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LEEVALLEN v. CONNELLY

March 17, 2004.

BARRY LEEVALLEN, Plaintiff, against MADELYN CONNELLY, RICHARD MORALES, and LAWRENCE SMITH, Defendants


The opinion of the court was delivered by: SHIRA SCHEINDLIN, District Judge

OPINION AND ORDER

Plaintiff, then proceeding pro se, filed a complaint under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 ("section 1983") alleging, inter alia, that defendants made false statements that caused him to be arrested unlawfully and recommitted to a mental institution. The Honorable Thomas P. Griesa dismissed the Complaint in its entirety on September 23, 1999, for failure to state a claim on which relief may be granted, citing Heck v. Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477, 489 (1994). The district court found that because plaintiff had not alleged that his prosecution terminated in his favor (i.e., that he was not recommitted) he could not maintain claims for false arrest, false imprisonment and malicious prosecution. Plaintiff challenged only the dismissal of his false arrest claim on appeal. The Second Circuit vacated the dismissal and remanded the case noting that Heck v. Humphrey applies to malicious prosecution Page 2 cases but not to false arrest claims because under New York law "the termination of the proceedings in favor of the accused is not an element of a claim for false arrest." Vallen v. Connelly, No. 99-0326, 2002 WL 1291023, at *2 (2d Cir. June 10, 2002) (unpublished). Nonetheless, the court noted that in the criminal context a valid conviction establishes probable cause in support of the arrest, thereby defeating a claim of false arrest. The Circuit specifically left open the question of whether this rule — that a conviction forecloses a false arrest claim — applies in the context of involuntary commitment. See id. The appellate court left it to the district court "in the first instance to address these matters, along with such others as may be appropriate. . . . " Id.

  In September of 2002, plaintiff obtained the representation of pro bono counsel. Thereafter, at the close of discovery, defendants moved for summary judgment pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(c).*fn1 For the following reasons, defendants' motion is granted and this case is dismissed. Page 3

 I. FACTS*fn2

  A. The Parties

  Plaintiff Barry Lee Vallen is an insanity acquittee who currently resides at Mid-Hudson Psychiatric Center. See Def 56.1 ¶ 1. Defendant Madelyn Connelly is a certified social worker who, at all times relevant, was the Director of Social Work Services and Chairperson of the Forensic Committee at Rockland Psychiatric Center ("Rockland"), a facility of the New York State Office of Mental Health ("OMH"). See id. ¶¶ 3-4. Defendant Richard P. Miraglia, sued incorrectly herein as "Richard Morales," is also a certified social worker and was the Assistant Director of the Bureau of Forensic Services of OMH. See id. ¶¶ 5-6. Defendant Lawrence E. Smith, also a certified social worker, was the Supervising Social Worker and Director of Community Services for the Sullivan County Department of Community Services. See id. ¶ 7.

  B. Plaintiff's Psychiatric History

  In the early hours of October 5, 1984, Vallen bludgeoned his parents to death while they slept in their bed. Vallen was charged with two counts of Murder in the Second Degree but was found not responsible by reason of mental Page 4 disease or defect. See id. ¶ 8, 13. On March 21, 1986, Vallen was found to have a "dangerous mental disorder" as defined in New York Criminal Procedure Law ("CPL") § 330.20(1), and was committed to a secure psychiatric facility, where he remained until December of 1998. See id. ¶ 16. On December 15, 1998, Vallen was found not to have a "dangerous mental disorder" although he was still "mentally ill," as defined in CPL § 330.20(1)(d). See id. ¶ 18. As a result, he was transferred to Pilgrim State Psychiatric Center ("Pilgrim State"), a non-secure facility under the jurisdiction of OMH. See id.

  On December 5, 1991, Vallen was found to no longer be "mentally ill" and was therefore conditionally released from Pilgrim State into the community. See id. ¶ 20. In connection with his release, an "Order of Conditions" was issued. See id. at ¶ 21. The Order of Conditions, which remains in effect for five years, specifies the conditions a patient must comply with in order to remain at liberty. See id. ¶¶ 22-23. The Order of Conditions included the following directives:

  2. The defendant, Barry Vallen, will attend the Sunrise Psychiatric Clinic, 400 Broadway, Amityville, New York, or any other clinic designated by the Commissioner New York State Office of Mental Health or his designee. Page 5

 
3. The defendant, Barry Vallen, shall comply with any and all treatment programs, including medications prescribed initially by his Pilgrim Psychiatric Center treatment team when he is placed on conditional release and/or to any changes in the treatment or medication deemed necessary by the outpatient clinic. The patient shall participate in a variety of group and individual therapy programs and activities, vocational and rehabilitative.
4. The outpatient clinic treating the patient, Barry Vallen, is authorized to modify and develop a treatment plan, including the prescribing of medication, as is clinically indicated, and is authorized to modify and change the initial treatment recommendations of Pilgrim Psychiatric Center when clinically appropriate and necessary.
5. The patient, Barry Vallen, shall submit to appropriate laboratory tests to test for levels of neuroleptic medications and compliance with taking his medications as prescribed by his physicians.
6. The patient, Barry Vallen, shall refrain from the consumption of alcoholic beverages and any unauthorized drugs not prescribed by his physician.
7. The patient, Barry Vallen, shall submit to random blood and urine screenings administered for the purpose of detecting unauthorized or illicit drugs or alcohol consumption.
* * *
  12. If the patient, Barry Vallen, fails to comply with the treatment and/or the conditions of this order, or if his conditions should decompensate, the clinic Page 6 treating the patient and/or the Commissioner New York State Office of Mental Health shall immediately notify this Court, the Orange County District Attorney's office, Mental Hygiene Legal Service and the Attorney General's office . . .

  Order of Conditions, Declaration of Assistant Attorney General Anne Bomser in Support of State Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment ("Bomser Decl."), at 45-48.

  While living in a state-owned community residence on the grounds of Pilgrim State, Vallen became noncompliant with the terms of the Order of Conditions. Consequently, on August 15, 1992, Vallen was civilly committed to Pilgrim State upon the certification of two physicians that he was in need of involuntary care and treatment in a psychiatric hospital. See Def. 56.1 ¶ 28. An application was made by the Commissioner of OMH ("Commissioner") to recommit Vallen pursuant to CPL § 330.20(14). On October 9, 2002, Vallen was transferred from Pilgrim State to Kirby Forensic Psychiatric Center ("Kirby"), a secure facility, for a psychiatric evaluation in connection with the recommitment application. See id. ¶ 29. The Commissioner subsequently withdrew the recommitment application and, on April 2, 1993, Vallen was transferred from Kirby to Rockland, a non-secure psychiatric facility. See id. ¶ 30. Page 7

  In January of 1994, Vallen was released from Rockland to once again live in the community. See id. ¶ 31, The Order of Conditions issued in 1991 remained in effect. See id. ¶ 33. Vallen was to receive outpatient services through the Sullivan County Department of Community Services ("DCS"). See id. ¶ 32. Clinicians at Rockland were to monitor Vallen's compliance with the Order of Conditions. See id. With Rockland's approval, Vallen took up residence in an apartment in Monticello, New York. He lived there until he was re-arrested on September 15, 1994, pursuant to New York Mental Hygiene Law ("MHL") § 9.45.

  C. Plaintiff's Deteriorating Mental Condition

  Defendants claim that after his release from Rockland in January 1994, Vallen became noncompliant with the Order of Conditions. See Def. 56.1 ¶ 34. Vallen disputes this, citing a July 29, 1994 Progress Note from Dr. M. Malik, a DCS staff psychiatrist. In that Note, Dr. Malik stated: "[Vallen] complains of poor sleep. He's alert, oriented to 3 spheres. He complains of being depressed. He has no energy or motivation to do anything. Currently, I don't think he's dangerous to himself or others. I believe he's compliant with his medications." 7/29/94 Progress Note, Ex. D to the Affidavit of Arthur S. Linker, plaintiff's attorney, in Opposition to Defendants' Motions for Summary Judgment ("Linker Page 8 Aff."). As further ...


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