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Jackson v. Gutzmer

United States District Court, D. Minnesota

September 19, 2017

RONNIE JEROME JACKSON, III, Plaintiff,
v.
JEFF GUTZMER, NATALIE LESEMAN, MICHELLE SMITH, and TAMMY WHERLEY, in their individual capacities, Defendants. RONNIE J. JACKSON, Plaintiff,
v.
JEFF GUTZMER and NATALIE LESEMAN, in their individual capacities; and MICHELLE SMITH AND TAMMY WHERLEY, jointly and severally in their individual capacities; and TOM ROY, in his official capacity Defendants. RONNIE JEROME JACKSON, III, Plaintiff,
v.
MICHELLE SMITH and TAMMY WHERLEY, in their individual capacities; and TOM ROY, in his official capacity, Defendants.

          Ronnie Jerome Jackson, III, No. 239471, MCF-Oak Park Heights, pro se.

          Lindsay LaVoie, Assistant Attorney General, MINNESOTA ATTORNEY GENERAL'S OFFICE, for defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER ADOPTING REPORTS AND RECOMMENDATIONS OF THE MAGISTRATE JUDGE

          JOHN R. TUNHEIM Chief Judge United States District Court

         Plaintiff Ronnie Jackson, a Minnesota prisoner, filed his first complaint alleging certain Defendants deprived him of due process and his First Amendment rights. Jackson's claims related to: Defendants withholding images from his mail on the grounds, which Jackson disputes, that the images contained impermissible nudity; and Defendants' failure to respond to Jackson's non-delivery of mail appeal request. Jackson filed a motion for a preliminary injunction to enjoin Defendant Jeff Gutzmer from contacting Jackson, asserting Gutzmer denied Jackson mail as retaliation for pending litigation against Gutzmer.[1] Jackson then filed a second complaint alleging certain Defendants wrongfully withheld an art catalog from his mail. Jackson subsequently filed a third complaint alleging certain Defendants wrongfully withheld a book on nude photography from his mail. United States Magistrate Judge Becky R. Thorson issued two Report and Recommendations (“R&R”) recommending the Court deny Jackson's motion for a preliminary injunction and consolidate the first and second cases. Jackson filed timely objections. For the reasons set forth in detail below, the Court will overrule Jackson's objections and adopt the R&Rs. The Court will also consolidate the third case and deem any future claim of wrongfully withheld mail filed by Jackson a related and consolidated case.

         BACKGROUND

         Jackson filed a Complaint on November 4, 2016 claiming certain Defendants deprived him of due process and his First Amendment rights by withholding images from his mail and failing to respond to his appeal of non-delivery (“Case 1”). (Case 1 Compl., Attach. 1 ¶¶ 9-11, Nov 4, 2016, Docket No. 1.)[2] In Case 1, Jackson asserts Defendants confiscated his images to retaliate against him for pending litigation against Gutzmer. (Id. ¶¶ 9, 24.) Jackson also moved for a preliminary injunction in Case 1 to prevent Gutzmer from contacting him. (Case 1 Mot. for Prelim. Inj. at 1-2, Nov. 4, 2016, Docket No. 3.) Jackson alleges that, absent an injunction, Gutzmer will continue to violate his constitutional rights creating further litigation between the parties. (Case 1 Pl.'s Mem. in Supp. of Mot. for Prelim. Inj. at 1, Nov. 4, 2016, Docket No. 4.) Defendants claim they properly withheld the images, but admit they did not respond to Jackson's appeal for nondelivery of mail. (Case 1 Answer ¶¶ 15, 20, May 1, 2017, Docket No. 26.) The magistrate judge issued an R&R with respect to Case 1 on February 6, 2017, recommending the Court deny Jackson's motion for a preliminary injunction. (Case 1 R&R at 4, Feb. 6 2017, Docket No. 8.) The magistrate judge reasoned that Jackson failed to show the absence of a preliminary injunction would cause Jackson irreparable harm. (Id.)

         Jackson filed a second Complaint on December 29, 2016, alleging certain Defendants deprived him of due process and his First Amendment rights by withholding a catalog from his mail because it contained nudity (“Case 2”). (Case 2 Compl. at 6, Dec. 29, 2016, Docket No. 1.) In Case 2, Jackson asserts that, because he received the catalog for educational purposes, the Department of Corrections wrongfully withheld the catalog and violated his Constitutional rights. (Id.) On February 7, 2017, the magistrate judge found Case 2 was factually and legally similar to Case 1 and ordered the parties to show cause why the cases should not be consolidated. (Case 2 Order Granting Appl. to Proceed in District Ct. Without Prepaying Fees or Costs at 4, Feb. 7, 2017, Docket No. 3.) Jackson objected, arguing the cases should not be consolidated because the cases involve separate events and seek different remedies. (Case 2 Mem. in Opp'n. to Consolidation ¶¶ 1-2, Feb. 16, 2017, Docket No. 7.) The magistrate judge issued an R&R recommending the Court consolidate the cases. (Case 2 R&R at 4, May 18, 2017, Docket No. 17.) The R&R reasoned that the Court has broad discretion to consolidate cases sharing common issues of law or fact under Fed.R.Civ.P. 42 and that Jackson's concerns did not preclude consolidation. (Id. at 2-4.)

         Jackson filed a third Complaint on April 10, 2017, alleging certain Defendants violated his First and Eighth Amendment rights by wrongfully withholding a book about nude photography from his mail (“Case 3”). (Case 3 Compl. ¶¶ 10, 22, 26, Apr. 10, 2017, Docket No. 1.) Jackson alleges certain Defendants withheld the book in retaliation for his pending litigation against certain Defendants. (Id.)

         DISCUSSION

         I. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         Upon the filing of an R&R by a magistrate judge, “a party may serve and file specific written objections to the proposed findings and recommendations.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(b)(2); accord D. Minn. LR 72.2(b)(1). “The district judge must determine de novo any part of the magistrate judge's disposition that has been properly objected to.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(b)(3); accord D. Minn. LR 72.2(b)(3). “The district judge may accept, reject, or modify the recommended disposition; receive further evidence; or return the matter to the magistrate judge with instructions.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(b)(3); accord D. Minn. LR 72.2(b)(3).

         II. PRELIMINARY INJUNCTION

         Jackson first objects to the magistrate judge's recommendation that the Court deny his motion for a preliminary injunction in Case 1. To decide whether the magistrate judge properly denied the motion for a preliminary injunction, the Court considers four factors: “(1) the threat of irreparable harm to the movant; (2) the . . . balance between this harm and the injury that granting the injunction will inflict on [the other party]; (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).

         As highlighted by the magistrate judge, Jackson's failure to present evidence regarding a threat of irreparable harm is sufficient to deny Jackson's motion for a preliminary injunction. Irreparable harm is harm that is “‘certain and great and of such imminence that there is a clear and present need for equitable relief.'” Roudachevski v. All-Am. Care Ctrs., Inc., 648 F.3d 701, 706 (8th Cir. 2011) (quoting Iowa Utils. Bd. v. FCC,109 F.3d 418, 425 (8th Cir. 1996)). Speculative harm or the mere possibility of harm is insufficient to warrant preliminary injunctive relief. Winter v. Nat. Res. Def. Council, Inc., 555 U.S. 7, 22 (2008) (noting that “[i]ssuing a preliminary injunction based only on a possibility of irreparable harm is ...


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