HAMLIN v. PRISON HEALTH SERVICES

2004 | Cited 0 times | D. Maine | March 19, 2004

RECOMMENDED DECISION ON MOTION FOR TEMPORARY RESTRAINING ORDER

Plaintiff Michael Hamlin is a prisoner serving a sentence at theMaine State Prison. He initiated this lawsuit by filing a civil rightscomplaint on September 25, 2003. In that complaint he named as defendantsPrison Health Services, Inc., Correctional Medical Services, Inc., and avariety of state correctional officers including the Commissioner, thewarden, and a collection of John and Jane Doe correctional officials andothers. The first amended complaint (Docket No. 24) alleges not onlyconstitutional deprivations under the Eighth Amendment, based upon aclaim of deliberate indifference to Hamlin's serious medical needs, butalso invokes this court's supplemental jurisdiction by way of a series ofcounts sounding in common law tort. As well, Hamlin has added a countunder the Americans with Disabilities Act. Hamlin claims that alldefendants were deliberately indifferent regarding their medicaltreatment of him because they failed to adequately address the medicalissues surrounding Hepatitis C, including a claim that defendants haverefused to test or treat him for "HCV infection."Page 2

On February 10, 2004, Hamlin filed a motion for temporary restrainingorder (Docket No. 31), seeking an order enjoining prison officials fromtaking disciplinary action against him for marijuana allegedly found inhis cell. Hamlin claims that he was the victim of a retaliatory prisondisciplinary process brought about solely because this lawsuit waspending. Hamlin abortively, and unsuccessfully, attempted to amend hiscomplaint to include this claim of retaliation. (Docket No. 30 & 52.)Presently, Hamlin seeks injunctive relief against a Prison Unit Managernamed Russell Worcester, who is not technically a named defendant.Leaving aside the rather obvious pleading defects, those being that theoperative first amended complaint does not include a claim of retaliationand does not include Russell Worcester as a named defendant, Inevertheless think it is appropriate to DENY this motion for temporaryrestraining order on its merits and I, accordingly, recommend that thecourt do so.

Facts Giving Rise to the Claim of Retaliation

According to Hamlin he received a disciplinary write-up on January 21,2004, based upon the discovery of marijuana in his cell. He claims thatthe marijuana was "planted" in his cell by prison officials inretaliation for the pending litigation. Hamlin bases his claim primarilyupon the fact that Russell Worcester, a member of the administrativesegregation board that heard Hamlin's case, made a statement at thedisciplinary hearing to the effect of "OK, right as if we would haveplanted something." (Worcester Aff. ¶¶ 6-7). This statement arose inresponse to Hamlin's claim that the marijuana found in his cell was nothis and had been planted there by someone else, perhaps another inmate.After Worcester's remark, Hamlin concluded that the marijuana must havebeen put there by prison officials, as part of a massive conspiracy, inPage 3retaliation for having filed this lawsuit. From this single thread Hamlinweaves further evidentiary "proof of the retaliatory conspiracy basedupon the loss of a playstation and the loss of his prison industry jobs.These allegations he incorporates into his proposed second amendedcomplaint and avers that they occurred after he had filed his civilrights action. (Proposed 2d Am. Compl. ¶¶ 121-123, Docket No 30 Attach.1.)

In their responsive pleadings the defendants maintain that the loss ofthe playstation, occurring last November before service of thecomplaint, could not have been causally connected to a retaliatoryconspiracy. Furthermore, Hamlin filed a grievance vis-a-vis theplaystation and was reimbursed for it after the prison determined that ithad been accidentally lost in a prison move. (Costigan Aff. ¶¶ 7-9).Likewise they maintain that the loss of the prison job was unrelated inany way to this lawsuit. (Worcester Aff. ¶ 12). Hamlin has not directlyreplied to these factual recitations except by way of his conclusoryallegations that these activities were all done in retaliation for thecommencement of this lawsuit.

Discussion

The First Circuit has instructed that trial courts entertaining motionsfor preliminary injunction "must consider (1) the likelihood of successon the merits; (2) the potential for irreparable harm if the injunction isdenied; (3) the balance of relevant impositions, i.e., the hardship to thenonmovant if enjoined as contrasted with the hardship to the movant if noinjunction issues; and (4) the effect (if any) of the court's ruling onthe public interest. Ross-Simons of Warwick, Inc. v. Baccarat, Inc.,102 F.3d 12, 15-16 (1st Cir. 1996) (citing Weaver v. Henderson,984 F.2d 11, 12 & n. 3 (1st Cir. 1993) and Narragansett Indian Tribe v.Guilbert, 934 F.2d 4, 5 (1st Cir. 1991)). SeePage 4also 18 U.S.C. § 3626(a)(1)(A) ("Prospective relief in any civil actionwith respect to prison conditions shall extend no further than necessaryto correct the violation of the Federal right of a particular plaintiffor plaintiffs. The court shall not grant or approve any prospectiverelief unless the court finds that such relief is narrowly drawn, extendsno further than necessary to correct the violation of the Federal right,and is the least intrusive means necessary to correct the violation ofthe Federal right. The court shall give substantial weight to any adverseimpact on public safety or the operation of a criminal justice systemcaused by the relief.").

I need go no further than the first prong of the Ross-Simons ofWarwick. Inc. factors. Hamlin has absolutely failed to show a likelihoodof success on the merits on this claim of retaliation. He has no evidencethat the prison officials have engaged in deliberate conduct to deprivehim of his constitutional rights in retaliation for filing the underlyinglawsuit related to medical care and treatment. In fact the evidentiaryrecord presented to this court suggests that the prison officials havenot only accorded Hamlin all of the due process applicable under theirreasonable prison rules, but they have in fact compensated him for apecuniary loss based upon his allegations. The notion that Worcester'sill-advised comment at the grievance hearing is "evidence" of a massiveconspiracy or some sort of confession that Worcester planted themarijuana is a bald, unsubstantiated assertion that simply does not carrythe day, see Correa-Martinez v. Arrillaga-Belendez, 903 F.2d 49, 52 (1stCir. 1990) (deferential reading of complaint does not require thecrediting of "bald assertions, periphrastic circumlocutions,unsubstantiated conclusions, or outright vituperation."), particularly inthe context of a request for equitable relief.Page 5

Furthermore, enjoining prison officials from enforcing disciplinarysanctions imposed after due process grievance procedures have beenfollowed could have a deleterious impact upon prison operations incontravention of the 18 U.S.C. § 3626(a)(1)(A) statutory directive. Tothe extent that Hamlin complains that the imposition of administrativesegregation will result in further pecuniary losses in that items ofpersonal property will be forfeited, Hamlin does not make a showing ofirreparable harm as required under the second prong of Ross-Simons ofWarwick. Inc. Should Hamlin ultimately succeed in amending his complaintto allege a claim for retaliation and should he ultimately prevail uponthat claim (as indicated above, the likelihood of success on such a claimis none too apparent), those sorts of pecuniary losses would berecoverable despite the limitation imposed on prisoners by42 U.S.C. § 1997e(e), a provision that only bars monetary claims formental and emotional distress in the absence of physical injury.

Conclusion

Based upon the foregoing I recommend that the Court DENY theplaintiff's motion for temporary restraining order (Docket No. 31).

NOTICE

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