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DAVIDSON v. SCULLY

January 18, 1996

RONALD DAVIDSON, Plaintiff, against CHARLES SCULLY, et al., Defendants. RONALD DAVIDSON, Plaintiff, - against - CHARLES SCULLY, et al., Defendants. RONALD DAVIDSON, Plaintiff, - against - THOMAS COUGHLIN, III, et al., Defendants. RONALD DAVIDSON, Plaintiff, - against - THOMAS COUGHLIN, III, et al., Defendants.


The opinion of the court was delivered by: LEISURE

 LEISURE, District Judge:

 Plaintiff has moved for a preliminary injunction against the defendants to "correct" certain conditions of his incarceration in the special housing unit at Auburn Correctional Facility. Specifically, he requests certain medical care regarding his eye condition, tinnitus, allergies, podiatric condition, post-surgery hernia condition, knee condition, urological problems, dermatological problems, and cardiological problems; he requests certain furnishings and supplies for his cell to ease his writing; he requests that his exercise conditions be improved and made more secure; and he requests that his kosher diet be maintained, even when he is placed on a restricted diet as punishment for violating prison rules.

 "A party seeking injunctive relief ordinarily must show: (a) that it will suffer irreparable harm in the absence of an injunction and (b) either (i) likelihood of success on the merits or (ii) sufficiently serious questions going to the merits to make them a fair ground for litigation and a balance of hardships tipping decidedly in the movant's favor." Tom Doherty Assocs., Inc. v. Saban Entertainment, Inc., 60 F.3d 27, 33 (2d Cir. 1995). However, in this application for an injunction forcing the defendants to change certain prison conditions, "'appropriate consideration must be given to principles of federalism in determining the availability and scope of equitable relief,' particularly when it comes to regulating a state's administration of its own facilities, including its schools and prisons." Dean v. Coughlin, 804 F.2d 207, 213 (2d Cir. 1986) (citation omitted) (quoting Rizzo v. Goode, 423 U.S. 362, 379, 46 L. Ed. 2d 561, 96 S. Ct. 598 (1976)). In fact, the Second Circuit has held that where a preliminary injunction "seeks to stay governmental action taken in the public interest pursuant to a statutory or regulatory scheme, the less rigorous fair-ground-for-litigation standard should not be applied." Sweeney v. Bane, 996 F.2d 1384, 1388 (2d Cir. 1993) (internal quotation marks omitted). Therefore, out of deference to the state's judgments on how to administer its prisons, the Court holds that an application of the less rigorous standard is inappropriate. Cf. Anderson v. Coughlin, 757 F.2d 33, 35 (2d Cir. 1985) ("Judicial reluctance stems not from insensitivity; rather it reflects an awareness of the relatively narrow authority of judges and the appropriate, but by no means unlimited, deference to be accorded the decisions of prison administrators."). Therefore, before the Court can consider granting the requested injunction, plaintiff must demonstrate irreparable harm and a likelihood of success on the merits. The Court will consider the separate categories of complaints individually.

 1. Medical Claims

 Plaintiff's request for a preliminary injunction regarding his medical conditions must fail because he has not shown a likelihood of success on the merits of these claims. "To establish an unconstitutional denial of medical care, a prisoner must prove 'deliberate indifference to [his] serious medical needs.'" Hathaway v. Coughlin, 37 F.3d 63, 66 (2d Cir. 1994) (alteration in original) (quoting Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 104, 50 L. Ed. 2d 251, 97 S. Ct. 285 (1976)), cert. denied, 115 S. Ct. 1108 (1995). This test includes both an objective and subjective element.

 
First, the alleged deprivation must be, in objective terms "sufficiently serious." Wilson v. Seiter, 501 U.S. 294, 298, 115 L. Ed. 2d 271, 111 S. Ct. 2321 (1991). See Nance v. Kelly, 912 F.2d 605, 607 (2d Cir. 1990) (Pratt, J., dissenting) (standard contemplates "a condition of urgency, one that may produce death, degeneration, or extreme pain").

 Hathaway, 37 F.3d at 66. The second, subjective element of the standard requires that the charged official act with "more than negligence, but less than conduct undertaken for the very purpose of causing harm." Id.

 Plaintiff here has failed to satisfy the Court that there is a likelihood of success on the merits in establishing the first element. The logic by which failures in medical treatment are actionable under 42 U.S.C. ┬ž 1983 is that denial of medical care may rise to the level of cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the Eighth Amendment. Plaintiff's medical complaints spring from conditions which do not produce death, degeneration, or extreme pain. His complaints, though serious, concern conditions which many people suffer from and function despite on a day-to-day basis and the fact that a sufferer is incarcerated does not elevate every perceived lack of treatment to the level of cruel and unusual punishment. The state need not treat these conditions at a level that "exceeds what the average reasonable person would expect or avail herself of in life outside the prison walls. The [Auburn Correctional Facility] is not a health spa, but a prison in which convicted felons are incarcerated." Dean, 804 F.2d at 215.

 Plaintiff's eye condition amounts to a demand to be housed in a smoke-free environment, to be given a particular type of eye drops, and to be given new eyeglasses. Plaintiff asserts that the smoke-free environment and eye drops are necessary to ameliorate his eye condition. However, the Court finds that even if the defendants were deliberately indifferent to plaintiff's eye condition, it is not sufficiently serious that their shortcoming would amount to a constitutional violation. Plaintiff's request for new eyeglasses also does not present a constitutional claim, because it is unlikely that he can show deliberate indifference on the part of defendants, in light of their repeated attempts to provide eyeglasses that satisfy plaintiff.

 Plaintiff's tinnitus also is not an urgent medical condition the maltreatment of which presents a constitutional claim. Tinnitus is a condition of the ear manifested in a ringing sensation in the sufferer. While this condition may very well be painful, it does not cause death, and plaintiff has not adduced sufficient evidence that his condition is degenerative or causes extreme pain. His supporting papers rather contain a collection of complaints of circumstances that make his condition more difficult to bear, such as a noisy environment, insufficient supply of ear plugs, failure to provide him with the medicine of his choice, and failure to permit him to participate in a sleep study. These circumstances, which if changed might ease his condition, do not amount to cruel and unusual punishment.

 Because the Court finds that plaintiff cannot demonstrate a likelihood of success on the merits by satisfying the objective element of the deliberate indifference standard, the Court need not undertake to determine whether plaintiff has demonstrated a likelihood of success on the merits of showing that the nearly constant medical attention plaintiff receives actually masks a deliberate pattern to deny necessary treatment or deliberate indifference to his ...


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