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Rodriguez v. Bryson

United States District Court, M.D. Georgia, Macon Division

June 7, 2018

Commissioner HOMER BRYSON, et al., Defendants.



         Before the Court is a motion for temporary restraining order or preliminary injunction filed by Plaintiff Hjalmar Rodriguez Jr. (Doc. 140). Because Plaintiff has not satisfied his burden of showing that the extraordinary remedy of preliminary injunctive relief is appropriate, Plaintiff's motion is DENIED.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff is a Muslim prisoner housed within the Georgia Diagnostic and Classification Prison's Special Management Unit, a facility reserved for “inmates with a history of disciplinary problems and who are deemed security or escape risks.” Turner v. Warden, GDCP, 650 Fed.Appx. 695, 697 (11th Cir. 2016). Plaintiff's motion for preliminary injunctive relief relates, at least in part, to the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which will end on June 14, 2018. Decl. of Samantha Minardo, Doc. 141-1, ¶ 4. Given this impending deadline, which may render moot some of Plaintiff's injunctive requests, and based also on Plaintiff's own request for “exp[e]dited consideration, ” (Doc. 140, p. 1), the Court enters this ruling without the benefit of a reply brief.

         Plaintiff's motion for preliminary injunctive relief relates to (1) Ramadan fasting during “daylight hours rang[ing] from 5:30 a.m. to 8:45 p.m., ” (Doc. 140-1, p. 3), and (2) a general Islamic requirement that Plaintiff conduct “mandatory full body cleansing . . . ever[y] twenty-four (24) hours.” Doc. 140-1, p. 1. Plaintiff describes two problems related to Ramadan fasting. First, Plaintiff alleges he is “completely denied the nutritional calorie counts of the midday meal” while fasting. Doc. 140-1, p. 2. More precisely, Plaintiff appears to allege that he is provided with only two-thirds of the standard 2, 800 calorie-per-day prison diet, or around 1, 867 calories, during Ramadan. (Doc. 140-1, p. 7) (“3[3].33% calories lost”).

         Second, Plaintiff alleges that his evening meals, typically beans and rice, “more often than not . . . contain foreign objects.” (Doc. 140-1, p. 3). These foreign objects- “rocks, sticks, bugs and dirt, ” (Doc. 140-1, p. 1)-are unintentionally harvested along with “beans and other vegetables [grown] by inmates at Rogers State Prison.” Doc. 39-1, p. 10. Plaintiff claims these foreign objects pose a health risk, and Plaintiff is currently litigating an Eighth Amendment claim based on allegations that he previously “bit down on a rock, ” injured his tooth, and received inadequate medical attention in response. See Doc. 39-1, pp. 16-22. Plaintiff also asserts that the foreign objects in his evening meals further detract from the “availability [of] adequate nutrition.” Doc. 140-1, p. 3.

         In addition to these fasting problems, Plaintiff alleges that he is denied “the simple opportunity to shower once a day, ” (Doc. 140-1, p. 12), and is therefore unable to perform “Ghusal” or “Ghulsal, ” the required “bathing [of] the [w]hole body … each body part [ceremonial cleaned] three (3) times, [once] every twenty-four (24) hours[.]” Doc. 39-1, p. 14; Doc. 140-1, p. 2. Without the cleanliness derived from this ceremony, Plaintiff believes that his “prayers are hindered and ultimately not [accepted], i.e. void.” Doc. 39-1, p. 15. Unlike fasting, which occurs only during Ramadan, the Ghusal requirement seems to apply throughout the year. That said, Plaintiff's motion is reasonably read as seeking a means “to proper[ly] clean the body [only] during the month of Ramad[a]n.” Doc. 140, p. 1. Plaintiff also asks the Court to “order [the] Defendant[s] to provide adequate nutritious food” during Ramadan. Id.

         As the Defendants note, Plaintiff's motion is unaccompanied by supporting affidavits, and his most recent amended complaint is unverified. Doc. 141, p. 3. Plaintiff's motion thus lacks the evidentiary support typically required for preliminary injunctive relief. See, e.g., Dunn v. Warden, Ware State Prison, 644 Fed.Appx. 898, 900 (11th Cir. 2016) (“Because the complaint was not verified, its allegations could not be considered evidence supporting injunctive relief”). The Court is mindful, however, that Plaintiff could have submitted affidavits along with his reply brief, if time had permitted a reply. Moreover, Plaintiff did cite to relevant prison grievances attached as exhibits to a prior motion for preliminary injunctive relief. Doc. 140-1, p. 11 (citing CM/ECF Docket Nos. 11-12, 11-13, 11-15, 11-16). These exhibits are properly considered for purposes of Plaintiff's present motion. See Levi Strauss & Co. v. Sunrise Int'l Trading, Inc., 51 F.3d 982, 985 (11th Cir. 1995) (“a district court may rely on … hearsay materials which would not be admissible evidence for a permanent injunction, if the evidence is appropriate given the character and objectives of the injunctive proceeding”) (internal quotations omitted).

         Even when Plaintiff's allegations are treated as verified, Plaintiff has failed to satisfy the heavy burden of demonstrating that preliminary injunctive relief is appropriate. On that basis, therefore, and as discussed in greater detail below, Plaintiff's motion is denied.


         “A preliminary injunction is an extraordinary remedy never awarded as of right.” Winter v. Nat. Res. Def. Council, Inc., 555 U.S. 7, 24 (2008). “In each case, courts must balance the competing claims of injury and must consider the effect on each party of the granting or withholding of the requested relief.” Id. (internal quotations omitted). In conducting this analysis, courts consider four factors: “(1) a substantial likelihood of success on the merits; (2) that irreparable injury will be suffered unless the injunction issues; (3) the threatened injury to the movant outweighs whatever damage the proposed injunction may cause the opposing party; and (4) if issued, the injunction would not be adverse to the public interest.” Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts, B.V., v. Consorcio Barr, S.A., 320 F.3d 1205, 1210 (11th Cir. 2003). The “movant must clearly carry the burden of persuasion” as to each of these four factors. Id.


         With regard to both (1) Ramadan fasting, and (2) “Ghusal” bodily cleansing, Plaintiff has failed to carry his burden of persuasion as to the factors relevant to the preliminary injunctive relief analysis. Accordingly, Plaintiff's motion for preliminary injunctive relief is denied.

         A. ...

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