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Baker v. Ricci

August 24, 2010


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Joel A. Pisano, U.S.D.J.



1. On July 22, 2009, Petitioner filed a Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254, challenging a judgment of conviction filed on November 10, 2005, in the Superior Court of New Jersey, Middlesex County, Law Division. On February 17, 2010, Petitioner filed an Amended Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus. (Docket Entry #10.)

2. On April 29, 2010, Respondents filed an Answer and the record. (Docket Entry #18.)

3. On July 13, 2010, Petitioner filed a Reply. (Docket Entry #27.)

4. Before this Court are three motions filed by Petitioner: a motion for a preliminary injunction (Docket Entry #26), a motion for sanctions (Docket Entry #22), and a motion for an evidentiary hearing (Docket Entry #19). Respondents filed papers opposing each motion. For the reasons set forth below, this Court will deny these motions.

Motion for Preliminary Injunction

5. On July 12, 2010, Petitioner filed a motion (Docket Entry #26) for a preliminary injunction, together with a memorandum of law and exhibits (Docket Entry #26-1). In the memorandum of law, Petitioner asks this Court to order Respondent Warden to "transfer Plaintiff, Ralph Baker to the Bureau of Prisons and/or Illinois Department of Corrections, under the control of the Federal Government, until such time as Petitioner's criminal matters are resolved, and/or his criminal sentence completed under the Inter-State Comp[a]ct Agreement." (Docket Entry #26-1 at pp. 5-6.) Plaintiff states that DNA tests performed in Petitioner's criminal proceeding in the Superior Court of New Jersey, Somerset County, implicate Malik Thompson, who he alleges is a leader of the Bloods Street Gang. Petitioner further asserts that his life is in imminent danger because (at an unspecified time and place) he "was approached by [unspecified] members of the Bloods Street Gang, with [the] demand [that] Petitioner cease all mention of DNA in this case, before this Habeas Corpus Court, or he will be killed and his family's home burned down, wit[h] the kil[l]ing of his wife and son." (Id. at p. 4.)

6. Although Petitioner acknowledges that officials placed Petitioner in Protective Custody, Petitioner maintains that he is not safe in Protective Custody:

Having placed Petitioner, not in the actual Protective Custody, but in area designated Pre-Hearing Protective Custody/Management Control Unit. While the same Blood Street Gang leaders are housed in the same unit, while we all came [from] different units all over the prison. I walked by one Blood member, but he did not know who Petitioner was, but later discovered, and stated I had a chance to kill that [person]. (Docket Entry #26-1 at p. 5.)

7. In his motion, Petitioner asks this Court to order the government to transfer Petitioner to a facility operated by the Bureau of Prisons or the Illinois Department of Corrections until his criminal proceedings are resolved or he is released.

8. On August 4, 2010, Respondent filed a letter brief and attached exhibits in opposition to this motion. (Docket Entry #28.) Attached to the letter brief are several documents pertaining to Petitioner dated May 21, 2010: a Prehearing Protective Custody Placement form (Docket Entry #28 at 39), a Voluntary Protective Custody Consent form (id. at p. 40), a Special Custody Report form (id. at 41-41), and an Authorization for Temporary Close Custody form (id. at 43). The forms indicate that, because Petitioner "feels he is in danger while in his current housing location in 6 Right from the Bloods," on May 21, 2010, Petitioner signed a Voluntary Protective Custody Consent form requesting assignment in a protective custody unit at a correctional facility to be designated by the Administrator or the Inter-Institutional Classification Committee. (Id. at p. 40.) The Special Report states that: Central Control instructed staff to "offer Protective Custody to Inmate Baker;" "Inmate Baker was offered and accepted PC Status;" and Central Control directed staff to place Petitioner in 1Left on "TCC Non-Congregate Status." (Id. at 41.)

9. While Respondent did not file a declaration or affidavit, Respondent's letter brief states that Petitioner is not assigned to the MCU, but to Prehearing Protective Custody in non-congregate status. (Docket Entry #28 at p. 3.) Respondent explains in the brief that "[i]nmates on non-congregate status do not [] have any direct contact with other inmates at any time. They are not permitted to recreate, have meals, or take showers. etc., with other inmates and shall be escorted by two custody staff members any time they are off the housing unit." Id. Respondent does not indicate whether any member of the Bloods Gang is also housed on 1-Left (Petitioner's housing unit.) However, Respondent maintains that prison officials are better suited than this Court to determine security issues.

10. Respondent argues in the letter brief: (a) this Court lacks habeas jurisdiction over Petitioner's request for a transfer to a different facility; (b) Petitioner has not shown that he will suffer irreparable harm absent such a transfer; (c) this Court should defer to the prison officials in regard to Petitioner's conditions of ...

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