United States District Court, N.D. Mississippi, Greenville Division
WILLIE J. HARRIS PLAINTIFF
RICHARD PENNINGTON, ET AL. DEFENDANTS
ORDER DENYING MOTIONS FOR RECONSIDERATION
Michael P. Mills, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
before the Court are two motions filed by Plaintiff Willie J.
Harris: (1) a “Motion to Amend Preliminary Injunction,
” which the Court construes as a motion for
reconsideration of its prior order denying Harris'
request for injunctive relief; and (2) a “Motion to
Alter or Amend Judgment” from the Court's ruling on
Harris' request for injunctive relief.
Applicable Legal Standard
well settled that “[m]otions for reconsideration
‘serve the narrow purpose of allowing a party to
correct manifest errors of law or fact or to present newly
discovered evidence.'” Helena Labs Corp. v.
Alpha Sci. Corp., 483 F.Supp.2d 538, 539 (E.D. Tex.
2007) (quoting Waltman v. Int'l Paper Co., 875
F.2d 468, 473 (5th Cir. 1989)).
Factual and Procedural History
Harris, an inmate proceeding in forma pauperis in
this § 1983 action, filed a complaint, as amended, to
allege that Defendants denied him of due process, retaliated
against him for filing grievances, and denied him adequate
access to the courts. Doc. #1; Doc. #10, Doc. #11, and Doc.
#16. The magistrate judge determined that Harris'
allegations should be explored at a Spears hearing,
and a hearing was set for September 18, 2017. Doc. #9. On
September 18, 2017, however, a penitentiary-wide lockdown
occurred and prevented the court from carrying out the
hearing. On the same date, the hearing was rescheduled for
January 8, 2018. Doc. #21.
subsequently filed a motion for injunctive relief, arguing
that since the hearing has been rescheduled, he has been
denied a proper medical diet and has had prison staff
confiscate his personal items and medically-prescribed
blankets. He also alleges that he has been denied the
opportunity to work and to attend Muslim worship services, as
the entire building has been on lockdown since October 1,
2017. By order dated October 17, 2017, the Court denied
Harris' request for injunctive relief, noting, inter
alia, that “Harris' complaint of the loss of
privileges during the course of a zone-wide lockdown does not
implicate a liberty interest.” Doc. #26.
Harris filed the instant motion, arguing that the Court's
ruling was error. Specifically, he claims that it did not
follow the law governing injunctive relief and the authority
of magistrate judges; it failed to address his claims that
Defendants have retaliated against him for this lawsuit by
refusing to allow him to attend worship services and denying
him adequate food; and it failed to acknowledge that
Mississippi Department of Corrections (“MDOC”)
policy provides a liberty interest in privileges. See,
e.g., Doc. #28.
complains that this Court issued an order before Defendants
were required to file objections, which is contrary to the
law governing injunctions and the authority of magistrate
judges. He also maintains it creates an impression that the
Court is partial. However, Harris is an inmate proceeding
in forma pauperis, and this action is governed by
the Prison Litigation Reform Act (“PLRA”), 28
U.S.C. § 1915. Under the PLRA, Defendants do not have to
respond to a complaint until the Court orders them to do so.
See, e.g., Jones v. Bock, 549 U.S. 199, 213- 14
(2007). The Court has not ordered any named Defendant to
respond to any of the allegations levied by Harris. The Court
previously advised Harris that it would not issue process
against any Defendant until after it held a Spears
hearing. Doc. #9, Doc. #22. That hearing will occur in
January 2018. Therefore, Harris' first objection to the
ruling is without merit.
Harris is aggrieved that the Court did not specifically
address his retaliation claims (such as the denial of his
ability to attend worship services) in its order denying
injunctive relief. Harris contends that these acts of
retaliation occurred after he filed this civil
action. See, e.g., Doc. #28. The Court
notes that the PLRA demands pre-filing exhaustion of
administrative grievances. The statute provides:
No action shall be brought with respect to prison conditions
under section 1983 of this title, or any other Federal law,
by a prisoner confined in any jail, prison, or other
correctional facility until such administrative remedies as
are available are exhausted.
42 U.S.C. § 1997(a). “[C]ourts have no discretion
to excuse a prisoner's failure to properly exhaust the
prison grievance process before filing their
complaint.” Gonzalez v. Seal, 702 F.3d 785,
788 (5th Cir. 2012). Harris could not have exhausted a
grievance for events that he claims occurred
after filing the instant lawsuit and cannot,
therefore, amend this action to include a retaliation claim
for every perceived indignity that he has experienced after
filing it. Because injunctive relief may not be granted with
regard to the new retaliation-related claims raised by
Harris, there is no basis for the Court to reconsider whether
injunctive relief may be granted as to any such
claims. See, e.g., Women's Med. Ctr. Of
Northwest Houston v. Bell, 248 F.3d 411, 419 n.15 (5th
Cir. 2001) (noting substantial likelihood of success on
merits is an element that must be proved for injunctive
relief to issue).
Harris claims that the Court erred by stating that the loss
of privileges does not implicate a liberty interest, as MDOC
policy creates a liberty interest. However, even if
Harris' allegation that MDOC officials fail to follow
policy is true, an institution's failure to follow policy
does not establish an independent violation of a federal
right. See, e.g., Lewis v. Sec'y of Pub. Safety &
Corr., 870 F.3d 365, 369 (5th Cir. 2017). Accordingly,
Harris has no possibility of success as to this claim, and
therefore, amendment of the prior order is not warranted.
See, e.g., Women's Med. Ctr. Of Northwest Houston ...