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Adams v. Naphcare, Inc.

United States District Court, E.D. Virginia, Norfolk Division

September 6, 2016

ROXANNE ADAMS, ADMINISTRATOR OF THE ESTATE OF JAMYCHEAL M. MITCHELL, Plaintiff,
v.
NAPHCARE, INC., et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM ORDER

          REBECCA BEACH SMITH CHIEF JUDGE

         This matter comes before the court on the Plaintiff's "Time-Sensitive Motion to Respond to, and Prevent, Retaliation by Jail Personnel Against Inmate Witnesses" ("Motion"), and accompanying Memorandum in Support, filed on June 21, 2016. ECF Nos. 17, 18. On June 24, 2016, Defendant David L. Simons ("Simons") filed a Response, ECF No. 25, and on the same day, the Plaintiff filed her Reply. ECF No. 26. The Plaintiff filed a Notice of Additional Information on June 27, 2016, ECF No. 27, as well as a Second Notice of Additional Information on June 30, 2016. ECF No. 34.

         On July 5, 2016, this court referred the above Motion to United States Magistrate Judge Lawrence R. Leonard, pursuant to the provisions of 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B) and Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 72(b), to conduct hearings, including evidentiary hearings, if necessary, and to submit to the undersigned district judge proposed findings of fact, if applicable, and recommendations for the disposition of the Motion. ECF No. 39.

         Having conducted hearings on the Motion on July 13, 2016, and July 22, 2016, see ECF Nos. 50, 58, the Magistrate Judge filed the Report and Recommendation ("R&R") on July 25, 2016. ECF No. 57. The Magistrate Judge recommended denying the Plaintiff's Motion. R&R at 32. By copy of the R&R, the parties were advised of their right to file written objections to the findings and recommendations made by the Magistrate Judge. See id. at 32-33. On August 8, 2016, the Plaintiff filed her Objections to the R&R, ECF No. 94, and on August 22, 2016, Defendant Simons filed his Reply. ECF No. 118.

         I. LEGAL STANDARDS

         A. Injunctive Relief

         The Plaintiff's Motion seeks prospective injunctive relief in the form of this court's intervention with a state-operated jail. See Mot. at 8.[1] "Such intrusion should not occur 'absent the most extraordinary circumstances.'" R&R at 25 (citing Taylor v. Freeman, 34 F.3d 266, 268 (4th Cir. 1995)). The Magistrate Judge determined, and this court agrees, that a preliminary injunction standard applies here. Id. at 22-24.

         "A preliminary injunction is an extraordinary remedy never awarded as of right." Winter v. Nat. Res. Def. Council, 555 U.S. 7, 24 (2008) (citing Munaf v. Geren, 553 U.S. 674, 689-90 (2008)). in considering a preliminary injunction, "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. (quoting Amoco Prod. Co. v. Village of Gambell, 480 U.S. 531, 542 (1987)). Furthermore, courts "should pay particular regard for the public consequences in employing the extraordinary remedy of injunction." Id., (quoting Weinberger v. Romero-Barcelo, 456 U.S. 305, 312 (1982)). Overall, "[a] plaintiff seeking a preliminary injunction must establish that he is likely to succeed on the merits, that he is likely to suffer irreparable harm in the absence of preliminary relief, that the balance of equities tips in his favor, and that an injunction is in the public interest." Id. at 20; see also Centro Tepeyac v. Montgomery Cty., 722 F.3d 184, 188 (4th Cir. 2013).

         B. Review of Magistrate Judge's R&R

         Pursuant to Rule 72(b) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, the court, having reviewed the record in its entirety, shall make a de novo determination of those portions of the R&R to which the Plaintiff has specifically objected. Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(b) . The court may accept, reject, or modify, in whole or in part, the recommendation of the magistrate judge, or recommit the matter to him with instructions. 28 U.S.C. § 636(b) (1) .

         II. PLAINTIFF'S OBJECTIONS

         The Plaintiff lists fifteen (15) different objections to the R&R. Before ruling on the R&R, the court will examine each in turn.

         Objection 1

         The Plaintiff's first objection is that the Magistrate Judge was incorrect in finding that inmate witness complaints were unrelated to the present litigation. Obj . at 2-5. The Magistrate Judge found, and the court agrees, that the inmate witnesses received discipline unrelated to the present litigation. See R&R at 27. The Plaintiff asserts that the Magistrate Judge "disregarded the inmate witnesses' contentions of threats and abuse." Obj. at 3. This assertion is not correct. Rather, the Magistrate Judge concluded that the Plaintiff's evidence was not sufficient to warrant the extraordinary remedy of injunctive intervention by this court at this juncture.

         Objection 2

         The Plaintiff's second objection states that Defendant Simons's cross-examination used impermissible character evidence under Federal Rule of Evidence 404(a), and that this impermissibly admitted character evidence was reflected in the R&R, which "repeatedly underscored 'disciplinary' and 'prison policy violations' allegedly committed by the inmate witnesses." Obj. at 5-6.

         Federal Rule of Evidence 404(a)(1) states that "[e]vidence of a person's character or character trait is not admissible to prove that on a particular occasion the person acted in accordance with the character or trait." Fed.R.Evid. 404(a)(1). In the hearings, the Plaintiff raised objections under this Rule, which the Magistrate Judge overruled. See Tr. Of July 13, 2016, at 69-71, 194.

         When reviewing a magistrate judge's evidentiary ruling, the district court applies an abuse of discretion standard. VirginEnters. Ltd. v. Virgin Cuts, Inc., 149 F.Supp.2d 220, 226 (E.D. Va. 2000) (citing Benedi v. McNeil-P.P.C., Inc., 66 F.3d 1378, 1383 (4th Cir. 1995)). Under this standard, an evidentiary ruling will be ...


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