United States District Court, D. Delaware
PAUL E. WEBER, Plaintiff,
MICHAEL S. LITTLE, et al., Defendants.
HONORABLE MARYELLEN NOREIKA UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
Introduction. Plaintiff Paul E. Weber
(“Plaintiff”), a prisoner incarcerated at the
James T. Vaughn Correctional Center (“JTVCC”) in
Smyrna, Delaware, filed a complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C.
§ 1983 on June 12, 2018. (D.I. 3). Before the Court are
numerous motions filed by the parties. (D.I. 27, 30, 31, 34,
37, 41, 45).
Background. The Complaint alleges Defendants Michael Little
(“Little”) and Timothy T. Martin
(“Martin”) violated Plaintiff's right to
access to the courts. Defendants have filed a motion to
dismiss. (D.I. 27). Plaintiff opposes the motion and also
moves to strike Exhibit A attached to Defendants' motion
to dismiss. (D.I. 31). Two months after Defendants filed
their motion to dismiss, Plaintiff filed a supplemental and
amended complaint (docketed as a motion to amend) and
Defendants moved to strike the filing. (D.I. 34, 37).
Plaintiff, who apparently realized that he needed leave to
amend, then filed a motion for leave to amend the complaint,
and it is opposed by Defendants. (D.I. 41, 43). Plaintiff has
also filed a motion for judicial notice and a motion for
injunctive relief. (D.I. 30, 45).
Motion to Dismiss and Motions to Amend. Given the posture of
the case, the Court will deny without prejudice to renew
Defendants' motion to dismiss. The Court will also deny
without prejudice to renew Plaintiff's motions for leave
to amend. Plaintiff will be given a time certain to file a
renewed motion for leave to amend. Plaintiff is admonished
that a proposed amended complaint must contain all
allegations in one pleading and must comply with the Local
Rules of this Court. Local Rule 15.1 provides that a party
who moves to amend a pleading shall attach to the motion: (1)
the proposed pleading as amended, complete with a handwritten
or electronic signature; and (2) a form of the amended
pleading which indicates in what respect it differs from the
pleading which it amends, by bracketing or striking through
materials to be deleted and underlining materials to be
added. Defendants may renew their motion to dismiss the
original complaint should Plaintiff fail to timely file a
renewed motion to file an amended complaint.
Judicial Notice. Plaintiff moves the Court for judicial
notice of state and federal judicial decisions that form the
basis of his underlying claims. (D.I. 30). The Court
“may take judicial notice of another court's
opinion -- not for the truth of the facts recited therein,
but for the existence of the opinion. . . .” See
Albion Eng'g Co. v. Hartford Fire Ins. Co., __ F.
App'x__, 2019 WL 3020926, n.29 (3d Cir. 2019) (quoting
S. Cross Overseas Agencies, Inc. v. Wah Kwong Shipping
Grp. Ltd., 181 F.3d 410, 426 (3d Cir. 1999)). Typically,
Courts are asked to take judicial notice when ruling on
dispositive motions. At this juncture, the motion will be
denied without prejudice.
Injunctive Relief. On June 28, 2019, Plaintiff filed a motion
for injunctive relief seeking return of documents Bryan
Engrem (“Engrem”) allegedly confiscated on
February 13, 2019, and then refused to return
them. Engrem is not a named defendant, however,
Plaintiff has indicated that he seeks to amend to add him as
a defendant in this action. Plaintiff alleges the legal
papers concerned Ground IX of his habeas petition that is
currently pending in this court. He describes the documents
as “legal files, affidavits, and notes and
correspondence from witnesses to the breach of the plea
agreement.” (D.I. 45 ¶ 4). Plaintiff states the
reason given for the confiscation of the documents is that
some of the affidavits were prepared in the names of other
people. Plaintiff states the confiscated documents are
critical to his petition for writ of habeas corpus and
without them, he will be unable to proceed with his claim.
Plaintiff submitted a grievance regarding the matter and it
was denied. (Id. ¶ 8, Exhibit A at A-1). The
informal grievance resolution states that Plaintiff had typed
a five page affidavit for an individual other than Plaintiff.
(Id., Exhibit A at A-3). The affidavit was
confiscated after Plaintiff was informed that he could not
type up documents for another person and that the person for
whom the affidavit was drafted could prepare her own
affidavit. (Id.). Plaintiff filed an emergency
motion for sanctions in the habeas case also complaining that
his documents and papers were confiscated. See Weber v.
Metzger, No. 13-283-LPS, at D.I. 53 (D. Del.). The
motion was denied. Id. at D.I. 56.
Defendants provided the declaration of Engrem who states that
he confiscated a five page document titled “Affidavit
of Nancy Barbara Weis” while Plaintiff was in the
prison law library on February 13, 2019. (D.I. 48 at Exhibit
A ¶¶ 4-5). Engrem states that he did not confiscate
any other documents from Plaintiff. (Id.). Engrem
further states that he is unaware of additional documents
belonging to Plaintiff that were confiscated by other prison
staff. (Id.). Defendants also provide two affidavits
signed by Weis; one on March 4, 2019 and one April 2, 2018.
(Id. at Exhibits C and D).
preliminary injunction is “an extraordinary remedy that
should be granted only if: (1) the plaintiff is likely to
succeed on the merits; (2) denial will result in irreparable
harm to the plaintiff; (3) granting the injunction will not
result in irreparable harm to the defendant; and (4) granting
the injunction is in the public interest.”
NutraSweet Co. v. Vit-Mar Enterprises, Inc., 176
F.3d 151, 153 (3d Cir. 1999) (“NutraSweet II”).
The elements also apply to temporary restraining orders. See
NutriSweet Co. v. Vit-Mar Enterprises., Inc., 112
F.3d 689, 693 (3d Cir. 1997) (“NutraSweet I”) (a
temporary restraining order continued beyond the time
permissible under Rule 65 must be treated as a preliminary
injunction and must conform to the standards applicable to
preliminary injunctions). “[F]ailure to establish any
element in [a plaintiff's] favor renders a preliminary
injunction inappropriate.” NutraSweet II, 176 F.3d at
153. Furthermore, because of the intractable problems of
prison administration, a request for injunctive relief in the
prison context must be viewed with considerable caution.
Rush v. Correctional Med. Services, Inc.,
287 Fed.Appx. 142, 144 (3d Cir. 2008) (citing Goff v.
Harper, 60 F.3d 518, 520 (8th Cir. 1995)).
Plaintiff asserts that Engrem confiscated his legal papers
relative to Count IX of his pending habeas corpus petition.
Plaintiff mentions documents in general such as legal files,
affidavits, and notes and correspondence from witnesses.
Engrem, on the other hand, specifically refers to the draft
Weis affidavit that he confiscated and specifically states
that he did not confiscate any additional documents created
by or belonging to Plaintiff. In addition, Defendants provide
the Court with two affidavits signed by Weis after the
February 2019 confiscation. The affidavits were signed in
March and April 2019 that Plaintiff filed them in his habeas
evidence of record indicates that the draft Weiss affidavit
was confiscated from Plaintiff and that he subsequently
obtained signed affidavits from Weiss. While Plaintiff
contends that Engrem took other documents and materials,
Engrem denies this. Hence, Plaintiff has failed to
demonstrate the likelihood of success on the merits. Nor has
Plaintiff demonstrated irreparable harm. His habeas corpus
petition remains pending and nothing indicates he is
precluded from filing additional documents or evidence in the
case. In addition, Ground IX, the claim he alleges is
affected by the confiscated documents, was thoroughly briefed
when Plaintiff was represented by counsel in the habeas case.
See Weber, No. 13-283-LPS at D.I. 1, 2. In light of the
forgoing, the Court finds that Plaintiff has neither
demonstrated the likelihood of success on the merits, nor
demonstrated irreparable harm to justify the issuance of
immediate injunctive relief. Therefore, the motion will be
Conclusion. Based upon the above discussion, the Court will:
(1) deny without prejudice Defendants' motion to dismiss
(D.I. 27); (2) deny as moot Plaintiffs motion for judicial
notice and Plaintiffs motion to strike (D.I. 30, 31); (3)
deny without prejudice to renew Plaintiffs motions to amend
(D.I. 34, 41); (4) deny as moot Defendants' motion to
strike (D.I. 37); and (5) deny Plaintiffs motion for
injunctive relief (D.I. 45). A separate order shall issue.