United States District Court, D. Minnesota
Michael D. Benson, Plaintiff,
Emily Johnson Piper, et al., Defendants.
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
N. LEUNG UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE DISTRICT
matter is before the Court, United States Magistrate Judge
Tony N. Leung, on Plaintiff's Motion for Temporary
Restraining Order, (TRO Motion, ECF No. 33), and
Plaintiff's Motion for Amended Temporary Restraining
Order, (Amended TRO Motion, ECF No. 49). These motions have
been referred to the undersigned magistrate judge for a
report and recommendation to the Honorable Donovan W. Frank,
United States District Judge for the District of Minnesota,
pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636 and Local Rule 72.1. Based
on all the files, records, and proceedings herein, and for
the reasons set forth below, this Court recommends that
Plaintiff's motions be denied and this case be stayed.
Michael D. Benson filed his “Complaint for Violations
of Civil Rights under 42 U.S.C. § 1983” on January
27, 2017, bringing claims against 39 individuals- including
Department of Human Services Commissioner Emily Johnson
Piper, facility directors and supervisors, clinical
supervisors, and security counselors-involved in the
operation the Minnesota Sex Offender Program
(“MSOP”) facility located in Moose Lake,
Minnesota. (Compl., ECF No. 1). Benson asserts Defendants are
“harassing and retaliating against [him] with
‘special punishments' for exercising his
constitutionally protected rights.” (Compl. ¶ 10).
Broadly put, Benson asserts Defendants are retaliating
against him for filing a previous lawsuit in this District,
Michael D. Benson v. Emily Johnson Piper, et al.,
Case No. 16-cv-509 (DWF/TNL). (Compl. ¶ 10). In his
previous suit, Benson challenges MSOP's badge policy as
violating his First Amendment rights. Michael D. Benson
v. Emily Johnson Piper, et al., Case No. 16-cv-509
(DWF/TNL).After being served with the present
complaint, Defendants moved to dismiss pursuant to Federal
Rules of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) and 12(b)(6). (ECF No. 24).
Contemporaneously with filing his response to Defendants'
motion to dismiss, Benson filed his TRO Motion.
TRO Motion, Benson seeks to “enjoin Defendants from
disposing/destroying [his] personal property held in
Property.” (TRO Motion, at 1). Benson asserts he is
being held at MSOP Unit Omega 2 which “only allows one
. . . bin of personal property while all other units allow
three . . . bins and [a] TV.” (TRO Motion, at 1).
Benson asserts that, given this policy, his “two bins
of property with TV” will be disposed or destroyed on
August 2, 2017 unless moved to another housing unit. (TRO
Motion, at 1). Benson cites MSOP Property Policy No. 420-5250
(Nov. 1, 2016),  which allows for storage of property for
up to 90 days, during which time “[c]lients must choose
a disposition within 90 days of property storage.” (TRO
Motion, at 1). Benson asserts Defendants have “never
explained or provided a hearing to explain why [he] is being
held in Omega 2 jail as pleaded in the Complaint.” (TRO
Motion, at 1).
oppose Benson's TRO Motion, arguing that the motion is
not sufficiently related to Benson's underlying
complaint, that the motion is moot, and it fails on the
merits. (ECF No. 40). In response, Benson filed an Amended
TRO Motion and supporting memorandum, in which he agrees his
original TRO Motion is moot. (ECF No. 50, at 3) (“[T]he
Defendants moved the Plaintiff to the Omega Three Unit on 23
Jun 17, which negated the need for the TRO.”). In the
Amended TRO Motion, however, Benson shifts the relief he
seeks to the following: enjoining Defendants from denying
Benson access to religious services; enjoining Defendants
from denying Benson access to the gym; and providing a stern
warning to Defendants concerning retaliation. (Amended TRO
Motion, at 1).
Fed.R.Civ.P. 65(a), a court “may issue a preliminary
injunction only on notice to the adverse party.” The
court may issue a temporary restraining order without notice
to the adverse party only if “specific facts . . .
clearly show that immediate and irreparable injury, loss, or
damage will result to the movant before the adverse party can
be heard in opposition” and the movant shows efforts
made to give notice and the reasons why notice should not be
required. Fed.R.Civ.P. 65(b)(1). The “standard for
issuing a TRO or a preliminary injunction is the same.”
C.S. McCrossan Constr., Inc. v. Minnesota Dept.
of Transp., 946 F.Supp.2d 851, 857 n.10 (D. Minn. 2013)
(citing S.B. McLaughling & Co. v. Tudor Oaks Condo.
Project, 877 F.2d 707, 708-09 (8th Cir. 1989)); see
Carlson v. City of Duluth, 958 F.Supp.2d 1040, 1052 n.1
(D. Minn. 2013) (construing ambiguous motion for preliminary
injunction or temporary restraining order as motion for
preliminary injunction where defendant had noticed its
appearance and submitted briefing and because standard was
same between motions). Here, Defendants have had an
opportunity to respond to Plaintiff's original TRO
motion, so the Court will consider Plaintiff's original
TRO motion as seeking a preliminary injunction. C.S.
McCrossan Constr., 946 F.Supp.2d at 857 n.10;
Carlson, 958 F.Supp.2d at 1052 n.1.
the Court should issue a preliminary injunction
“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 litigant; (3) the probability
that movant will succeed on the merits; and (4) the public
interest.” Dataphase Systems, Inc. v. CL Sys.,
Inc., 640 F.2d 109, 114 (8th Cir. 1981) (en banc).
“A preliminary injunction is an extraordinary remedy
and the burden of establishing the propriety of an injunction
is on the movant.” Watkins, Inc. v. Lewis, 346
F.3d 841, 844 (8th Cir. 2003) (internal citations omitted).
“A court issues a preliminary injunction in a lawsuit
to preserve the status quo and prevent irreparable harm until
the court has an opportunity to rule on the lawsuit's
merits.” Devose v. Herrington, 42 F.3d 470,
471 (8th Cir. 1994) (per curiam); see Kelley v. First
Westroads Bank, 840 F.2d 554, 558 (8th Cir. 1988)
(“[T]he well-established function of a temporary
restraining order is to maintain the status quo.”).
“The burden is especially heavy where . . . the moving
party seeks not to maintain the status quo, but to obtain
relief similar to that which it could obtain after a trial on
the merits.” Brooks v. Roy, 881 F.Supp.2d
1034, 1049 (D. Minn. 2012) (citing Sanborn Mfg. Co. v.
Campbell Hausfeld/Scott Feltzer Co., 997 F.2d 484, 486
(8th Cir. 1993)).
in “the 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) (quoting Rogers v. Scurr,
676 F.2d 1211, 1214 (8th Cir. 1982)). These same concerns are
present where the administration of a facility housing
civilly committed sex offenders is concerned. See
Senty-Haugen v. Goodno, 462 F.3d 876, 887 (8th Cir.
2006) (explaining that “federal courts are to give
deference to state officials managing a secure facility, and
[Minnesota Sex] Offender Program staff have a substantial
interest in providing efficient procedures to address
security issues”) (citations omitted); see also
Aune v. Ludeman, Case No. 09-cv-15 (JNE/SRN), 2009 WL
1586739, at *2 (D. Minn. June 3, 2009) (citing deference
principles in the context of considering a civilly committed
individual's motion for a preliminary injunction). The
“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.”
Goff, 60 F.3d at 521 (quoting Rogers, 676
F.2d at 1214).
Benson's TRO Motion
was placed in MSOP's Unit Omega 2 on December 8, 2016
“in response to a series of problematic
behaviors” that included refusing to leave MSOP's
High Security Area (“HSA”). (Aff. of Jana Brister
Korby ¶ 2, Ex. 1, at 1, ECF No. 45). On December 28,
2016, Benson's “behavioral issues had
resolved” to allow his return to regular housing.
(Korby Aff. ¶ 4). Benson, however, refused to leave Unit
Omega 2. (Korby Aff. ¶ 2, Ex. 1, at 1). Benson was moved
from Unit Omega 2 to Unit Omega 3 on June 23, 2017, “to
create space for other MSOP clients whose behavioral problems
warranted placements on Units Omega 1 & 2.” (Korby
Aff. ¶ 5). Now, Benson refuses to leave Unit Omega 3
and return to regular housing. (Korby Aff. ¶ 6).
clients housed in Unit Omega 2 are permitted one storage bin
of personal possessions. (Johnson Aff. ¶ 2, Ex. 1). MSOP
clients housed in Unit Omega 3 or regular housing may have
three storage bins of personal possessions and a television.
(Johnson Aff. ¶ 2, Ex. 1). Before Benson was moved to
Unit Omega 3, he was informed on May 2, 2017, that if he
chose to remain in Unit Omega 2, he would need to be in
compliance with the associated property restrictions.
(Johnson Aff. ¶¶ 4-5).
his TRO Motion, Benson seeks to prevent the destruction of
two property bins and a television pursuant to MSOP property
retention policy. Benson's TRO Motion is based on the
premise that he will lose property on August 2, 2017, 90 days
following the May 2, 2017 notification. (TRO Motion, at 1).
Benson has since been moved to Unit Omega 3, which has a less
restrictive property policy than Unit Omega 2. Under the
property policy of Unit Omega 3, Benson will not lose the
property he seeks to protect in his motion. Accordingly,
Benson's TRO Motion is moot. See, e.g.,
Pratt v. Corrections Corp. of America, 267
F. App'x 482, 483 (8th Cir. 2008) (holding prisoner's
claim for equitable and declaratory remedy was moot where
prisoner was no longer subject to the challenged conditions);
Smith v. Hundley, 190 F.3d 852, 855 (8th Cir. 1999)
(same); Martin v. Sargent, 780 F.2d 1334 (8th Cir.
1985) (same). Moreover, Benson himself concedes that his TRO
Motion is moot in his memorandum accompanying his Amended TRO
Motion. (ECF No. 50, at 2, 3, 7). Therefore, the Court
recommends denying Plaintiff's Motion for Temporary
Restraining Order, (ECF No. 33), as moot. Given the mootness
as agreed by the parties, the Court need not analyze
Defendants' remaining arguments that Benson's TRO
Motion is not sufficiently related to his underlying claims
or that it lacks merit.