United States District Court, W.D. Arkansas, Texarkana Division
O. Hickey United States District Judge.
the Court is the Report and Recommendation filed August 16,
2016, by the Honorable Barry A. Bryant, United States
Magistrate Judge for the Western District of Arkansas. (ECF
No. 31). Judge Bryant recommends that Plaintiff Bradley Craig
Burchfield's Motion to Order for a Preliminary Injunction
and a Temporary Restraining Order (ECF No. 27) be denied.
Plaintiff has timely filed objections to the Report and
Recommendation. (ECF No. 39). The Court finds this matter
ripe for consideration.
case is a § 1983 action brought by Plaintiff, suing
Defendants Chris Walcott and Benny Simmons in both their
official and personal capacities. Plaintiff alleges that while
he was awaiting state charges and incarcerated in the Sevier
County Detention Center (“SCDC”) in De Queen,
Arkansas, SCDC did not have a law library. Plaintiff states
that it is SCDC's policy to provide access to law library
materials through appointed counsel and free phone calls to
counsel. Plaintiff alleges that Defendants denied him access
to a law library at SCDC, which in combination with an
allegedly insufficient public defender, deprived Plaintiff of
meaningful access to the courts. The record shows that
Plaintiff is no longer incarcerated at SCDC, and is currently
incarcerated at the Arkansas Department of Correction - East
Arkansas Regional Unit in Marianna, Arkansas. (ECF No. 17).
This remains Plaintiff's address of record.
24, 2016, Plaintiff filed the present pro se case in
the United States District Court for the Eastern District of
Arkansas. On May 27, 2016, the case was transferred to the
Western District of Arkansas. On August 9, 2016, Plaintiff
filed a motion asking the Court to enjoin Defendants and
others from “barring defendants in criminal proceedings
being held at the Sevier County Detention Center from the use
of the law library.” (ECF No. 27). Plaintiff argued that he
fears he will be transferred back to SCDC for trial and that
he will be held in administrative segregation, thus denying
him use of the law library. He claims that denial of access
could prevent him from representing himself at trial.
August 10, 2016, Defendants filed a response to
Plaintiff's motion, with an accompanying brief in
support. (ECF Nos. 29-30). Defendants argued that Plaintiff
failed to meet his burden of proving that a preliminary
injunction or temporary restraining order should be issued.
Defendants argued in the alternative that Plaintiff's
motion is moot because Plaintiff is no longer incarcerated at
August 23, 2016, Plaintiff filed a reply to Defendants'
response. (ECF No. 37). Plaintiff argued that his
motion is not moot because he will be transferred to SCDC at
some point. Plaintiff reiterated his argument that denial of
access to a law library will impede his ability to litigate
his criminal case. Plaintiff argued that the threat of this
occurring is “both real and immediate, ” and
claimed that “[o]ne inmate was locked in solitary
confinement and denied his legal mail for several
months.” (ECF No. 37). Plaintiff's reply also
argued that his equal protection rights were violated because
inmates with more serious charges were given the same
plea-bargain offer made to him.
to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1) & (3), the Court referred
this case to Judge Bryant for the purpose of making a Report
and Recommendation. On August 16, 2016, Judge Bryant issued a
Report and Recommendation, recommending that Plaintiff's
motion be denied. (ECF No. 31). Judge Bryant recommended that
Plaintiff's claim for injunctive relief is moot due to
the fact that he is no longer incarcerated at SCDC. Judge
Bryant recommended that, even if the claim was not moot,
Plaintiff failed to provide any evidence to demonstrate he
will sustain irreparable harm if the Court does not issue
injunctive relief. Judge Bryant also recommended that it is
questionable whether Plaintiff will succeed on the merits of
his claim against SCDC for denial of access to the law
library. Judge Bryant concluded that Plaintiff's motion
should be denied. On August 29, 2016, Plaintiff timely filed
objections to the Report and Recommendation. (ECF No. 39).
of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure governs preliminary
injunctions and temporary restraining orders. The
determination of whether a preliminary injunction is
warranted involves consideration of: “(1) the threat of
irreparable harm to the movant; (2) the state of balance
between this harm and the injury that granting the injunction
will inflict on other parties . . .; (3) the probability that
[the] movant will succeed on the merits; and (4) the public
interest.” Dataphase Sys., Inc. v. C L Sys.,
Inc., 640 F.2d 109, 114 (8th Cir. 1981). “The
party seeking injunctive relief bears the burden of proving
all the Dataphase factors.” Watkins Inc.
v. Lewis, 346 F.3d 841, 844 (8th Cir. 2003).
Importantly, a movant's “[f]ailure to show
irreparable harm is an independently sufficient ground upon
which to deny a preliminary injunction.” Id.
prison context, a request for injunctive relief “must
always be viewed with great caution because judicial
restraint is especially called for in dealing with the
complex and intractable problems of prison
administration.” Goff v. Harper, 60 F.3d 518,
520 (8th Cir. 1995) (internal quotation marks omitted).
Courts “should not get involved unless either a
constitutional violation has already occurred or the threat
of such a violation is both real and immediate.”
Id. at 521.
to 28 U.S.C. § 646(b)(1), the Court will conduct a
de novo review of all issues related to
Plaintiff's specific objections. Plaintiff's
objections are largely unresponsive to Judge Bryant's
recommendations, but Plaintiff does specifically object to
the recommendation that Plaintiff's claim for injunctive
relief was rendered moot by his transfer from SCDC. Plaintiff
does not explicitly object to Judge Bryant's
recommendation that Plaintiff has failed to show he will
suffer irreparable harm absent an injunction and that he is
likely to succeed on the merits, but as discussed below,
these arguments may be inferred from the objections.
Mootness of Plaintiff's Claim for Injunctive
Bryant recommended that Plaintiff's motion for
preliminary injunction was rendered moot by his transfer from
SCDC. Plaintiff objected, stating that he has an upcoming
trial in Sevier County, Arkansas, and asserting that he will
be transferred to SCDC for the trial; thus “this
subject could re-occur which would argue the point of being
moot.” (ECF No. 39). Plaintiff also stated that there
are other pre-trial detainees in SCDC who are suffering the
Eighth Circuit provides that a prisoner's request for
injunctive relief is generally rendered moot by the
prisoner's transfer to a different facility in which the
alleged unlawful condition does not exist. See Smith v.
Hundley, 190 F.3d 852, 855 (8th Cir. 1999); Martin
v. Sargent, 780 F.2d 1334, 1337 (8th Cir. 1985).
However, in exceptional situations, the Eighth Circuit has
exception to prisoners' otherwise moot injunctive-relief
requests where: (1) the challenged action is too short in
duration to be fully litigated prior to cessation or
expiration; and (2) there is a reasonable expectation that
the same complaining party will be subject to ...