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Miguel v. McLane

United States District Court, N.D. Texas, Lubbock Division

July 29, 2019

SAMUEL SAN MIGUEL, Institutional ID No. 05687259, Plaintiff,
MARSHA McLANE, et al, Defendants.



         Before the Court is a document filed May 24, 2019, by pro se Plaintiff Samuel San Miguel in which he asks the Court to issue a temporary restraining order (TRO) and preliminary injunction. ECF Nos. 3, 4. San Miguel alleges that the Texas Civil Commitment Center (TCCC) has wrongfully placed him "in solitary confinement" and subjected him to conditions that violate his constitutional rights. Br. in Supp. of Order to Show Cause & TRO 2, ECF No. 4 [hereinafter PL's Br.]; see ECF No. 1, at 3. After considering San Miguel's motion and applicable law, the Court recommends that the motion be DENIED without prejudice to San Miguel's right to request injunctive relief in the future should circumstances change.[1]

         I. Legal Standard

         "An injunction is an extraordinary remedy and should not issue except upon a clear showing of possible irreparable harm." Lewis v. S.S. Baune, 534 F.2d 1115, 1121 (5th Cir. 1976). When a plaintiff requests injunctive relief that would require the court to interfere with the administration of a state civil commitment [2] facility, "appropriate consideration must be given to principles of federalism in determining the availability and scope of equitable relief." Rizzo v. Goode, 423 U.S. 362, 379 (1976). In assessing whether injunctive relief serves the public interest, prison administrators must be afforded deference in the manner in which they operate the prison. Bell v. Wolfish, 441 U.S. 520, 547 (1979). An injunction "is an extraordinary and drastic remedy, not to be granted routinely, but only when the movant, by a clear showing, carries the burden of persuasion." White v. Carlucci, 862 F.2d 1209, 1211 (5th Cir. 1989); see Miss. Power & Light Co. v. United Gas Pipe Line Co., 760 F.2d 618, 621 (5th Cir. 1985) (citing cases for support) (explaining that "[t]he decision to grant a preliminary injunction is to be treated as the exception rather than the rule").

         To secure an injunction or TRO, a movant must demonstrate:

         1. A substantial likelihood of success on the merits of his case;

         2. A substantial threat of irreparable injury if the injunction is not granted;

         3. The threatened injury to the movant outweighs any damage the injunction will cause the non-movant; and

         4. The injunction will not have an adverse effect on the public interest. Women's Med. Ctr. v. Bell, 248 F.3d 411, 418-20 (5th Cir. 2001); Hay v. Waldron, 834 F.2d 481, 484 (5th Cir. 1987).

         II. Analysis

         Initially, the Court observes that San Miguel has not provided notice of his request for injunctive relief to the opposing parties. Under Rule 65, a preliminary injunction can only be issued after notice to the adverse party. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 65(a)(1). San Miguel has not shown that he has given notice to the persons subject to his request for injunctive relief. For this reason alone his motion should be denied.[3]

         More importantly, San Miguel has not carried his burden with respect to any of the necessary criteria, including demonstrating a substantial likelihood of success on the merits of his § 1983 case or a substantial threat of irreparable injury if the Court does not grant relief.[4] San Miguel does not make clear-either in his motion or in his Complaint-the type of relief he seeks through the TRO and preliminary injunction. The Court interprets his pleadings as requesting the following: (1) complete release from civil confinement (see PL's Mot. 1, ECF No. 3 (proposing that the Court declare Chapter 841 of the Texas Health and Safety Code-i.e., the Texas civil commitment statute-"so punitive, in purpose and effect that it negates the States [sic] intention to Deem it Civil" and is "criminal" in nature)); (2) removal from the secured management unit (SMU) (PL's Mot. 2 (suggesting that the Court direct TCCC officials to modify his housing conditions and arguing that SVPs should not "be locked in their cell for any duration of time, or under any circumstance")); and (3) greater access to the law library. PL's Br. 1 ("I begin this brief ... in prayerful hope that I may be granted the requested TRO, that I may then, not be hindered in my pursuit of this Civil Action, that I may look forward to not being denied by the defendants, the tools and material I need, as well as the adequate time in the Law Library .... I am in a housing condition that should not exist. . . .").

         To the extent San Miguel asserts that the civil commitment statute is unconstitutional on its face, he has not established a substantial likelihood of success on the merits in this § 1983 action.[5] See, e.g., PL's Br. 4 ("I am to fight, and not quit until this (SVPA)ct [sic] Statute CH. 841., is seen & judged for what it is, nothing more than the continued imprisonment of Sex Offenders . ..."), 6 ("The very reason I am filing the 'Order to Show Cause' as I am, is I and every civil detainee at this facility will do nothing more than continue serving a prison sentence, absent relief. ... I was given a prison sentence, an Honorable Judge and Prosecuting Attorney signed their name to it and I completed it day for day. I have a family whom I love ... its [sic] time I go home."). Courts have upheld as constitutional the Texas civil commitment scheme, which is found in Chapter 841 of the Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code. See, e.g., In re Commitment of Fisher, 164 S.W.3d at 645-53 (upholding the constitutionality of the former version of the SVP act prior to the its amendment in 2015); see also Kansas v. Hendricks, 521 U.S. 346, 363-64, 369 (1997) (holding that the Kansas Sexually Violent Predator Act, which is similar to Texas's statute, is non-punitive and therefore constitutional); Brown v. Taylor, No. 4;12-CV-698-A, 2019 WL 2142496, at *5 (N.D. Tex. May 16, 2019) (citing cases for support) (noting that "[t]he constitutionality of the Texas civil commitment statute had been upheld by the Texas Supreme Court" and "the United States Supreme Court had repeatedly upheld civil commitment laws like those of Texas"); Hitt v. McLane, A-17-CV-289-SS, 2018 WL 773992, at *15-16 (W.D. Tex. Feb. 7, 2018) (upholding Chapter 841 as applied to plaintiff-SVP).

         With respect to his request for release from the SMU, San Miguel appears to raise both substantive and procedural due process claims. PL's Br. 2-4; Compl. 3-6, 9-10, ECF No. 1. In his Complaint, however, San Miguel concedes that "he has been asked by Defendants if he wants to leave the SMU multiple times in the past few months, yet he refuses because defendants will not return his property that they confiscated on 7-18-19 [sic], wrongfully . . . ." [6] Compl. 6. In other words, San Miguel's continued housing in the SMU, and any alleged injury arising therefrom, is by choice. Thus, San Miguel has not demonstrated a substantial threat of irreparable injury with respect to his alleged housing in the SMU. See, e.g., Benson v. Piper, No. 17-cv-266 (DWF/TNL), 2017 WL 4221105, at *5 (D. Minn. July 31, 2017) (denying SVP's request for preliminary injunction in part ...

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