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MORGAN v. SYLVESTER

October 26, 1954

Judith MORGAN, Plaintiff,
v.
George SYLVESTER, Nathaniel Goldstein, Wendell P. Brown, Sydney F. Foster, Christopher J. Heffernan, Francis Bergan, O. Byron Brewster, William H. Coon, Thomas E. Dewey, and MacNeill Mitchell, Defendants



The opinion of the court was delivered by: WEINFELD

Plaintiff asserts a claim under the Civil Rights Act *fn1" against various judicial, executive, and legislative officials of the State of New York. The defendants answered *fn2" and now move, pursuant to Rule 12(c) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, 28 U.S.C.A., for judgment on the pleadings or, in the alternative, for summary judgment pursuant to Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Plaintiff and the defendants having submitted affidavits, the motion is treated as one for summary judgment.

Plaintiff, following a suicide attempt, was committed to a state mental institution pursuant to an order of the New York State Supreme Court made after a hearing conducted in accordance with the provisions of the Mental Hygiene Law. *fn3" She was confined for a period of sixty-seven days *fn4" from February 25th, 1947 to May 4th, 1947.

 About two years after her release she filed a claim against the State of New York in its Court of Claims *fn5" to recover damages for (a) illegal commitment to, and detention at, a state mental institution; (b) gross negligence, abuse and denial of medical treatment and hospitalization while confined at the state institution; (c) malfeasance, misfeasance and nonfeasance while held as an inmate; and (d) deprivation of liberty, civil rights, contributing to the death of her mother and personal suffering to plaintiff. The issues were tried before a Judge of the Court of Claims who after a five-day trial rendered judgment dismissing the claim upon the merits. In substance the Trial Court found that the commitment was properly made and issued by a Court of competent jurisdiction, and as to the claim for damages while confined to the mental institution, that the plaintiff had failed to establish her charges by a fair preponderance of the evidence.

 Upon appeal by plaintiff to the Appellate Division, Third Judicial Department, the judgment of dismissal was unanimously affirmed. *fn6" A motion to that Court for leave to appeal to the Court of Appeals was denied, *fn7" and, finally, a similar motion made directly to the Court of Appeals was likewise denied. *fn8" Plaintiff never applied for certiorari to the Supreme Court of the United States.

 Thereafter, in 1953, at the instance of the plaintiff, a bill was introduced and passed in both houses of the New York State Legislature which, in effect, would have permitted a relitigation of the plaintiff's rejected suit before the Court of Claims, but it was vetoed by the Governor in April 1953. In April 1954, plaintiff requested a State Senator to reintroduce the bill but he refused, as did the member of the Assembly who had sponsored it in the previous session.

 The present action followed and is brought against the Judge of the Court of Claims who rendered the judgment against her, the five judges of the Appellate Division who voted affirmance of the judgment, the Attorney General who defended the State's interests before the Court of Claims and the Appellate Division, the Solicitor General who was of counsel on the State's brief submitted to the Appellate Division, the Governor of the State who vetoed the bill, and the Senator who in 1954 refused to reintroduce it.

 Plaintiff in the State Court proceedings appeared pro se as she does in the present suit.

 The complaint, as is not unusual in this circumstance, is prolix, repetitive and contains much irrelevant matter. Stripped of its excessive and at times intemperate verbiage, and construed liberally, *fn9" it appears to charge that defendants (Par. 4) maliciously and corruptly 'conspired to obstruct and defeat the due course of justice with intent to deprive her of her constitutional rights under Amendment XIV of the Constitution of the United States, to the equal protection of the laws and equal privileges and immunities under the laws, and did so deprive plaintiff who had lawfully petitioned the State of New York to be redressed for personal injuries wilfully inflicted on her, * * *' and conspired to and did 'injure her in mind, body, property and reputation by inflicting upon her further cruel, inhuman and unusual punishments by grossly oppressive injustices for having, exercising and attempting to enforce her constitutional right to a fair trial for the proper redress to which she was lawfully entitled as a substantial right by denying to her the equal protection of the laws.'

 The next paragraph sets forth alleged overt acts on the part of individual defendants which may be summarized as follows:

 (a) The Trial Judge and the Attorney General withheld 'five subpoenaed 'adverse and hostile' witnesses from attending the trial to testify';

 (b) The Trial Judge impeded the presentation of her case by

 (1) obtaining her consent to examine a witness over the telephone;

 (2) aiding witnesses hostile to her and curtailing their examinations;

 (3) manifest hostility to a witness called by her;

 (4) refusing to afford plaintiff an opportunity to submit a brief; and, finally,

 (5) deciding the case against her despite 'a veritable mountain of credible and ...


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