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Wulffers v. Graham

United States District Court, D. Maryland

December 8, 2017

THEODORE WILLIAM WULFFERS, Plaintiff
v.
WARDEN RICHARD GRAHAM, JR., et al. Defendants

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          PAUL W. GRIRMN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         In this civil rights action, Plaintiff Theodore Wulffers alleges that prison officials have failed to act after being informed that Plaintiff has been subject to assaults and threats by gang-affiliated inmates. ECF No. I. He titled his Complaint as a "Request for temporary restraining order/And or Injunctive relief/And or Declaratory relief/Appropriate relief under 42 U.S.C. 91983, " id at 1, and among other things, Plaintiff seeks to be immediately placed on administrative segregation for his safety and to be transferred from his current correctional facility, id at 13. On December 1, 2017, Plaintiff filed a Motion for Protective Order. ECF No. 5. For the reasons that follow, the Court grants the Motion to the extent that Plaintiff seeks a temporary restraining order requiring the prison to house him in protective custody or administrative segregation, until such time as the matter of Plaintiff's requested injunctive relief can be fully briefed and resolved or upon the expiration of 14 days, whichever is earlier.

         BACKGROUND

         In 2012, Plaintiff informed correctional officers at Maryland Correctional Institution-Hagerstown ("MCI-H") that he faced threats from members of a particular Security Threat Group ("STG"). Compl. 5. Plaintiff was placed in administrative segregation for his protection before being transferred to a different institution for his "safety and welfare." Id. at 5-6. In 2015, Plaintiff was sent back to MCI-H; even though he had informed correctional officers of the safety risk of being placed near members of the STO. Id. at 6. In 2016, members of the STO assaulted Plaintiff, resulting in serious injuries and treatment at a hospital. Id. at 6-7.

         At some point, Plaintiff was transferred to Western Correctional Institution ("WCI"). In October 2017, Plaintiff told WCI correctional officers that his

life was in danger, that if he stayed on compound or prison he would be stabbed or worse, ... [and that the STO members] in building 3 and compound found out who [he] was and told [him] that [he] had to pay $100 a month to stay on compound or else they would fly me out in a body bag[.] [P]laintiff explained in detail his history and that [the STO members] had a hit on him and hit him once already [P]laintiff asked to be placed on administrative segregation] for safety and welfare[.]

Id. at 9. The officers refused to take action and told Plaintiff to return to his housing assignment (which was presumably in Building 3, where Plaintiff faced the STO threat). Id. Plaintiff refused and was given a disciplinary "ticket" for refusing housing and disobeying a direct order. Id. Following his October 16, 2017 hearing on the disciplinary ticket, Plaintiff was sentenced to 15 days of "lockup." Id at 10.

         On October 23, 2017, prior to the expiration of his 15-day sentence, Plaintiff was told that he would be released from lockup and returned to Building 3. Id. He again expressed concerns for his safety, asked to be placed in administrative segregation, and was given a disciplinary ticket for refusing housing. Id. Following a hearing, Plaintiff was sentenced to 45 days of lockup for this violation. Id. at 11.

         Plaintiff filed this civil rights action on November 3, 2017. Id. Among other claims, Plaintiff alleges that correctional officers are deliberately indifferent to his safety, and he seeks permanent injunctive relief in the form of a placement in administrative segregation and a prison transfer. Id. at 13-14. On December 6, 2017, the Court ordered Defendants to show cause why Plaintiffs requested injunctive relief should not be granted. ECF NO.6.

         On December 1, 2017, Plaintiff filed a Motion for Protective Order. ECF NO.5. The Motion is broadly framed and includes some generic assertions that correctional officers have history of retaliating against inmates who file complaints, without alleging any specific retaliatory acts that Plaintiff has been subject to after filing this action. See, e.g., Id. at 1-2. In this Motion he seeks protection from the vague possibility of retaliation by the correctional officers, unlike in his Complaint in which he seeks immediate protection from other inmates for specific reasons.

         While the Motion does not meet the requirements for immediate injunctive relief, in the cover letter that accompanied it, ECF No. 3, Plaintiff stresses the urgency of his requests for injunctive relief in his Complaint. Indeed, by my calculations, Plaintiff could be returned to the general population as soon as this Sunday, December 10, 2017. Therefore, I will construe the Complaint to incorporate a motion for a TRO and order temporary injunctive relief while Plaintiffs request for preliminary injunctive relief is briefed and resolved.

         DISCUSSION

         a. TRO/Preliminary injunction requirements generally

         The purpose of a TRO or 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 TRO only by the difference in notice to the nonmoving party and by the duration of the injunction. Us. 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)). A preliminary injunction cannot issue without notice to the nonmovant. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 65(a)(1). As the show cause order was only recently ...


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