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Harris v. Mills

July 9, 2009

MONROE S. HARRIS, B.S., D.O., PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,
v.
RICHARD P. MILLS, COMMISSIONER OF EDUCATION, MERRYL H. TISCH, REGENT CHANCELLOR, DAVID A. PATERSON, GOVERNOR, DEFENDANTS-APPELLEES, NEW YORK STATE EDUCATION DEPARTMENT, DEFENDANT.*FN1



SYLLABUS BY THE COURT

Appeal from a judgment of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York (Victor Marrero, Judge). The district court granted the defendants' motion to dismiss the plaintiff's pro se amended complaint. We conclude that the plaintiff's claims are legally insufficient, even when liberally construed, although we disagree with the district court's decision to base that conclusion in part on the theory that the plaintiff's claims under Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Rehabilitation Act cannot be asserted against individuals in their official capacity.

Affirmed.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Sack, Circuit Judge

Argued: February 2, 2009

Before: SACK and PARKER, Circuit Judges, and COTE, District Judge.*fn2

Monroe S. Harris appeals from a judgment of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York (Victor Marrero, Judge). Harris was formerly licensed by the state of New York as a doctor of osteopathic medicine; his medical license was revoked because he was found to have committed fraud and engaged in improper medical practices. At issue is the New York State Education Department's denial of Harris's petition to reinstate his license. Harris brought this action pro se pursuant to, inter alia, Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA"), 42 U.S.C. § 12131 et seq., the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, 29 U.S.C. § 794 et seq., and 42 U.S.C. § 1983. He claims to have been illegally denied a reasonable accommodation for his cognitive disabilities and unconstitutionally deprived of due process of law.

The district court granted the individual defendants' motion to dismiss the ADA and Rehabilitation Act accommodation claims because the court concluded that those statutes do not provide for individual liability. The district court also dismissed the Rehabilitation Act claim and the remaining claims for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. Although we disagree with some of the district court's reasoning, we agree with it that the plaintiff's claims are legally insufficient, even when read with the lenity that must attend the review of pro se pleadings.

We therefore affirm the judgment.

BACKGROUND

This appeal is but the latest chapter in a litigation arising out of the 1999 revocation of Harris's license to practice medicine by the New York State Board for Professional Medical Conduct (the "Board").

The Revocation of the License The Board revoked Harris's license to practice osteopathic medicine in part because it found, after an investigation and a hearing, that Harris had committed "fraudulent practice" and had made false statements when he submitted applications for reappointment to three different hospitals. See Harris v. N.Y. State Dep't of Health, 202 F. Supp. 2d 143, 148-49 (S.D.N.Y. 2002) ("Harris I"). Harris had asserted in the applications that he was not at the time a subject of disciplinary action, even though he was in fact then under investigation by the Bureau of Controlled Substances of the New York State Department of Health for allegations of illegally storing and dispensing controlled substances.*fn3 See id. at 148.

He also failed to disclose his previous misconduct in two other reappointment applications and failed to disclose, in an application to the New York State Education Department for renewal of his medical license, that his practice privileges at a hospital had been terminated. See id.

The Board also found that Harris had provided negligent and incompetent medical care. He had, for example, inappropriately prescribed diet pills to one patient and had prescribed to another patient a drug contraindicated for that patient's heart condition. See id. at 149. The Board also found that Harris had failed to maintain records adequately. See id.

The Board's revocation was affirmed by the State Administrative Review Board. See id. at 150. Harris then initiated a proceeding pursuant to Article 78 of the New York Civil Practice Law and Rules, N.Y. C.P.L.R. § 7801 et seq., in the New York State Supreme Court, Appellate Division. The Appellate Division confirmed the Administrative Review Board's decision and dismissed the petition. Harris v. Novello, 276 A.D.2d 848, 714 N.Y.S.2d 365 (3d Dep't 2000).

Thereafter, Harris brought a lawsuit against the New York State Department of Health ("DOH") in the district court. In it, he challenged the Board's revocation of his license, "alleg[ing] that DOH refused to acknowledge evidence of his learning disabilities and revoked his medical license without considering or offering him reasonable means to accommodate those disabilities," in violation of Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, 29 U.S.C. § 794, and Title II of the ADA. Harris I, 202 F. Supp. 2d at 164. He also alleged "deficiencies in DOH's procedures" in violation of the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution. Id.

The district court granted DOH's motion to dismiss in light of the prior state proceedings, concluding that "Harris's efforts to relitigate . . . the revocation of his medical license are barred by application of the Rooker-Feldman doctrine." Id. at 165; see D.C. Court of Appeals v. Feldman, 460 U.S. 462 (1983); Rooker v. Fid. Trust Co., 263 U.S. 413 (1923). The court also concluded that the ADA and Rehabilitation Act claims against the state agency were barred by operation of the Eleventh Amendment, Harris I, 202 F. Supp. 2d at 173-74, and that the due process claim against the DOH was barred because that agency is not a "person" within the meaning of 42 U.S.C. § 1983, and because the Eleventh Amendment precluded the due process claim insofar as it sought money damages, id. at 178.

The Petition for Restoration

In February 2002, Harris applied to the New York Board of Regents, seeking to restore his license to practice medicine.*fn4

After meeting with Harris, a "Peer Committee" issued a report recommending that the Education Department deny his application. On June 7, 2004, the Education Department's Committee on the Professions met with Harris. It subsequently issued a report following the Peer Committee's recommendation. The Board of Regents affirmed. Harris does ...


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