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Vallen v. Pierre

United States District Court, E.D. New York

February 14, 2017

BARRY VALLEN, Plaintiff,
v.
MARIE PIERRE, CHERYL DENTON, LAURA ANTINI, DAVID WEIGHMAN, Director of Safety Department, Pilgrim Psychiatric Center, and GORDON MAY, Chief of Services, Pilgrim Psychiatric Center, Defendants.

         APPEARANCES

          For Plaintiff: Barry Vallen, pro se

          For Defendants: Lori L. Pack, Esq. Theresa N. Wilson, Esq. New York State Attorney General's Office

          MEMORANDUM & ORDER

          JOANNA SEYBERT U.S.D.J.

         Currently pending before the Court in this Section 1983 action are: (1) Plaintiff's motion for a temporary restraining order dated May 6, 2016 (Docket Entry 44) and (2) Plaintiff's motion for a temporary restraining order dated May 25, 2016 (Docket Entry 48). For the following reasons, Plaintiff's motions are DENIED.

         BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff Barry Vallen (“Plaintiff”) commenced this action against Marie Pierre, Cheryl Denton, Laura Antini, Gordon May and David Weighman (“Defendants”) on November 20, 2013.[1] (Compl., Docket Entry 1.) Plaintiff is a patient at Pilgrim Psychiatric Center (“Pilgrim”), and Defendants are employed by Pilgrim. The Complaint alleges that Defendants searched Plaintiff's room and confiscated his personal belongings in violation of the Fourth Amendment. (Compl. at 4-6.) On April 14, 2014, Defendants moved to dismiss the Complaint. (Mot., Docket Entry 11.) The motion was referred to Magistrate Judge Arlene R. Lindsay, who issued a Report and Recommendation (the “R&R”) recommending that the motion be granted in part and denied in part. (R&R, Docket Entry 30.) Specifically, Judge Lindsay recommended that Plaintiff's claims for money damages against Defendants in their official capacities be dismissed, but that his claims for injunctive relief against Defendants in their official capacities and his claims for money damages against Defendants in their individual capacities proceed to discovery. (R&R at 16-17.) This Court adopted the R&R in its entirety. (Order, Docket Entry 31.)

         On May 6, 2016, Plaintiff filed a motion seeking a temporary restraining order (“TRO”). (First Mot., Docket Entry 44.) Particularly, he seeks a TRO directing Pilgrim staff to refrain from entering his room and to cease tampering with his mail. (First Mot. at 1.) He alleges that certain correspondence was not delivered to him and that correspondence he attempted to mail was never sent out. (First Mot. at 1-2.) He further alleges that individuals entered his room, went through his drawers and closet and stole his personal belongings. (First Mot. at 2.) Defendants opposed the motion and argued that Plaintiff failed to establish that was entitled to temporary injunctive relief. (Defs.' Ltr., Docket Entry 45.) On May 13, 2016, Plaintiff supplemented his motion and reiterated his request for a TRO. (Pl.'s Ltr., Docket Entry 46.) He maintained that one of the Defendants, Cheryl Denton, entered his room and stole his property, including $25. (Pl.'s Ltr. at 1.)

         On May 25, 2016, Plaintiff filed a second motion for a TRO. (Second Mot., Docket Entry 48.) Plaintiff alleges that he was on the phone complaining about a nurse when a therapy aide threatened him. (Second Mot. at 1.) He states that the aide threatened to harm him if he did not end the call and subsequently went into his room and stole his personal belongings. (Second Mot. at 1.) Additionally, Plaintiff maintains that his room is a “target of any staff that holds a grudge.” (Second Mot. At 1.) He requested that the Court hold a hearing and issue a TRO. (Second Mot. at 1.) On May 25, 2016, he filed a letter requesting a copy of the manual for pro se litigants. (Pl.'s Second Ltr., Docket Entry 49.) On June 6, 2016, he filed a supplement to his motion, alleging that one aide improperly ordered a search of his room and another aide threatened to “punch [his] head throug[h] the wall for defying him.” (Pl.'s Third Ltr., Docket Entry 51.) He also repeats his earlier allegations that Cheryl Denton stole $25 from him and a therapy aide threatened him during a phone call. (Pl.'s Third Ltr.) On June 22, 2016, Plaintiff filed a letter detailing the same allegations against Cheryl Denton and requesting a hearing.[2] (Pl.'s Fourth Ltr., Docket Entry 52.)

         DISCUSSION

         I. Legal Standard

         A party seeking a preliminary injunction must demonstrate “(a) irreparable harm and (b) either (1) likelihood of success on the merits or (2) sufficiently serious questions going to the merits to make them a fair ground for litigation and a balance of hardships tipping decidedly toward the party requesting the preliminary relief.”[3] Johnson v. Connolly, 378 F. App'x 107, 108 (2d Cir. 2010) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted). Additionally, where the movant seeks a “mandatory injunction” that will “alter rather than maintain the status quo, ” he must satisfy the higher standard of establishing “a clear or substantial likelihood of success on the merits.” Id. (internal quotation marks and citation omitted).

         II. Application

         As a preliminary matter, the Court must address Plaintiff's allegations of mail tampering. In his First Motion, Plaintiff requests a TRO directing Pilgrim and its employees to cease tampering with his legal and non-legal mail. (First Mot. at 1.) A patient who is committed to a psychiatric institution has a “right to the free flow of incoming and outgoing mail . protected by the First Amendment.” Davis v. Goord, 320 F.3d 346, 351 (2d Cir. 2003); Ahlers v. Rabinowitz, 684 F.3d 53, 64 (2d Cir. 2012) (applying standards set forth in Davis in civil ...


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