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Dontie Mitchell v. New York State Department of Correctional Services

November 2, 2011


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Charles J. Siragusa United States District Judge



This is an action in which Plaintiff, a prisoner in the custody of the New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision ("DOCCS"), alleges that defendants violated his federal constitutional rights. Now before the Court is an application by Plaintiff to amend his complaint and for preliminary injunctive relief (Docket No. [#104]). The application is denied.


The reader is presumed to be familiar with the facts of this case. In that regard, the Court recently issued a lengthy Decision and Order (Docket No. [#100]) discussing Plaintiff's claims. It is sufficient to note that Plaintiff is presently asserting the following eight claims: 1) DOCCS' Inmate Grievance Program is unconstitutional; *fn1 2) DOCCS staff misuse the prison disciplinary system to harass inmates; *fn2 3) DOCCS provides an unsafe and psychologically damaging living environment; *fn3 4) DOCCS employees misuse mechanical restraints; *fn4 5) Southport Correctional Facility's ("Southport") mail room Supervisor violates DOCCS rules concerning inmate mail; *fn5 6) DOCCS denies inmates belonging to the Nation of Islam ("NOI") religion a diet that conforms with their beliefs; *fn6 7) Officials at Southport denied Plaintiff religious meals on two occasions *fn7 ; and 8) between May 11, 2010 and May 24, 2010, he "was left in tight mechanical restraints during his daily one hour recreation in a single-man cage at Southport."

On or about April 10, 2011, Plaintiff filed a motion to further amend the complaint, and for injunctive relief. At that time, Plaintiff was housed at Auburn Correctional Facility ("Auburn"). Presently, he is confined at Great Meadow Correctional Facility ("Great Meadow"). Plaintiff has been at Great Meadow since in or about September 2011. Prior to that, Plaintiff was housed at Southport, where he was apparently serving a disciplinary sentence in the Special Housing Unit ("SHU"). Accordingly, it appears that Plaintiff was transferred from Auburn to Southport, and then from Southport to Great Meadow.

The instant motion indicates that in March 2011, Corrections Officers at Auburn confiscated a pamphlet from Plaintiff, which was the "Nduguship Guide published by the Ujaama Fraternal Dynasty (UFD)." Plaintiff contends that he was permitted to have the pamphlet, and that the officers could have confirmed that fact by consulting with the Facility Media Review Committee ("Media Review"). Instead, he maintains, the officers decided that the pamphlet was unauthorized. In addition, the officers searched Plaintiff's cell, and confiscated other "written materials, documents, and property," some of which pertained to UFD, and some of which did not. Subsequently, the officers issued Plaintiff a misbehavior report, for violating Rule 105.14, which relates to unauthorized organizations. At the disciplinary hearing, Plaintiff was found guilty, and sentenced to four months in the SHU and loss of privileges.

Plaintiff seeks to supplement his claims in this action with additional claims pertaining to these events at Auburn. Specifically, he seeks to add six new defendants and several new claims, including a claims that Rule 105.14 is unconstitutional as applied to him, and that the proposed new defendants violated his rights under the First, Fifth and/or Fourteenth Amendments. Plaintiff maintains that these proposed new claims are related to the existing claims in this action, because they are "evidence of how widespread and systemic the issues raised in the . . . Second Amended Complaint are. Because of the issues raised in my first, second, and third claims in my Second Amended Complaint, what happened here is not atypical." In other words, Plaintiff contends that these new allegations pertain to his existing claims in which he seeks redress for an allegedly inadequate inmate grievance program, arbitrary and unconstitutional misuse of the disciplinary program, and the maintenance by DOCCS of an unsafe and psychologically damaging environment.

In addition to seeking to supplement his claims, Plaintiff also requests preliminary injunctive relief, barring DOCCS from forcing him to serve his four-month SHU sentence.


The standard to be applied when considering an application for preliminary injunctive relief is well settled:

A party seeking a preliminary injunction ordinarily must show: (1) a likelihood of irreparable harm in the absence of the injunction; and (2) either a likelihood of success on the merits or sufficiently serious questions going to the merits to make them a fair ground for litigation, with a balance of hardships tipping decidedly in the movant's favor. When the movant seeks a 'mandatory' injunction-that is . . . an injunction that will alter rather than maintain the status quo-[he] must meet the more rigorous standard of demonstrating a 'clear' or 'substantial' likelihood of success on the merits.

Doninger v. Niehoff , 527 F.3d 41,47 (2d Cir. 2008) (citations omitted). Violation of a constitutional right is considered "irreparable harm." Jolly v. Coughlin , 76 F.3d 468, 482 (2d Cir.1996) ("The district court ... properly relied on the presumption of irreparable injury that flows from a violation of constitutional rights."); see also, Charette v. Town of Oyster Bay , 159 F.3d 749, 755 (2d Cir.1998) ("In the context of a motion for a preliminary injunction, violations of First Amendment rights are commonly considered irreparable injuries.") (citation and internal quotation marks omitted). Moreover, "[t]o prevail on a motion for preliminary injunctive relief, the moving party must establish a relationship between the injury claimed in the motion and the conduct giving rise to the complaint." Candelaria v. Baker , No. 00-CV-0912E(SR), 2006 WL 618576 at *3 (W.D.N.Y. Mar. 10, 2006) (citation omitted); accord, Taylor v. Rowland , No. 3:02CV229(DJS)(TPS), 2004 WL 231453 at *2-3 (D.Conn. Feb. 2, 2004).

In this case, Plaintiff's request for injunctive relief must be denied because it is not sufficiently related to the underlying claims in this action, and because it is moot, and accordingly the Court need not reach the merits of the application. The facts underlying the request for injunctive relief are essentially unrelated to the underlying facts of the claims in this action, except for the fact that they arise in the prison context. Moreover, it appears ...

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