs Facility and that the Defendants not engage in any acts of retaliation. Docket No. 162.

         ANALYSIS

         The moving party has the burden of proving that the circumstances “clearly demand” a TRO or a Preliminary Injunction. Overstreet v. Lexington-Fayette Urban Cnty. Gov't., 305 F.3d 566, 573 (6th Cir. 2002). The court must balance four factors in deciding whether to issue a preliminary injunction or TRO “(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 Retied Employees Ass'n. v. Schimmel, 751 F.3d 427, 430 (6th Cir. 2014)(en banc)(internal quotation marks omitted).

         These four factors are “factors to be balanced, not prerequisites that must be met.” Michael v. Futhey, 2009 WL 4981688, at *17 (6th Cir., December 17, 2009)(quoting Six Clinics Holding Corp., II v. Cafcomp Systems, 119 F.3d 393, 400 (6th Cir. 1997)). Nonetheless, it remains that the hallmark of injunctive relief is the likelihood of irreparable harm. Patio Enclosures, Inc. v. Herbst, 39 Fed.Appx. 964, 967 (6th Cir. 2002)(“[t]he demonstration of some irreparable injury is a sine qua non for issuance of an injunction.”); see also Winter v. Natural Resources Defense Council, Inc., 555 U.S. 7, 22-23, 129 S.Ct. 365, 172 L.Ed.2d 249 (2008)(rejecting the notion that a mere “possibility” of irreparable injury was sufficient for a preliminary injunction and holding that “plaintiffs seeking preliminary relief [are required] to demonstrate that irreparable injury is likely in the absence of an injunction”)(emphasis in original). “A finding that there is simply no likelihood of success on the merits is usually fatal.” Gonzalez v. National Board of Medical Examiners, 225 F.3d 620, 625 (6th Cir. 2000).

         The plaintiff bears the burden of demonstrating his entitlement to a preliminary injunction, and his burden is a heavy one. Injunctive relief is “an extraordinary remedy 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 Cnty. Gov't., 305 F.3d 566, 573 (6th Cir. 2002). Further, where a prison inmate seeks an order enjoining state prison officials, this court is required to proceed with the utmost care and must be cognizant of the unique nature of the prison setting. See, Kendrick v. Bland, 740 F.2d 432, 438, n. 3 (6th Cir. 1984).

         As an initial matter, as the CoreCivic defendants note, it is well established that a “prisoner's requests for injunctive or declaratory relief is moot upon transfer to a different facility.” Kensu v. High, 87 F.3d 172, 175 (6th Cir. 1996). Plaintiff has admitted and the court has previously noted that he is no longer incarcerated at Whiteville Correctional Facility or at South Central Correctional Facility. For this reason, the undersigned recommends that Plaintiff's request for injunctive relief against the CoreCivic defendants be DENIED.

         Considering the preliminary injunction factors as to the remaining defendants, all four factor weigh against granting injunctive relief. First, Plaintiff has not shown any irreparable injury, nor has he shown any real threat of immediate injury. The law is clear that inmates have no constitutional right to be incarcerated in any particular institution or to be held in a specific security classification. Olim v. Wakinekona, 461 U.S. 238, 245-46, 103 S.Ct. 1741, 75 L.Ed.2d 813 (1983); Moody v. Daggett, 429 U.S. 78, 88, n. 9, 97 S.Ct. 274, 50 L.Ed.2d 236 (1976); c v. Fano, 427 U.S. 215, 225, 96 S.Ct. 2532, 49 L.Ed.2d 451 (1976). Furthermore, in order to raise a due process interest the plaintiff must allege that, by virtue of the alleged acts of the defendants his sentence is extended or he suffered “atypical or significant hardship . . . in relation to the ordinary incidents of prison life.” Sandin v. Conner, 515 U.S. 472, 484, 115 S.Ct. 2293, 132 L.Ed.2d 418 (1995).

         Although a federal court has the authority to order a state to transfer a prisoner in the rare and extreme situation where an inmate's life is imminent or grave danger See e. g. Walker v. Lockhart, 713 F.2d 1378, 1383 (8th Cir. 1983); Streeter v. Hopper, 618 F.2d 1178, 1182 (5th Cir. 1980), plaintiff's allegations regarding his security classification and placement do not constitute grounds upon which this court can find that a transfer is warranted. See e. g., City of Los Angeles v. Lyons, 461 U.S. 95, 102, 103 S.Ct. 1660, 75 L.Ed.2d 675 (1983)(explaining that irreparable harm must be both “real and immediate, ...


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