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Brummer v. Ryan

United States District Court, D. Arizona

May 1, 2019

Joseph Brummer, Plaintiff,
Charles L. Ryan, et al., Defendants.


          David G. Campbell, Senior United States District Judge.

         Plaintiff Joseph Brummer, who is currently confined in the Arizona State Prison Complex (ASPC)-Eyman, Browning Unit, has filed a pro se civil rights Complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Before the Court is Plaintiff's Motion for Preliminary Relief and Order (Doc. 9), which the Court construes as a motion for injunctive relief. The Court will deny the motion.

         I. Background

         Plaintiff sued Defendants Arizona Department of Corrections (ADC) Director Charles L. Ryan; Special Services Unit (SSU) Correctional Officer Figueroa; ASPC-Tucson Deputy Wardens A. Jacobs, D. Stemple, and J. Mattos; and ADC Security Operations Administrator Ron Towles for violating his due process rights. Plaintiff alleges the following facts: Plaintiff was validated as a member of the Aryan Brotherhood in 2009 and confined in Security Threat Group (STG) maximum custody. Plaintiff subsequently completed the STG step down program (SDP) and was placed in a close custody unit, with a lower custody level. In September 2017, Defendant Figueroa informed Plaintiff that his close custody status was being revoked, but refused to give Plaintiff the required form. A hearing was held before Defendants Jacobs, Stemple, and Mattos on October 5, 2017, and Plaintiffs' close custody status was revoked. Plaintiff was not given a copy of the hearing notification, informed of the evidence against him, or provided with a written result of the hearing. Plaintiff appealed the revocation to Defendants Towles and Ryan, and they denied his appeals. As a result, Plaintiff was returned to maximum custody. On screening pursuant to 28 U.S.C. 1915A(a), the Court determined that Plaintiff stated a due process claim against Defendants and ordered them to answer. (Doc. 7.)

         II. Legal Standards

         A. Injunctive Relief

         “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.'” Lopez v. Brewer, 680 F.3d 1068, 1072 (9th Cir. 2012) (quoting Mazurek v. Armstrong, 520 U.S. 968, 972 (1997) (per curiam); see also Winter v. Natural Res. Def. Council, Inc., 555 U.S. 7, 24 (2008) (citation omitted) (“[a] preliminary injunction is an extraordinary remedy never awarded as of right”). A plaintiff seeking a preliminary injunction must show that (1) he is likely to succeed on the merits, (2) he is likely to suffer irreparable harm without an injunction, (3) the balance of equities tips in his favor, and (4) an injunction is in the public interest. Winter, 555 U.S. at 20. “But if a plaintiff can only show that there are ‘serious questions going to the merits'-a lesser showing than likelihood of success on the merits-then a preliminary injunction may still issue if the ‘balance of hardships tips sharply in the plaintiff's favor,' and the other two Winter factors are satisfied.” Shell Offshore, Inc. v. Greenpeace, Inc., 709 F.3d 1281, 1291 (9th Cir. 2013) (quoting Alliance for the Wild Rockies v. Cottrell, 632 F.3d 1127, 1135 (9th Cir. 2011)). Under this serious questions variant of the Winter test, “[t]he elements . . . must be balanced, so that a stronger showing of one element may offset a weaker showing of another.” Lopez, 680 F.3d at 1072.

         Regardless of which standard applies, the movant “has the burden of proof on each element of the test.” See Envtl. Council of Sacramento v. Slater, 184 F.Supp.2d 1016, 1027 (E.D. Cal. 2000). Further, there is a heightened burden where a plaintiff seeks a mandatory preliminary injunction, which should not be granted “unless the facts and law clearly favor the plaintiff.” Comm. of Cent. Am. Refugees v. INS, 795 F.2d 1434, 1441 (9th Cir. 1986) (citation omitted).

         The Prison Litigation Reform Act imposes additional requirements on prisoner litigants who seek preliminary injunctive relief against prison officials. It requires that any injunctive relief be narrowly drawn and the least intrusive means necessary to correct the harm be imposed. 18 U.S.C. § 3626(a)(2); see Gilmore v. People of the State of Cal., 220 F.3d 987, 999 (9th Cir. 2000).

         B. Due Process

         “Under the Fourteenth Amendment's Due Process Clause, a prisoner is entitled to certain due process protections when he is charged with a disciplinary violation.” Serrano v. Francis, 345 F.3d 1071, 1077-78 (9th Cir. 2003) (citing Wolff v. McDonnell, 418 U.S. 539, 564-71 (1974)). “Prison disciplinary proceedings are not part of a criminal prosecution, and the full panoply of rights due a defendant in such proceedings does not apply.” Wolff, 418 U.S. at 555-56. To determine whether a procedural due process violation has occurred, a court engages in a two-step analysis. First, a court looks to whether the person possesses a constitutionally-cognizable liberty interest with which the state has interfered. Sandin v. Conner, 515 U.S. 472, 485-87 (1995). Second, if the state has interfered with a liberty interest, a court looks to whether this interference was accompanied by sufficient procedural and evidentiary safeguards. Ky. Dep't of Corr. v. Thompson, 490 U.S. 454, 460 (1989).

         It is well-settled that placement in maximum security segregation units implicates a liberty interest requiring due process protections. Wilkinson v. Austin, 545 U.S. 209, 224 (2005). A prisoner may be deprived of his liberty interest as long as he is accorded the proper procedural protections. For the initial decision to place a prisoner in maximum custody, due process is generally satisfied if the prisoner is given notice of the factual basis for the placement and an opportunity to be heard. Id. at 225-27; Hewitt v. Helms, 459 U.S. 460, 476 (1983).

         III. Motion for Preliminary Injunction

         A. ...

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