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Woodhouse v. Duncan

United States District Court, W.D. Virginia, Roanoke Division

December 26, 2017

UNIT MANAGER DUNCAN, et al., in their individual and. official capacities, Defendants.


          Michael F. Urbanski Chief United States District Judge.

         Vincent Lamont Woodhouse, a Virginia inmate proceeding pro se, commenced this civil action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Currently pending before the court is Woodhouse's motion for preliminary injunction, ECF No. 9, in which Woodhouse complains of his long-term placement in segregation housing, threats from inmates, and fear of sexual assault by prison officials. Woodhouse filed his original complaint on April 3, 2017, naming Duncan, Unit Manager; Kiser, Warden of Red Onion; Swiney, Unit Manager; and sixteen other prison officials as defendants in both their official and individual capacities.[1] In his complaint, Woodhouse asserts a claim for preliminary injunctive relief to order defendants to transfer him from segregation housing at Red Onion State Prison ("Red Onion") to the protective housing unit at Dillwyn Correctional Center ("Dillwyn"). ECF No. 1. Woodhouse subsequently filed four separate Declarations in Support of Plaintiff s Motion for Preliminary Injunction, ECF Nos. 9, 16, 29, 30, and the court construes this claim as a motion for preliminary injunction. The motion was referred to United States Magistrate Judge Pamela Meade Sargent for a report and recommendation pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B), who held a hearing on May 17, 2017. See ECF Nos. 10 & 22.

         In her report and recommendation, issued on June 30, 2017, Judge Sargent recommended denying Woodhouse's motion for preliminary injunction. ECF No. 42. Judge Sargent found that Woodhouse failed to demonstrate that he is likely to suffer irreparable harm in the absence of preliminary injunctive relief, and accordingly recommended that his motion for preliminary injunction be denied. Id. at 10. In the June 30, 2017 Report and Recommendation, issued after the evidentiary hearing on May 17, 2017, Judge Sargent concluded:

At this hearing, Woodhouse admitted that he was not in danger of injury by any other inmate since he had been returned to segregation housing. While he said that he feared assault by correctional officers, Woodhouse admitted that he had never been assaulted by correctional officers while housed in segregation at Red Onion. Woodhouse also testified that he feared that his mental health would continue to deteriorate in segregation housing. The party seeking preliminary injunctive relief must show that the irreparable harm he faces in the absence of relief is "neither remote nor speculative, but actual and imminent." Direx Israel. Ltd. v. Breakthrough Med. Corp.. 952 F.2d 802, 811 (4th Cir. 1991). Woodhouse has made no such showing.

         Report and Recommendation, ECF No. 42 at 9. On July 13, 2017, Woodhouse filed timely objections to the report and recommendation, and asked the court to reject the magistrate judge's findings for failure to recite certain facts submitted by Woodhouse through his declarations and testimony. Pl.'s Obj., ECF No. 46. For the reasons set forth below, the court will overrule Woodhouse's objections and adopt the magistrate judge's report in its entirety.


         Rule 72(b) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure permits a party to "serve and file specific, written objections" to a magistrate judge's proposed findings and recommendations within fourteen days of being served with a copy of the report. See also 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1). The Fourth Circuit has held that an objecting party must do so "with sufficient specificity so as reasonably to alert the district court of the true ground for die objection." United States v. Midgette. 478 F.3d 616, 622 (4th Cir. 2007), cert denied. 127 S.Ct. 3032 (2007).

To conclude otherwise would defeat the purpose of requiring objections. We would be permitting a party to appeal any issue that was before the magistrate judge, regardless of the nature and scope of objections made to the magistrate judge's report. Either the district court would then have to review every issue in the magistrate judge's proposed' findings and recommendations or courts of appeals would be required to review issues that the district court never considered. In either case, judicial resources would be wasted and the district court's effectiveness based on help from magistrate judges would be undermined.

Id. The district court must determine de novo any portion of the magistrate judge's report and recommendation to which a proper objection has been made. "The district court may accept, reject, or modify the recommended disposition; receive further evidence; or return the matter to the magistrate judge with instructions." Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(b)(3); accord 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1). "General objections that merely reiterate arguments presented to the magistrate judge lack the specificity required under Rule 72, and have the same effect as a failure to object, or as a waiver of such objection." Moon v. BWX Techs.. Inc., 747 F.Supp.2d 827, 829 (W.D. Va. 2010) (citing Veney v. Astrue. 539 F.Supp.2d 841, 845 (W.D. Va. 2008)), affd, 498 Fed.Appx. 268 (4th Or. 2012); see also Thomas v. Arn. 474 U.S. 140, 154 (1985) ("[T]he statue does not require the judge to review an issue de novo if no objections are filed.").

         Further, objections that only repeat arguments raised before the magistrate judge are considered general objections to the entirety of the report and recommendation. See Veney, 539 F.Supp.2d at 845. As the court noted in Veney:

Allowing a litigant to obtain de novo review of her entire case by merely reformatting an earlier brief as an objection mak[es] the initial reference to the magistrate useless. The functions of the district court are effectively duplicated as both the magistrate and the district court perform identical tasks. This duplication of time and effort wastes judicial resources rather than saving them, and runs contrary to the purposes of the Magistrates Act.

Id. at 846 (first brackets in original) (citing Howard v. Sec'y of Health & Human Servs.. 932 F.2d 505, 509 (6th Cir. 1991)). A plaintiff who reiterates his previously raised arguments will not be given "the second bite at the apple []he seeks." Id., Instead, his re-filed brief will be treated as a general objection, which has the same effect as a failure to object. Id.


         Woodhouse lodged four objections to the report, two of which concern the magistrate judge's recitation of the facts. While the first two objections are specific enough to warrant de novo review, it is clear that Woodhouse simply disagrees with the magistrate judge's recommendation and ...

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