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Stone v. Jesson

United States District Court, D. Minnesota

March 7, 2019

Charles Richard Stone, Plaintiff,
v.
Lucinda E. Jesson, et al., Defendants.

          REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

          Hildy Bowbeer, United States Magistrate Judge.

         This matter is before the Court on Plaintiff Charles Richard Stone's Motion for a Temporary Restraining Order [Doc. No. 99]. For the reasons set forth below, the Court recommends that the motion be denied.

         I. Background

         In 2011, Plaintiff initiated this lawsuit challenging the Minnesota Sex Offender Program (“MSOP”) policy governing media possession by clients[1] (“Media Policy”). (Compl. ¶¶ 1-2 [Doc. No. 1].) Through the Media Policy, the MSOP restricts the type and content of pictures, reading materials, music, audio, videos, and video games accessible to clients. (Elsen Decl. Ex. 1 at 1 [Doc. No. 111].) The Media Policy was created to provide guidelines for the approval or restriction of access to media by clients and help facilitate client rehabilitation. (Id.)

         The Media Policy is frequently revised. Relevant here, a version of the Media Policy went into effect on December 4, 2018 (the “Former Policy”). (Stone Decl. (“Pl.'s Decl.”) Ex. C. [Doc. No. 101].) The MSOP proposed revisions to the Former Policy on January 8, 2019, and those revisions were intended to take effect on February 5, 2019 (the “January 2019 Revisions”). (Pl.'s Decl. Ex. D.) But before that happened, the MSOP again revised the Former Policy on February 5, 2019 (the “Current Policy”). (Elsen Decl. ¶ 3.) The Current Policy is now in effect. (Id.)

         Plaintiff filed the instant motion seeking a temporary restraining order (“TRO”) on January 23, 2019-after proposal of the January 2019 Revisions but before implementation of the Current Policy. (Elsen Decl. ¶ 3.) Plaintiff seeks to enjoin Defendants from: (1) rendering effective or enforcing certain revisions to the Former Policy contained in the January 2019 Revisions; (2) taking any action that would amend, modify, adjust, or change the Media Policy; and (3) taking any action to create, amend, modify, adjust, or change any other policy, rule, or practice that would further restrict the right of any client civilly committed in the MSOP “to receive or possess any video beyond the restrictions in place in any policy, rule, or practice, or list of ‘Prohibited' videos” of the MSOP. (Pl.'s Mem. Supp. Mot. TRO (“Pl.'s Mem.”) at 1-3 [Doc. No. 100].)

         II. Applicable Legal Standard

         Courts may grant injunctive relief through a preliminary injunction or a TRO. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 65(a), (b). TROs are appropriate where the moving party shows reason why the opposing party should not be provided advance notice. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 65(b)(1). But where a defendant has an opportunity to respond to a motion for a TRO, the motion will be construed as one for a preliminary injunction. Carlson v. City of Duluth, 958 F.Supp.2d 1040, 1052 n.1 (D. Minn. 2013) (construing motion for TRO as a motion for preliminary injunction where defendant responded to the motion). Accordingly, because Defendants have responded to Plaintiff's motion, the Court construes Plaintiff's motion as one for a preliminary injunction. See id.

         The party seeking a preliminary injunction “must necessarily establish a relationship between the injury claimed in the party's motion and the conduct asserted in the complaint.” Devose v. Herrington, 42 F.3d 470, 471 (8th Cir. 1994) (per curiam). If so related, the court will consider four factors in determining whether to grant a preliminary injunction: “(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 Sys., Inc. v. CL Sys., Inc., 640 F.2d 109, 114 (8th Cir. 1981) (en banc). “The threshold inquiry is whether the movant has shown the threat of irreparable injury.” Gelco Corp. v. Coniston Partners, 811 F.2d 414, 418 (8th Cir. 1987). “Once a court determines that the movant has failed to show irreparable harm absent an injunction, the inquiry is finished and the denial of the injunctive request is warranted.” Id. at 420.

         III. Discussion

         A. Relationship to the Complaint

         Defendants argue that Plaintiff's requested injunctive relief does not relate to the subject matter of the underlying complaint. The purpose of a preliminary injunction is “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). Thus, the moving party “must necessarily establish a relationship between the injury claimed in the party's motion and the conduct asserted in the complaint.” Id.

         Here, Plaintiff's complaint challenges, inter alia, Defendants' implementation of the Media Policy (see Compl. ¶¶ 1-6; Order at 8, Mar. 10, 2017 [Doc. No. 49]), and the instant motion seeks to require Defendants to comply with the Media Policy and enjoin them from making changes to the Media Policy (see Pl.'s Mem. at 1-3). The Court finds the requested relief thus has some relationship to the underlying complaint. Accordingly, the Court cannot conclude the injunctive relief sought in the instant motion is unrelated to the conduct alleged in the Complaint.

         B. Injunctive Relief Preventing Implementation of the ...


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