United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, South Bend Division
TRAVIS A. SMITH, Plaintiff,
INDIANA DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS, Defendants.
OPINION AND ORDER
L. Miller, Jr. Judge
A. Smith, a pro se prisoner, is proceeding on a
claim that the defendant, Officer Anthony Conrad, used
excessive force on him on December 11, 2015. Mr. Smith has
moved for a temporary restraining order against Officer
Conrad. Mr. Smith says Officer Conrad has been taunting him
about this lawsuit. Mr. Smith fears that Officer Conrad may
retaliate against him in the future. He asks that the prison
order Officer Conrad to stay away from him until August 28,
2017, when he is released from incarceration.
preliminary injunction is an extraordinary and drastic
remedy, one that should not be granted unless the movant, by
a clear showing, carries the burden of persuasion.”
Mazurek v. Armstrong, 520 U.S. 968, 972 (1997). To
obtain preliminary injunctive relief, the moving party must
demonstrate that he or she has a reasonable likelihood of
success on the merits, lacks an adequate remedy at law, and
will suffer irreparable harm if immediate relief is not
granted. Girl Scouts of Manitou Council, Inc. v.
Girl Scouts of U.S., Inc., 549 F.3d 1079, 1086 (7th Cir.
2008). Finally, the court must consider the interest of the
public and non-parties in denying or granting the injunction.
Ty Inc. v. The Jones Group, Inc., 237 F.3d 891, 895
(7th Cir. 2001). Obtaining a TRO requires the movant to
satisfy an even higher standard, by showing “that
immediate and irreparable injury, loss, or damage will result
to the movant before the adverse party can be heard in
opposition.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 65(b)(1)(A).
Smith hasn't met these requirements. To start, he
hasn't shown a likelihood of success on the merits. While
his motion asks for a temporary restraining order based on
Officer Conrad's recent harassment, this case is about
money damages for one past incident of alleged use of
excessive force. Because this motion seeks relief outside the
scope of the complaint, Mr. Smith can't obtain this
relief here. See Williams v. Evelsizer, No.
12-CV-1082, 2013 WL 3337956, * 1 (July 2, 2013 S.D. Ill.)
(holding that a plaintiff is not likely to succeed on the
merits when he seeks injunctive relief outside the scope of
the verbal harassment Mr. Smith alleges doesn't trigger
constitutional protections. See DeWalt v. Carter,
224 F.3d 607, 612 (7th Cir. 2000) (“[S]imple verbal
harassment does not constitute cruel and unusual punishment,
deprive a prisoner of a protected liberty interest or deny a
prisoner equal protection of the laws.”). In limited
situations, verbal abuse can constitute cruel and unusual
punishment under the Eighth Amendment. Beal v.
Foster, 803 F.3d 356, 357-58 (7th Cir. 2015). In
Beal, the guard called an inmate terms like
“punk, fag, sissy and queer, ” in the presence of
other inmates thereby “increas[ing] the likelihood of
sexual assaults on him.” Id. at 358. Because
the harassment “may have made him a pariah to his
fellow inmates and inflicted significant psychological harm
on him, ” the court found that the harassment was
actionable. Id. at 359. Mr. Smith alleges nothing
like that. Officer Conrad's alleged comments - which were
unprofessional if they were made - have neither harmed nor
increased the risk of any future harm to Mr. Smith. There are
no allegations that Officer Conrad took any action in
furtherance of any of the alleged verbal harassment. Nor is
there any indication that these comments caused Mr. Smith to
suffer any psychological harm. The statements don't
plausibly give rise to a constitutional claim. DeWalt v.
Carter, 224 F.3d at 612.
prisoner seeks injunctive relief against correctional
officials the last factor - public interest - takes on
particular importance. Under the Prison Litigation Reform
Act, injunctive relief must be “narrowly drawn, extend
no further than necessary to remedy the constitutional
violation, and must use the least intrusive means to correct
the violation of the federal right.” Westefer v.
Neal, 682 F.3d 679, 681 (7th Cir. 2012). “[T]he
problems of prisons in America are complex and intractable,
” and “courts are particularly ill equipped to
deal with these problems[.]” Shaw v. Murphy,
532 U.S. 223, 229 (2001) (internal quote marks and citation
omitted). Courts must give prison officials
“wide-ranging deference” (though not a blind eye)
in the day-to-day operations of a correctional facility.
Bell v. Wolfish, 441 U.S. 520, 547 (1979).
policy weighs against granting this requested injunction.
What Mr. Smith wants - an order that Officer Conrad stay away
and not harass him - would require constant monitoring by the
court and involve the court in every instance of discipline,
denial of privileges or assignment of officers. Getting
involved in this matter is the type of day-to-day operations
the court tries to avoid. Such decisions are better left to
the correctional facility's deference, so the court will
deny this motion at this juncture. Nevertheless, the
Superintendent will be provided with a copy of this order so
that he is aware of these issues and this litigation so he
can best decide how to proceed.
these reasons, the court:
(1) DENIES the motion for a temporary restraining order (ECF
(2) DIRECTS the clerk to send a copy of Mr. Smith's
motion (ECF 22) along with a copy of this order to the
Superintendent of ...