United States District Court, D. Maryland, Southern Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
W. GRIMM, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Martin Washington is an inmate incarcerated at the North
Branch Correctional Institution (“NBCI”) in
Maryland. Am. Compl. ¶ 13, ECF No. 46. Washington
alleges that on multiple occasions he was physically harmed
by the corrections officers at NBCI. Id.
¶¶ 21, 37, 42. Based on this alleged conduct,
Washington brought a civil action against the officers under
42 U.S.C. § 1983. Compl., ECF No. 1. Now, during the
course of his § 1983 action, Washington moves for a
temporary restraining order, preliminary injunction, and an
order to show cause as to why the officers should not be
sanctioned for spoliation of evidence. Pl.'s Mot., ECF
No. 66. A hearing was held on November 21, 2017,
during which I heard argument from counsel. Washington's
motion, treated as a motion for a preliminary injunction, is
denied without prejudice because he has not shown that he is
likely to succeed on the merits. See Winter v. Natural
Res. Def. Council, Inc., 555 U.S. 7, 22 (2008). But
because Washington has raised serious allegations that
Defendants (or their supervisors) may have committed
spoliation of evidence, I am ordering that discovery be taken
under the supervision of a United States Magistrate Judge to
determine whether there has been a failure to preserve
relevant evidence, and, if so, whether sanctions under
Fed.R.Civ.P. 37(e) are warranted.
purpose of a preliminary injunction is to “protect the
status quo and to prevent irreparable harm during the
pendency of a lawsuit, ultimately to preserve the court's
ability to render a meaningful judgment on the merits.”
In re Microsoft Corp. Antitrust Litig., 333 F.3d
517, 525 (4th Cir. 2003). A preliminary injunction is
distinguished from a temporary restraining order only by the
difference in notice to the nonmoving party and by the
duration of the injunction. U.S. Dep't of Labor v.
Wolf Run Mining Co., 452 F.3d 275, 281 n.1 (4th Cir.
2006) (comparing Fed.R.Civ.P. 65(a) with Fed.R.Civ.P.
65(b)). As a preliminary injunction is “an
extraordinary remedy . . . [it] may only be awarded upon a
clear showing that the plaintiff is entitled to such
relief.” Winter v. Natural Res. Def. Council,
Inc., 555 U.S. 7, 22 (2008).
obtain a preliminary injunction, the plaintiff must
“establish that  he is likely to succeed on the
merits,  he is likely to suffer irreparable harm in the
absence of preliminary relief,  the balance of equities
tips in his favor, and  an injunction is in the public
interest.” Id. at 20; see Dewhurst v.
Century Aluminum Co., 649 F.3d 287, 290 (4th Cir. 2011).
“A preliminary injunction cannot be issued unless all
four of these elements are met, and ‘“[p]laintiff
bears the burden of establishing that each of these factors
supports granting the injunction.”'”
Williams v. JP Morgan Chase Bank, No. RDB-16-00312,
2016 WL 509426, at *3 (D. Md. Feb. 4, 2016) (slip op.)
(quoting Direx Israel, Ltd. v. Breakthrough Med.
Corp., 952 F.2d 802, 812 (4th Cir. 1991) (citation
omitted)); see Real Truth About Obama v. Fed. Election
Comm'n, 575 F.3d 342, 347 (4th Cir. 2009) (holding
that each element must be satisfied as articulated).
“[T]he burden placed upon Plaintiffs to state a claim
for a preliminary injunction is high.” EndoSurg
Med., Inc. v. EndoMaster Med., Inc., 71 F.Supp.3d 525,
538 (D. Md. 2014); see Fowler v. Wells Fargo Home Mortg.,
Inc., No. GJH-15-1084, 2015 WL 2342377, at *2 (D. Md.
May 13, 2015) (same).
the first requirement, the plaintiff must “clearly
demonstrate that he will likely succeed on the
merits, ” rather than present a mere “grave or
serious question for litigation.” Real Truth,
575 F.3d at 346-47 (emphasis from the original). Only
“providing sufficient factual allegations to meet the
[Fed. R. Civ. P.] 12(b)(6) standard of Twombly and
Iqbal” does not meet the rigorous standard
required under the Winter and Real Truth
decisions. Allstate Ins. Co. v. Warns, No.
CCB-11-1846, 2012 WL 681792, at *14 (D. Md. 2012). In the
prison context, courts should grant preliminary injunctive
relief respecting the management of correctional institutions
only under exceptional and compelling circumstances. See
Taylor v. Freeman, 34 F.3d 266, 269 (4th Cir. 1994). A
plaintiff must show that the irreparable harm he faces in the
absence of relief is “neither remote nor speculative,
but actual and imminent.” Direx Israel, Ltd. v.
Breakthrough Medical Group, 952 F.2d 802, 812 (4th Cir.
1991) (citation omitted).
Washington alleges in his Amended Complaint that Officer W.D.
Rounds, Jr. deliberately closed a metal food slot on his
hand, fracturing it, and that he was sprayed with mace as
well as beaten by the Defendants, stripped naked and had his
head rammed into the wall of the showers, for which he did
not receive prompt medical attention for the injuries he
suffered. Am. Compl. ¶¶ 14-58. Washington contends
that, since initiating this case, he has been the victim of
new acts of violence, the purpose of which are to intimidate
him. Pl.'s Mem. 2. He also asserts that Officer Joshua
Tart, a non-party, punched him in the face while Washington
was handcuffed as retaliation “for filing a lawsuit on
my buddys [sic].” Id. (edits in original).
Washington also asserts that Officers Warren Mallow and Shawn
Murray threatened him after the initiation of his suit.
Id. at 2-3. Washington has submitted an affidavit
attesting to these events, ECF No. 66-4, as well as an
affidavit by Keith Edmonds who states that he witnessed
Officer Murray threatening Washington, ECF No. 66-5. Lastly,
Washington contends that he has submitted three Inmate
Request Forms to the Security Chief seeking to preserve
surveillance video that could corroborate his claims, and to
the Warden informing him of the retaliatory acts taken
against him that have been ignored. Pl.'s Mem. 2. Aside
from the two affidavits, the only evidence indicating the
alleged actions occurred are three Inmate Requests Forms (to
the Security Chief and Warden), ECF No. 66-6, which
Washington claims to have completed and filed with NBCI, but
which have not been acknowledge as received.
argue that Washington has not exhausted his administrative
remedies and that the requested relief is unavailable because
it requires a non-party to act. Defs.'s Opp'n. In
support of their opposition, Defendants have submitted
various affidavits that contradict Washington's
allegations. ECF Nos. 67-3-67-8. Defendants point to three
affidavits that demonstrate that they have no record of
Washington submitting any complaints regarding the alleged
incidents. See White Aff. ¶¶ 5-7, ECF No.
67-8; Bohrer Aff. ¶ 5, ECF No. 67-6; Armstrong Aff.
¶ 4, ECF No. 67-7. Defendants insist that the only
complaint NBCI received from Washington during July and
August 2017 is that he was denied medications and dinner.
See White Aff. ¶ 7; Armstrong Aff. ¶ 4. In
reply, Washington argues that a July 21, 2017 video
recording, which is not part of the record before me and
allegedly depicts Officer Rounds punching him, was destroyed
and that he was impeded from administratively exhausting his
claims, and that those circumstances sufficiently demonstrate
that he should be afforded relief in the form of a
preliminary injunction. Pl.'s Reply 1-7. Washington's
allegations, supported by his copies of the Inmate Request
Forms that he claims he submitted to NBCI staff, form the
basis for his argument that his efforts to administratively
exhaust his claims have been impeded, and that evidence
spoliation is taking place.
regardless of whether Washington administratively exhausted
his claims, his motion suffers from a significant deficiency:
factual disputes. For example, Officer Tart attests that on
the date he is alleged to have punched Washington, he was not
working in Washington's housing unit but in a different
building at NBCI. Tart Aff. ¶¶ 3-4, ECF No. 67-5.
Office Murray attests that he was not even working on the day
he is alleged to have threatened Washington. Murray Aff.
¶ 2, ECF No. 4.
preliminary injunction standard is not whether it is
plausible for a plaintiff to succeed, but whether it
is likely. See Winter v. Natural Res. Def.
Council, Inc., 555 U.S. 7, 22 (2008); Dewhurst v.
Century Aluminum Co., 649 F.3d 287, 290 (4th Cir. 2011);
Real Truth About Obama, Inc. v. Fed. Election
Comm'n, 575 F.3d 342, 346-47 (4th Cir. 2009). As
noted, significant factual disputes exist as to whether the
alleged events occurred. First, it is unclear if Officer Tart
was ever in the housing unit or if Officer Murray was working
on the days in question. These are but two situations where
Washington's allegations are in direct contradiction of
affidavits Defendants have provided.
Judge Motz, to whom this case previously was assigned, I
cannot conclude on the disputed facts before me that
Washington is likely to succeed on the merits of his claims
against the individual defendants. See Order Den.
Mot. for Prelim. Inj., ECF No. 15; Rogers v. Housing
Auth. of Prince George's Cty., PWG-14-2940, 2015 WL
5287128, at *9 (D. Md. Sept. 8, 2015); Torres Advanced
Enter. Sols. LLC v. Mid-Atl. Prof'ls Inc., No.
PWG-12-3679, 2013 WL 531215, at *3-4 (D. Md. Feb. 8, 2013);
Chattery Int'l, Inc. v. JoLida, Inc., No.
WDQ-10-2236, 2011 WL 1230822, at *9 (D. Md. 2011). Much of
the record is made up of affidavits where a fact finder could
find either version of any of the alleged events credible.
Therefore, it is not possible at this time to find that
Washington is likely to succeed on the merits. Because
Washington has not established this critical element, I need
not reach the other elements. See Real Truth, 575
F.3d at 347; Williams, 2016 WL 509426, at *3.
as relief, Washington asks me to-and argues that I may-direct
the State and NBCI to take various actions (e.g., transfer
Washington, prohibit Defendants from supervising him during
the course of the litigation), despite the fact that neither
the State nor NBCI are parties to this litigation. Washington
points to one case from outside the Fourth Circuit,
Rivera v. Dyett, No. 88 CIV. 4707 (PKL), 1992 WL
233882 (S.D.N.Y. 1992), which provides at most persuasive
authority. However, inmates have no liberty interest in
placement in a particular prison, and prison officials have
broad discretion to classify inmates and assign them to
appropriate prison housing. See 18 U.S.C. §
3621(b); Cochran v. Morris, 73 F.3d 1310, 1318 (4th
Cir. 1996) (citing Meachum v. Fano, 427 U.S. 215,
224 (1976)). Additionally, courts should exercise great
caution before interfering with the day-to-day administration
of a prison. Bell v. Wolfish, 441 U.S. 520, 540 n.23
(1979) (explaining that day-to-day administrative decisions
“are peculiarly within the province and professional
expertise of corrections officials, and, in the absence of
substantial evidence in the record to indicate that the
officials have exaggerated their response to these
considerations, courts should ordinarily defer to their
expert judgment in such matters.”) (quoting Pell v.
Procunier, 417 U.S. 817, 824 (1974)). Consequently, even
if Washington satisfied the elements for preliminary
injunctive relief, it is unlikely that the relief he requests
is available against the State of Maryland or NBCI.
at this time, I must deny Plaintiff's Motion for a
Preliminary Injunction. See Winter v. Natural Res. Def.
Council, Inc., 555 U.S. 7, 22 (2008); see Dewhurst
v. Century Aluminum Co., 649 F.3d 287, 290 (4th Cir.
2011). I do so, however, without prejudice. In the event
Washington demonstrates the conduct described is in fact
ongoing and shows he is likely to succeed on the merits, he
can renew his request for injunctive relief at that time.
fact that Washington has not met the standard for a
preliminary injunction does not mean that he has not raised
serious issues about whether Defendants (or others not yet
defendants) have been preventing his Inmate Request
Forms and other administrative relief requests from being
processed as required, or have been interfered with. And,
equally concerning, is his allegation that Defendants or
others at NBCI who are not currently defendants have engaged
in spoliation of evidence to prevent him from having access
to surveillance videos that could corroborate his version of
events. When inmates bring civil suits they are usually met
by affidavits from correctional officers allegedly involved
denying the claims-creating a fact dispute that can make it
difficult, or impossible, for the inmate to obtain
preliminary injunctive relief. The record before me shows
that there is at least some evidence to support
Washington's claims of interference with his efforts to
seek administrative relief, see Inmate Request