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Wallace v. Baldwin

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

July 5, 2017

MAURICE L. WALLACE, #R10764, Plaintiff,



         This action is before the Court to address Plaintiff's Motion for a Temporary Restraining Order and/or Preliminary Injunction (Doc. 8) and Motion for Leave to Proceed In Forma Pauperis (“IFP”) (Doc. 6).

         Motion for Temporary Restraining Order and/or Preliminary Injunction

         Plaintiff seeks issuance of a temporary restraining order (“TRO”) and/or preliminary injunction. A TRO is an order issued without notice to the party to be enjoined that may last no more than fourteen days. A TRO may issue without notice:

only if (A) specific facts in an affidavit or a verified complaint clearly show that immediate and irreparable injury, loss, or damage will result to the movant before the adverse party can be heard in opposition; and (B) the movant's attorney certifies in writing any efforts made to give notice and the reasons why it should not be required.

Fed. R. Civ. P. 65(b). “The essence of a temporary restraining order is its brevity, its ex parte character, and . . . its informality.” Geneva Assur. Syndicate, Inc. v. Medical Emergency Servs. Assocs. S.C., 964 F.2d 599, 600 (7th Cir. 1992). In addition to the immediate and irreparable damage requirement for a TRO, to justify issuance of preliminary injunctive relief, the plaintiff must first demonstrate that 1) he has a reasonable likelihood of success on the merits, 2) he has no adequate remedy at law, and 3) he will suffer irreparable harm if preliminary injunctive relief is denied. See Stifel, Nicholaus & Company, Inc. v. Godfre & Kahn, 807 F.3d 184, 193 (7th Cir. 2015).

         Without expressing any opinion on the merits of any of Plaintiff's other claims for relief, the Court concludes that a TRO should not issue in this matter. Plaintiff's allegations do not set forth specific facts demonstrating the likelihood of immediate and irreparable harm before Defendants can be heard. Plaintiff alleges that he has been confined in disciplinary segregation for more than ten years. (Doc. 5, p. 23). He claims that this confinement has intensified the symptoms he experiences in conjunction with his post-traumatic stress disorder (“PTSD”). (Doc. 5, p. 18). He notes that these symptoms may include nightmares, severe anxiety, and suicidal ideations, among other things. Id. Plaintiff has provided the Court with his recent mental health records to support his claim, and though they seem to confirm that Plaintiff has been diagnosed with PTSD and suffers from anxiety and depression, they also repeatedly signal that Plaintiff has not recently demonstrated or reported suicidal ideations from which he may be suffering currently. (See Doc. 7, p. 81, 83, 85, 107).

         In his Amended Complaint (Doc. 5), Plaintiff also provides the Court with studies and findings concerning the potential negative effects of prolonged segregation on an individual, seemingly in an attempt to support his claim that he will suffer irreparable injury if he is not removed from segregation, but what studies and statistics indicate might happen to individuals in situations similar to Plaintiff is not of interest to this Court when considering Plaintiff's motion for preliminary injunctive relief. All that concerns this Court is what harm to Plaintiff is occurring or imminent. Plaintiff has not alleged to this Court's satisfaction any risk of immediate and irreparable injury, loss, or damage that will befall him before any of the defendants can be heard in opposition to his motion. Further, he readily admits that he “will certainly require years of professional therapy before [he] can confidently reclaim his status as a ‘civilized human being'” after being subjected to such extreme isolation, so it appears unlikely that ordering immediate action will benefit Plaintiff in any significant way. (Doc. 5, p. 26).

         Moreover, federal courts must exercise equitable restraint when asked to take over the administration of a prison, something that is best left to correctional officials and their staff. See Sandin v. Conner, 515 U.S. 472, 482 (1995); Rizzo v. Goode, 423 U.S. 362, 379 (1976) (noting that where a plaintiff requests an award of remedial relief that would require a federal court to interfere with the administration of a state prison, "appropriate consideration must be given to principles of federalism in determining the availability and scope of [such] relief."). Particularly because of Plaintiff's previous prison staff assault and weapons violations, and admitted violent, asocial, and aggressive tendencies, this Court is extremely hesitant to direct Plaintiff's transfer from disciplinary segregation without at least allowing the defendants an opportunity to defend their decision to continue to hold Plaintiff. (Doc. 5, pp. 24, 27).

         Plaintiff's request for issuance of a temporary restraining order will therefore be denied. This Court will reserve a decision on the Motion (Doc. 8) to the extent it requests a preliminary injunction.

         Motion for Leave to Proceed In Forma Pauperis

         According to Section 1915(g), a prisoner may not bring a civil action or appeal a civil judgment in forma pauperis “if the prisoner has, on 3 or more prior occasions, while incarcerated or detained in any facility, brought an action or appeal in a court of the United States that was dismissed on the grounds that it is frivolous, malicious, or fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, unless the prisoner is under imminent danger of serious physical injury.” 28 U.S.C. § 1915(g).

         Plaintiff has received strikes in at least three cases in this District. See Wallace v. Powers, Case No. 09-cv-224-DRH (S.D. Ill. November 19, 2009) (dismissed for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted); Wallace v. Hallam, Case No. 09-cv-418-DRH (S.D. Ill. Feb. 23, 2010) (same); Westefer v. Snyder, et al., Case No. 00-cv-162-GPM (S.D. Ill. Feb. 25, 2011) (denying Plaintiff's motion to intervene and assessing strike for filing frivolous action). In fact, because of his voluminous frivolous filings, Plaintiff has been given at least one warning about filing frivolous papers or actions in this District. See, Wallace v. Taylor, Case No. 11-cv-332-MJR (S.D. Ill. June 6, 2012) (Doc. 29, p. 2). Because Plaintiff has incurred at least three “strikes” for purposes of Section 1915(g), he may not proceed IFP in this case unless he is under imminent danger of serious physical injury.

         Plaintiff has failed to satisfy this requirement. The United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit has explained that “imminent danger” within the meaning of 28 U.S.C. § 1915(g) requires a “real and proximate” threat of serious physical injury to a prisoner. Ciarpaglini v. Saini, 352 F.3d 328, 330 (7th Cir. 2003) (citing Lewis v. Sullivan, 279 F.3d 526, 529 (7th Cir. 2002)). In general, courts “deny leave to proceed IFP when a prisoner's claims of imminent danger are conclusory or ridiculous.” Id. at 331 (citing Heimermann v. Litscher, 337 F.3d 781, 782 (7th Cir. 2003)). Additionally, “[a]llegations of past harm do not suffice” to show imminent danger; rather, “the harm must be imminent or occurring at the time the complaint is filed, ” and when prisoners “allege only a past injury that has not recurred, courts deny them leave to proceed IFP.” Id. at 330 (citing Abdul-Wadood v. Nathan, 91 F.3d 1023 (7th Cir. 1996)). Further, “[t]his Court has previously observed that a prisoner cannot ‘create the “imminent danger” required by § 1915(g).'” See Widmer v. Butler, Case No. 14-cv-874-NJR, 2014 WL 3932519 (S.D. Ill. August 12, 2014) (citing Taylor v. ...

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