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Allen v. Lang

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

December 9, 2014



MICHAEL J. REAGAN, District Judge.

I. Introduction and Procedural Summary

In January 2014, Roderick T. Allen (Plaintiff) filed a civil rights lawsuit in this Court pursuant to 28 U.S.C. 1983 against two defendants (employees or correctional officers at Menard Correctional Center, where Plaintiff was incarcerated). Shortly thereafter, Plaintiff notified the Court of his intention to file an amended complaint. After securing extensions, Plaintiff filed an amended complaint on June 2, 2014 (Doc. 10) naming four Defendants - Lieutenant Cartwright, Richard Harrington, Aimee Lang, and B. Easton. Plaintiff's complaint voiced concerns about his severe weight loss, his nutrition, and Defendants' inadequate response to his medical condition. More specifically, Plaintiff alleged that he had lost roughly 35 pounds since from March 2008 to March 2014 (down from a "normal weight" of 170 pounds to around 133-144 pounds), that Defendant Lang refused to let Plaintiff see a doctor, that Defendant Easton refused to provide Plaintiff extra food or food trays, and that Defendants Lang and Easton were part of a conspiracy designed to cause Plaintiff to suffer great bodily harm by starvation.

On threshold review of the amended complaint under 28 U.S.C. 1915A, the undersigned concluded (Doc. 13) that Plaintiff had articulated two claims under the Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution - Count 1, against Defendant Lang for deliberate indifference to Plaintiff's serious medical need for evaluation and treatment of significant weight loss; and Count 2, against Defendant Easton for deliberate indifference to Plaintiff's need for adequate food to regain his normal weight and avoid further weight loss. The Court dismissed the claims against Defendants Cartwright and Harrington. Because Plaintiff's amended complaint sought injunctive relief, the Court added as a Defendant the current Warden of Menard Correctional Center - Kimberly Butler.

Shortly after filing his amended complaint, Plaintiff filed two motions seeking preliminary injunctive relief - Doc. 12, a July 1, 2014 "Motion for Additional Food Trays" (which sought additional food trays per day, with certain specified items on each tray), and Doc. 18, a July 10, 2014 "Motion to Compel" (which sought an immediate examination by a doctor for Plaintiff's excessive weight loss). On July 15, 2014, the Honorable Stephen C. Williams, the United States Magistrate Judge to whom the case is referred for pretrial proceedings, ordered Defendant Butler to respond to Plaintiff's motions by August 5, 2014 and set a hearing on August 13, 2014 ( see Doc. 23).

Defendant Butler neither responded nor sought an extension of the response deadline ( see Doc. 36, p. 2). Judge Williams convened the hearing on August 13, 2014 as scheduled. Defense counsel had finally filed a response on August 12, 2014 - the day before the hearing ( see Doc. 40). At the August 13th hearing, Plaintiff orally moved to continue the hearing so that he could have an opportunity to reply to Defendants' response. Judge Williams granted that motion, allowed Plaintiff leave to file an over-length reply brief, and re-set the hearing for August 25, 2014. Judge Williams presided over the hearing, received evidence (including testimony by Plaintiff via videoconference from Menard), and took the motions under advisement.

On September 2, 2014, Judge Williams issued a Report and Recommendation ("Report, " Doc. 59). The Report recommended that the undersigned District Judge deny both of Plaintiff's requests for preliminary injunctive relief (Docs. 12, 18), "as there is no indication that he is suffering from malnutrition, " no evidence that Plaintiff is entitled to additional food trays or is being denied adequate nutrition, and no evidence that he has been given an order from the health care unit allowing him to obtain additional food trays (Doc. 59, p. 11). The Report set a deadline (September 19, 2014) by which the parties could object thereto.

The undersigned District Judge granted Plaintiff three extensions of the objection deadline - two on Plaintiff's motion and one sua sponte - ultimately setting a November 7, 2014 objection deadline ( see Docs. 70, 88, 99). The undersigned Judge directed Defendants to respond to Plaintiff's objections by November 24, 2014 (Doc. 99). The undersigned also granted Plaintiff's motions for a copy of the Local Rules of this District and for a copy of the hearing transcript ( see Docs. 82, 88).

Plaintiff timely filed his "Objections to Report and Recommendation" (Doc. 104) on November 6, 2014. Although they filed other pleadings after November 6, 2014, Defendants neither filed a response by the November 24, 2014 deadline (as ordered by the undersigned in Doc. 99) nor requested an extension of the deadline. Defendants' apparent laissez-faire attitude toward court-imposed deadlines herein (e.g., the August 5, 2014 deadline set by Judge Williams at Doc. 23 and the November 24, 2014 deadline set by the undersigned Chief Judge at Doc. 99) is of concern, but it is not the focus of the instant Order.

Timely objections having been filed, the District Judge undertakes de novo review of the portions of the Report to which Plaintiff specifically objected. 28 U.S.C. 636(b)(1); FED. R. CIV. P. 72(b); SOUTHERN DIST. OF ILLINOIS LOCAL RULE 73.1(b). The undersigned can accept, reject, or modify the recommendations made by Judge Williams, receive further evidence, or recommit the matter to Judge Williams with instructions. Id. For the reasons stated below, the Court overrules Plaintiff's objections, adopts Judge Williams' Report in its entirety, and denies Plaintiff's requests for preliminary injunctive relief (Docs. 12, 18). Analysis begins with reference to the applicable legal standards.

II. Analysis


A preliminary injunction is "an extraordinary and drastic remedy, one that should not be granted unless the movant, by a clear showing, carries the burden of persuasion." Mazurek v. Armstrong, 520 U.S. 968, 972 (1997). Accord Winter v. Natural Res. Def. Council, Inc., 555 U.S. 7, 24 (2008) ("A preliminary injunction is an extraordinary remedy never awarded as of right"). To obtain a preliminary injunction, a plaintiff must show (1) that he is likely to succeed on the merits, (2) that he is likely to suffer irreparable harm without the injunction, (3) that the harm he would suffer is greater than the harm a preliminary injunction would inflict on defendants, and (4) that the injunction is in the public interest. Judge v. Quinn, 612 F.3d 537, 546 (7th Cir. 2010), citing Winter, 555 U.S. at 20. The "considerations are interdependent: the greater the likelihood of success on the merits, the less net harm the injunction must prevent in order for preliminary relief to be warranted." Judge, 612 F.3d at 546.

In the context of prisoner litigation, there are further restrictions on courts' remedial power. The scope of a court's authority to enter an injunction in the corrections context is circumscribed by the Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA). Westefer v. Neal, 682 F.3d 679, 683 (7th Cir. 2012). Under the PLRA, 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." 18 U.S.C. 3626(a)(2). See also Westefer, 682 F.3d at 683 (the PLRA "enforces a point repeatedly made by the Supreme Court in cases challenging ...

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