United States District Court, W.D. Wisconsin
D. PETERSON DISTRICT JUDGE
plaintiff Demetrius Cooper, a state prisoner confined at the
Waupun Correctional Institution (WCI), is proceeding on
claims under the First and Eighth Amendments against
defendants Sergeant Jeffrey Meyer, Correctional Officer
Patrick Gorman, and Captain Cory Sabish of WCI. He alleges
that Meyer used excessive force when restraining Cooper with
handcuffs, that Gorman and Sabish failed to intervene despite
witnessing the use of excessive force, that all three
defendants demonstrated deliberate indifference to
Cooper's medical need caused by Meyer's excessive
force, and that Gorman later retaliated against Cooper by
placing a razor blade in Cooper's food. Cooper now moves
for a preliminary injunction under Federal Rule of Civil
Procedure 65. Dkt. 33. Specifically, he asks the court to
prevent Gorman from having any interaction with him. He also
asks the court to order defendants to preserve the razor
blade as evidence, Dkt. 64, and to grant him leave to amend
his complaint, Dkt. 67. I will deny his motions.
Motion for preliminary injunction
preliminary injunction is “an extraordinary and drastic
remedy” that should be granted only when the movant
carries the burden of persuasion by a “clear
showing.” Boucher v. Sch. Bd. of the Sch.
Dist. of Greenfield, 134 F.3d 821, 823 (7th Cir. 1998)
(quoting Mazurek v. Armstrong, 520 U.S. 968, 972
(1997)). To obtain injunctive relief, Cooper must show that
(1) he will suffer irreparable harm before the final
resolution of his claim without a preliminary injunction; (2)
traditional legal remedies are inadequate; and (3) his claims
has some likelihood of success on the merits. BBL, Inc.
v. City of Angola, 809 F.3d 317, 323-24 (7th Cir. 2015).
If Cooper makes this showing, he must further demonstrate
that the balance of harms tips in his favor and that the
public interest favors the injunctive relief. Id.
Prison Litigation Reform Act limits the scope of preliminary
injunctive relief in cases challenging prison conditions.
Under the PLRA, the injunctive relief to remedy prison
conditions must be “narrowly drawn, extend no further
than necessary to correct the harm the court finds requires
preliminary relief, and be the least intrusive means
necessary to correct that harm.” 18 U.S.C. §
3626(a)(2); see also Westefer v. Neal, 682 F.3d 679,
681 (7th Cir. 2012). The PLRA also requires the court to
“give substantial weight to any adverse impact on
public safety or the operation of a criminal justice system
caused by the preliminary relief.” § 3626.
Cooper has not shown that the preliminary injunction he
requests will correct any harm or that the potential benefit
will outweigh the burden on the prison system. According to
Cooper, Gorman was passing out lunch trays on March 8, 2017,
while Cooper was discussing this lawsuit. Gorman told Cooper,
“You won't get a chance to enjoy any of it.”
Dkt. 38, ¶ 3. Cooper began eating his soup and
discovered a razor in it, which cut his mouth. When Gorman
and Correctional Officer Jason Rosenthal returned to pick up
the empty lunch trays, Cooper told them about the razor.
Cooper (and several other inmates, according to their
affidavits) heard Gorman tell Rosenthal, “I put that
there hoping [Cooper would] swallow it.” Id.
¶ 6. Defendants agree that Cooper handed Rosenthal part
of a razor blade on March 8, but as one might imagine, they
dispute the rest of Cooper's account. So if the sole
question to be answered were whether Gorman placed a razor
blade in Cooper's soup, an evidentiary hearing would be
necessary. See Dexia Crédit Local v. Rogan,
602 F.3d 879, 884 (7th Cir. 2010).
here, I can deny Cooper's motion without answering this
question. Even if Cooper's version of the March 8 events
is true, Cooper has not shown that Gorman is likely to make a
successful attempt on Cooper's life in the future, and he
certainly has not shown that the benefit of a court order
preventing Gorman for having any interaction with Cooper
would outweigh the substantial burden the injunction would
impose on WCI's administration. Cooper contends that
Gorman will kill him. To be sure, death is an irreparable
harm. But Cooper adduces no evidence to show that Gorman
could or would make another attempt on Cooper's life.
There is no indication that Gorman has harmed Cooper, or even
threatened to harm him, since placing a razor blade in
Cooper's bowl of soup-which seems to be an ineffective
method of murder, as evidenced by the fact that Cooper claims
only to have suffered a few minor lacerations. See
Dkt. 45-1. Gorman now works in other areas of WCI, and the
parties agree that Gorman and Cooper have minimal day-to-day
contact. An injunction would simply change
“minimal” contact to no contact, slightly
reducing the already low risk of harm to Cooper. Meanwhile,
the injunction would impose a large burden on the prison
system. It would require altering several staff members'
work schedules and would force supervisors to confirm where
Cooper was before directing Gorman to work, severely impeding
the efficiency of the WCI staff. See Dkt. 63,
¶¶ 32-34. So I will deny Cooper's motion for a
Motion to preserve evidence
moves the court to order defendants to preserve the razor
blade in question for DNA testing. Dkt. 64. But the razor
blade was disposed of long before Cooper filed his motion.
See Dkt. 53-2 and Dkt. 69, ¶ 9. So I will deny
Cooper's motion as moot.
Motion for leave to amend
moves for leave to amend his complaint to add a Fourteenth
Amendment due process claim against Rosenthal. Under Federal
Rule of Civil Procedure 15 the court should freely give leave
to amend a complaint when justice so requires. I must screen
Cooper's proposed new claim under 28 U.S.C. § 1915A,
just as I screened the claims in his original complaint.
contends that Rosenthal violated his due process rights by
intentionally destroying the razor blade, the “only
piece of evidence that would prove Cooper's First
Amendment retaliation claim against Gorman.” Dkt. 67,
at 1. The Fourteenth Amendment's Due Process Clause
prohibits states from “depriv[ing] any person of life,
liberty, or property, without due process of law.” U.S.
Const. amend. XIV, § 1. It's true that
“bad-faith destruction of exculpatory evidence”
in a criminal case violates the Due Process Clause.
Armstrong v. Daily, 786 F.3d 529, 552 (7th Cir.
2015). But this is a civil suit, and there is no indication
that Rosenthal disposed of the razor blade (which is not
exculpatory evidence) in bad faith. So Cooper does not state
a claim under the Due Process Clause.
thorough, I'll note that Cooper does not state an
access-to-the-courts claim, either. As I explained in an
earlier order denying Cooper leave to proceed against
Rosenthal, Dkt. 34, at 7-8, to state such a claim, an inmate
must allege that the defendant actually “hindered his
efforts to pursue a legal claim.” Lewis v.
Casey, 518 U.S. 343, 351 (1996). Here, Cooper has been
able to bring his claim concerning the March 8 incident