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Griffith v. Aranas

United States District Court, D. Nevada

November 9, 2017

ROY GRIFFITH, Plaintiff,
ROMEO ARANAS, et al, Defendants.


         This Report and Recommendation is made to the Honorable Miranda M. Du, United States District Judge. The action was referred to the undersigned Magistrate Judge pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B) and LR IB 1-4. Before the court is plaintiffs emergency motion for a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction. (ECF Nos. 23 and 24.) Defendants' opposed, (ECF No. 25), and plaintiffs replied (ECF no. 26). For the reasons described below, the court recommends that the motion be denied.


         Roy Griffith ("plaintiff') is an inmate in the custody of the Nevada Department of Corrections ("NDOC") at the Northern Nevada Correctional Center ("NNCC"). Proceeding pro se, plaintiff brings this case under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. (ECF No. 1-1.) On January 23, 2017, the court screened plaintiffs amended complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A, and allowed plaintiff to proceed on one Eighth Amendment claim of deliberate indifference to serious medical needs against Dr. Romeo Aranas ("Dr. Aranas"), Dr. Karen Gedney ("Dr. Gedney"), and against former NDOC Director Greg Cox ("Cox") only with respect to plaintiffs claim for injunctive relief. (ECF No. 3 at 6.)

         In plaintiffs motion, he alleges that defendants deliberately deprived him of a cure to his Hepatitis-C ("Hep-C") infection for nonmedical reasons. (ECF No. 23 at 3.) Plaintiff contends that Dr. Gendney refused to prescribe plaintiff a direct-acting antiviral ("DAA"), which plaintiff claims is a cure for Hep-C, due to the high cost of the medication. (ECF No. 23 at 10.) Dr. Gedney stated that plaintiffs liver "would have to need immediate medical attention" to receive treatment because NNCC only has funding to treat ten inmates a year. (Id.) Dr. Gedney and Dr. Aranas have denied plaintiffs repeated requests for treatment with a DAA despite approving plaintiff for "interferon Hep-C treatment in 2009-2010." (Id. at 11.) Plaintiff contends that he has been denied DAA treatment pursuant to Medical Directive 219.1, an NDOC guideline for treating Hep-C that excludes inmates whose liver damage falls below a threshold level, and that Medical Directive 219.1 was enacted solely to "meet[] fiscal budget restraints ...." (Id. at 9.)

         The non-treatment of plaintiffs Hep-C is causing ongoing damage to plaintiffs liver and other organs. (Id. at 3.) Plaintiff alleges that he experiences constant joint pain, liver pain, digestive issues, severe rash, and fatigue. (Id. at 11.) Additionally, an ultrasound indicated that plaintiffs Hep-C is causing his gallbladder walls to thicken. (Id. at 12.) Plaintiff seeks to have defendants enjoined from enforcing the exclusion criteria set forth in Medical Directive 219.1 against plaintiff. (Id. at 1.) Plaintiff also seeks an injunction requiring defendants to arrange for plaintiff to be seen by an independent physician and provide plaintiff with DAA medication after the independent physician prescribes such treatment. (Id. at 1.)


         A. Legal Standard

         Requests for temporary restraining orders are governed by the same standards that govern the issuance of preliminary injunctive relief. Los Angeles Unified School Dist. V. United States Dist. Court, 650 F.2d 1004, 1008 (9th Cir. 1981); V'Guara v. Dec, 925 F.Supp.2d 1120, 1123 (D. Nev. 2013). Courts may grant preliminary injunctive relief pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 65, but such remedies are "extraordinary and drastic . . . [and] never awarded as of right[.]" Munafv. Geren, 553 U.S. 674, 689-90 (2008) (internal citations omitted). When moving for a preliminary injunction, the plaintiff must make several showings: (1) he is likely to succeed on the merits; (2) he is likely to suffer irreparable harm in the absence of injunctive relief; (3) the equities balance in his favor; and (4) an injunction is in the public interest. Winter v. Nat. Res. Def. Council, 555 U.S. 7, 20 (2008). The test is conjunctive, meaning the party seeking the injunction must satisfy each element. In the Ninth Circuit, courts are to apply a '"sliding scale approach'" in evaluating the motion, "such that 'serious questions going to the merits and a balance of hardships mat tips sharply towards the plaintiff can support issuance of a preliminary injunction, so long as the plaintiff also shows that there is a likelihood of irreparable injury and that the injunction is in the public interest.'" Arc of Cal. v. Douglas, 757 F.3d 975, 983 (9th Cir. 2014) (quoting All. for the Wild Rockies v. Cottrell, 632 F.3d 1127, 1135 (9th Cir. 2011)). The standard for a permanent injunction is substantially the same. Quiroga v. Chen, 735 F.Supp.2d 1226, 1229 (D. Nev. 2010).

         Other considerations may apply to injunctive relief within the prison context. First, a more stringent standard applies where a party seeks affirmative relief. Ordinarily, preliminary injunctive relief aims to preserve the status quo pending a determination of the case on the merits. Sierra Forest Legacy v. Rey, 577 F.3d 1015, 1023 (9th Cir. 2009). When "a party seeks mandatory preliminary relief that goes well beyond maintaining the status quo pendente lite, courts should be extremely cautious about issuing a preliminary injunction." Martin v. Int'l Olympic Comm., 740 F.2d 670, 675 (9th Cir. 1984). Thus, mandatory preliminary relief is only warranted where both the facts and the law clearly favor the moving party and "extreme or very serious damage will result." Anderson v. United States, 612 F.2d 1112, 1115 (9th Cir. 2009) (internal quotation omitted). Second, the Prison Litigation Reform Act ("PLRA") provides that, with regard to prison conditions,

[preliminary injunctive relief 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. The court shall give substantial weight to any adverse impact on public safety or the operation of a criminal justice system caused by the preliminary relief and shall respect the principles of comity.. . in tailoring any preliminary relief.

18 U.S.C. § 3626(a)(2). Therefore, the PLRA "operates simultaneously to restrict the equity jurisdiction of federal courts and to protect the bargaining power of prison administrators-no longer may courts grant or approve relief that binds prison administrators to do more than the constitutional minimum." Gilmore v. California, 220 F.3d 987, 999 (9th Cir. 2000).

         Finally, in addition to the requirements described above, the Supreme Court has observed that a preliminary injunction motion must seek relief of the "same character as that which may be granted finally." De Beers Consol. Mines v. United States, 325 U.S. 212, 220 (1945). Thus, a court may not enjoin conduct relating to "a matter lying wholly outside the issues in the suit." Id. In the same vein, the Ninth Circuit recently ruled that "there must be a relationship between the injury claimed in the motion for injunctive relief and the conduct asserted in the underlying complaint." Pac. Radiation Oncology, LLC v. Queen's Medical Ctr., 810 F.3d 631, 636 (9th Cir. 2015) (citing Devose v. Herrington, 42 F.3d 470, 471 (8th Cir. 1994)). Absent a sufficient "relationship or nexus, the district court lacks authority to grant the relief requested." Id.

         B. Analysis

         Having reviewed plaintiffs filings with the above-cited principles in mind, plaintiff has not made the showing required for an injunction to issue. First, plaintiff has failed to show that he is likely to succeed on the merits of his underlying deliberate indifference claim. "Deliberate indifference is a high legal standard." Toguchi v. Chung,391 F.3d 1051, 1060 (9th Cir. 2004). To prevail plaintiff must make two showings: (1) a "serious medical need, " and (2) that defendants' response was deliberately indifferent. Jett v. Penner,439 F.3d 1091, 1096 (9th Cir. 2006). A prison official acts with "deliberate indifference ... only if the [prison official] knows of and disregards an excessive risk to inmate health and safety." Gibson v. County of Washoe, Nevada,290 F.3d 1175, 1187 (9th Cir. 2002). For this reason, differences in judgment between ...

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