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Lane v. Carpinello

August 31, 2009

WARREN LANE, PLAINTIFF,
v.
SHARON E. CARPINELLO, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: David E. Peebles U.S. Magistrate Judge

REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

Plaintiff Warren Lane, a former New York State prison inmate who alleges that he is "legally blind", has commenced this civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§ 1983, 1984, 1985 and 12,101 against ten defendants, eight of whom are employed at the Central New York Psychiatric Center ("CNYPC"), alleging various constitutional and statutory violations committed by the defendants during the period of his confinement in CNYPC. In his complaint, plaintiff asserts claims relating to his involuntary confinement at CNYPC in 2006, commencing upon his conditional release date from prison. Plaintiff maintains that he was transferred into CNYPC in violation of his constitutional right to due process, and that while there he was subjected to further violations, including discrimination based upon his disability, excessive force, failure to intervene to protect him from harm, indifference to his medical needs, and retaliation. Plaintiff requests redress in the form of compensatory and punitive damages as well as declaratory relief.

Currently pending before the court in connection with this action are two motions. Plaintiff initiated the motion process by seeking partial summary judgment with respect to his claim that he was denied due process with regard to his commitment to CNYPC and for violations of Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA"), 42 U.S.C. § 12,101 et seq., while he was held there. Defendants responded in opposition and cross-moved for summary judgment requesting dismissal of plaintiff's complaint in its entirety. Having carefully reviewed the extensive record now before the court, I recommend that plaintiff's motion for partial summary judgment be denied, defendants' motion for summary judgment be granted, and plaintiff's complaint be dismissed in its entirety.

I. BACKGROUND*fn1

Plaintiff, who is visually impaired, was incarcerated by the New York State Department of Correctional Services ("DOCS") for approximately twenty-five years following his conviction for multiple sex offenses.*fn2

Plaintiff's Motion for Partial Summary Judgment (Dkt. No. 57-4) p. 1. Prior to his DOCS conditional custody release date, plaintiff was evaluated by two physicians from the New York State Office of Mental Health ("OMH"); based upon their evaluations, on September 12, 2006, on application of the superintendent of the Sullivan Correctional Facility made pursuant to section 9.27 of the New York Mental Hygiene Law ("MHL"), plaintiff was admitted involuntarily into CNYPC under close observation for participation in the sex offender treatment program ("SOTP").*fn3 Lane Aff. (Dkt. No. 57-2) ¶¶ 1-5. Although his stay at the CNYPC lasted for less than two months, plaintiff's many complaints regarding his commitment and treatment at that facility give rise to this suit.

Admission records reflect that upon being admitted to CNYPC, plaintiff was "very agitated due to his admission to the SOTP and was making statements that he would due [sic] whatever it took to violate and get sent back to prison." Higgins Decl. (Dkt. No. 79-4) Exh. D, p. 92.*fn4

When admitted to CNYPC, plaintiff's mobility cane, which he claims to require when he is outdoors or in an unfamiliar environment, was confiscated by defendant Steven Coppola, a treatment assistant at the facility. Complaint (Dkt. No. 1) p. 6. According to defendants, plaintiff's cane was taken pursuant to a CNYPC safety and security policy that precludes any resident of the center from possessing such an item. Nowicki Aff. (Dkt. No. 79-5) ¶ 7. Plaintiff alleges that thereafter he was denied reasonable accommodations for his blindness despite his numerous requests. Complaint (Dkt. No. 1) p. 6. Defendant Jeffrey Nowicki, who was at all times relevant to plaintiff's complaint the Team Leader of the SOTP at CNYPC and is currently the Chief of Mental Health Treatment Services of the SOTP, explains that while plaintiff's cane was confiscated, he was offered a wheelchair or walker, both of which plaintiff refused. Nowicki Aff. (Dkt. No. 79-5) ¶¶ 1, 7-8. Nowicki states further that staff at CNYPC were aware of plaintiff's left eye prosthesis and that plaintiff was given medical support for this condition. Id. ¶ 10. Plaintiff's in-patient nursing assessment conducted on September 12, 2006, upon his admission to CNYPC, reflects plaintiff's mobility status as fully independent without any notations that a cane or walker was needed. Higgins Decl. (Dkt. No. 79-4) Exh. D, p. 38.

On October 13, 2006, one month after his transfer into CNYPC, plaintiff wrote a letter to defendant Donald Sawyer, director of the facility, demanding compliance with the ADA and that he be provided with reasonable accommodations for his disability, including a laptop computer with zoom text, a scanner and inkjet color printer, a 7x magnifier, books on tape, a high intensity lamp and 20/20 pens. Complaint (Dkt. No. 1) p. 9; Plaintiff's Motion for Partial Summary Judgment (Dkt. No. 57-4) Exh. C; see also Defendants' Response to Plaintiff's Statement Pursuant to Local Rule 7.1(a)(3) (Dkt. No. 78) ¶ 5. Plaintiff claims that, in response, defendant Nowicki told him that accommodations were unnecessary because plaintiff "would not remain at CNYPC for much longer." Complaint (Dkt. No. 1) p. 9. Feeling threatened by Nowicki's statement, Lane sent a letter to defendant Sharon Carpinello, Commissioner of the OMH, requesting that she place him into protective custody and transfer him from CNYPC. Id. Plaintiff did not receive a response to that letter. Id.

Plaintiff claims to have been subjected to three separate attacks during his stay at CNYPC. On September 18, 2006, while in the recreation yard, plaintiff was struck by a football and subsequently attacked by a fellow patient, suffering injury to his face, nose and jaw.*fn5 Complaint (Dkt. No. 1) p. 7; Plaintiff's Deposition Transcript ("Tr.") pp. 27-33.*fn6 Plaintiff claims that upon requesting medical attention he was told by defendant J. Crociata, a nurse at CNYPC, "[t]here's nothing wrong with you," and denied treatment. Complaint (Dkt. No. 1) p. 7. Plaintiff's CNYPC records contradict his version of the events, instead reflecting that defendant Crociata witnessed plaintiff arguing with another patient near the recreation yard door entrance and tried to intervene. Higgins Decl. (Dkt. No. 79-4) Exh. D, p. 114. When Crociata approached Lane and inquired if he was injured, Lane stated that he was not touched and became angry when Crociata asked what had happened, accusing Crociata of being a racist.

Id. Plaintiff was visited by a doctor later that evening during rounds; although the doctor offered to see him, plaintiff again said he was "okay" and declined any treatment. Id.

Following the September 18, 2009 incident, plaintiff demanded that he be permitted to file criminal charges against the patient who assaulted him, but was allegedly denied the opportunity to contact law enforcement authorities by Nowicki and defendants Michael Babula and Frank Menz, both of whom are treatment assistants at CNYPC. Complaint (Dkt. No. 1) p. 7. Nowicki informed plaintiff that mediation was available to handle such disputes, making it unnecessary to contact the State Police.*fn7 Id. Plaintiff claims defendant Nowicki then threatened that if he insisted on filing criminal charges, Nowicki would have his parole violated. Id. As a result of the September 18 attack plaintiff no longer felt safe, particularly in light of his blindness, and was fearful of losing his remaining ability to see in another altercation. Id. Plaintiff requested that Nowicki either transfer him to another facility or place him in protective custody.*fn8 Id. After both requests were denied, plaintiff subsequently sent a written request to defendants Sawyer and Sharon Barboza, Director of the SOTP at CNYPC, again asking for protective custody and transfer. Id. Plaintiff received no response from either Sawyer or Barboza. Id.

Plaintiff's CNYPC records show that a call was placed to the New York State Police when plaintiff indicated that he wanted to pursue criminal charges, and that plaintiff became belligerent and threatening after the incident, touting his lengthy disciplinary record in prison and warning not only that he would "kick the shit" out of the other patient with whom he had the problem, but also that he would soon be running the ward.*fn9 Higgins Decl. (Dkt. No. 79-4) Exh. D, pp. 116-19. Plaintiff did contact his parole officer regarding the incident and also filed a complaint with Nowicki. Id.

The next relevant incident occurred on September 22, 2006 when, plaintiff claims, defendant Nowicki called him to a hallway and ordered defendants Menz and Coppola to "take him down" after Lane refused to speak with Nowicki. Complaint (Dkt. No. 1) p. 8. As a result, plaintiff was thrown to the floor and kicked and punched, put in restraints, and placed on a gurney, even though he claims he did not resist.*fn10 Id. Plaintiff alleges that he was denied medical treatment for the shoulder, lower back, and face injuries that he sustained and was instead held captive in a room for two to three days, forced to sleep on the floor, and provided only one meal during that time period. Complaint (Dkt. No. 1) p. 8; Tr. p. 55.

Once again, defendants' version of what occurred on that occasion is markedly different. Defendant Nowicki states that on September 22, 2006 plaintiff became hostile toward both staff and the residents, and threatened to instigate a riot. Nowicki Aff. (Dkt. No. 79-5) ¶¶ 21-30; see also Higgins Decl. (Dkt. No. 79-4) Exh. D, pp. 139-50. Nowicki attempted to counsel Lane in the "side room"; plaintiff rebuffed those efforts and instead attempted to re-enter the day room. Nowacki Aff. (Dkt. No. 79-5) ¶¶ 23-24. As a result, plaintiff was placed in four point restraints, pursuant to a doctor's orders, for a period of seven minutes and physically removed to the side room. Id. ¶ 25. When plaintiff's threats continued, he was left in the side room under supervision, consistent with hospital policy, from September 22, 2006 at 1:00 p.m. until September 25 at 9:30 a.m., during which time he was provided food, a mattress and a chair. Id. ¶¶ 26-30. When plaintiff was visited by a psychiatrist, he stated that he was upset because he felt that he was being treated differently than other patients with respect to unit policies, and denied any intention to hurt anyone, despite his threats. Higgins Decl. (Dkt. No. 79-4) Exh. D, p.150. Detailed CNYPC progress notes recording plaintiff's status at fifteen minute intervals show that Lane was provided and ate all of his meals during the time he was confined to the side room. Id. pp. 153-81. Plaintiff's parole officer was called to CNYPC, but found that there was insufficient evidence to bring parole violation charges against plaintiff. Id. p. 186; see also Nowicki Aff. (Dkt. No. 79-5) ¶ 27 (reflecting that the parole officer was summoned at plaintiff's request).

Following the events of September 18 and 22, 2006, plaintiff and his wife made several written complaints and placed telephone calls to various New York and federal agencies and officials. Complaint (Dkt. No. 1) p. 8. Plaintiff complains that neither he nor his wife were ever contacted by New York State Mental Hygiene Legal Services, that Prisoners Legal Services declined to represent him because he was no longer incarcerated, and that defendant Beebe, the person with the New York State Commission for Quality Care of Persons with Disabilities, assigned to investigate plaintiff's complaint, never visited CNYPC while Lane was there, and failed to interview plaintiff or his wife. Id. Defendants, by contrast, contend that defendant Beebe had either personal telephone conversations or exchanged voice mail messages with plaintiff's wife, Denise Lane, on October 1, October 23, November 1, November 3, and November 7, 2006. Defendants' Response to Plaintiff's Request for Admissions (Dkt. No. 62-3) ¶ 8. Defendant Beebe also visited CNYPC on November 21, 2006 to investigate plaintiff's complaints. Higgins Aff. (Dkt. No. 79-4) Exh. E, pp. 32-33.

Plaintiff asserts that in early October of 2006, he was again "attacked" by another patient whom, he maintains, has a history of assaultive behavior. Complaint (Dkt. No. 1) p. 9; Tr. p. 39. While plaintiff admits that there was no physical contact between the two, he states that out of fear he immediately requested placement in protective custody, a request that was once again denied. Id. After the incident, plaintiff was brought to the side room and is reported to have said that the fellow patient kept threatening him, and that he would take matters into his own hands if required. Higgins Decl. (Dkt. No. 79-4) Exh. D, p. 214. It was noted that CNYPC staff members were becoming increasingly concerned regarding plaintiff's menacing behavior and his apparent attempts to control and rally other patients, and that Lane stated that he felt like killing the other patient. Id., pp. 214, 220.

The final incident of which plaintiff complains occurred on October 31, 2006, when Lane, upset after seeing another patient attacked, requested and was given permission to return to his room instead of remaining queued with the other patients proceeding to the dining room. Complaint (Dkt. No. 1) p. 9. After returning to his room plaintiff was approached by defendant Lucenti regarding the incident; responding to Lucenti, Lane said, "[w]hat are you people waiting for someone to get stabbed?" Complaint (Dkt. No. 1) p. 9. When plaintiff left his room later that day he was confronted by defendants Nowicki, Lucenti, Menz, Coppola and Babula, at which time Nowicki allegedly stated, "[w]e got you now." Complaint (Dkt. No. 1) p. 10. Plaintiff appears to have interpreted this statement to mean that defendants falsified documents to make it seem that plaintiff had threatened defendant Lucenti. Id.; Tr. pp. 43-44. As a result of the incident plaintiff's parole status was revoked, and he was removed that day from CNYPC and transferred into the Oneida County Jail. Nowicki Aff (Dkt. No. 78-2) ¶¶ 6, 19; Tr. p. 18.

According to defendants the events of October 31, 2006 were precipitated by plaintiff's refusal to stay in line and his subsequent threat, when approached regarding the incident, to put a knife to the neck of one of the CNYPC staff members. Higgins Decl. (Dkt. No. 79-4) Exh. D, pp. 296-301. According to defendant Lucenti, when he went to speak with the plaintiff about getting out of line, Mr. Lane then got in my face, he said he was going to put a knife in a TA's [treatment assistant's] neck, a knife or something in a TA's neck. He said I am serious, I will put a knife in one of their necks, I will lay them out cold. You better call parole. I'm tired of all this, I am going to the side room.

Parole Hearing Tr. (Dkt. No. 84-5) p. 32; Higgins Decl. (Dkt. No. 79-4) Exh. D, p. 296. Lucenti considered this to be a serious threat. Parole Hearing Tr. (Dkt. No. 84-5) p. 32. Plaintiff demanded that he be moved to the side room and returned to prison, and was informed that arrangements were being made to return him to the custody of the DOCS as soon as possible; plaintiff went to the side room, his parole officer was called, a violation was issued, and Lane was returned to prison. Id.

II. PROCEDURAL HISTORY

Plaintiff commenced this action on July 19, 2007, and was thereafter granted leave to proceed in forma pauperis on August 1, 2007. Dkt. Nos. 1, 4. In his complaint plaintiff names ten defendants, including Sharon E. Carpinello, the Commissioner of the OMH; Barbara Beebe,*fn11 a facility review specialist from the State of New York Commission on Quality of Care for Persons with Disabilities; Donald Sawyer, the Director of the CNYPC; Sharon E. Barboza, M.D., the Director of the SOTP at CNYPC; Jeffrey Nowicki, a team leader of the SOTP at CNYPC; and Anthony Lucenti, Michael Babula, Frank Menz, Steven Coppola, and J. Crociata, all staff members at the facility. Alleging violations of the ADA as well as the First, Fourth, Fifth, Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments of the United States Constitution, plaintiff's complaint asserts ten enumerated causes of action, including denial of due process, failure to provide reasonable accommodations for his disability, excessive use of force, deliberate indifference to his medical needs, failure to intervene and/or protect, retaliation, conspiracy and failure to investigate his complaints. Id.

On October 2, 2008, following joinder of issue and the close of discovery, plaintiff moved for partial summary judgment on his due process claim as it relates to his commitment to CNYPC as well as his claims under the ADA. Dkt. No. 57. In support of his motion, relying on the doctrines of res judicata and collateral estoppel, plaintiff asserts that the procedures under which he was involuntarily committed to CNYPC were determined to be unconstitutional by the New York State Court of Appeals in Harkavy v. Consilvio, 7 N.Y.3d 610, 825 N.Y.S.2d 702 (2006), that he was unlawfully denied a mobility guide for his blindness, and that his parole violation was "fruit of a poisonous tree" and would not have occurred had he not been unlawfully detained at CNYPC in violation of the Fourth Amendment. Dkt. No. 57.

Defendants opposed plaintiff's motion and cross-moved for summary judgment, advancing several grounds for rejection of all of plaintiff's claims, including that 1) plaintiff's section 1983 claims against defendants, acting in their official capacities, are barred by the Eleventh Amendment; 2) plaintiff has failed to establish a valid cause of action under the ADA, and defendants cannot be held individually liable for damages under that Act; 3) plaintiff has not established claims of failure to protect, deliberate indifference to his medical needs, denial of access to courts, retaliation, excessive use of force, or conspiracy; 4) plaintiff has failed to demonstrate the requisite personal involvement by defendants Carpinello and Sawyer to support a finding of liability against them; 5) plaintiff has no cognizable constitutional interest in filing a criminal complaint, or in the pursuit of an investigation regarding his complaints made while housed at CNYPC; 6) defendants are not bound by the Court of Appeals decision in Harkavy, which was decided after plaintiff was released from CNYPC, and that decision does not create a constitutional right that is redressable in this court; and 7) in any event, defendants are shielded from suit by the doctrine of qualified immunity. Dkt. No. 79-3. Plaintiff has since responded in opposition to defendants' motion. Dkt. No. 84.

Both of the pending summary judgment motions, which are now ripe for determination, have been referred to me for a report and recommendation pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636 (b)(1)(B) and Northern District of New York Local Rule 72.3(c). See also Fed. R. Civ. P. 72(b).

III. DISCUSSION

A. Summary Judgment Standard

Summary judgment motions are governed by Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Under that provision, summary judgment is warranted when "the pleadings, the discovery and disclosure materials on file, and any affidavits show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c); see Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 2552 (1986); Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 247, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 2509-10 (1986); Security Ins. Co. of Hartford v. Old Dominion Freight Line, Inc., 391 F.3d 77, 82-83 (2d Cir. 2004). A fact is "material", for purposes of this inquiry, if it "might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law." Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248, 106 S.Ct. at 2510; see also Jeffreys v. City of New York, 426 F.3d 549, 553 (2d Cir. 2005) (citing Anderson, 477 U.S. at 247, 106 S.Ct. at 2509-10). A material fact is genuinely in dispute "if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party." Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248, 106 S.Ct. at 2510.

A moving party seeking summary judgment bears the initial burden of demonstrating that there is no genuine dispute of material fact to be decided with respect to any essential element of the claim in issue; the failure to meet this burden warrants denial of the motion. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 250 n.4, 106 S.Ct. at 2511 n.4; Security Ins., 391 F.3d at 83. In the event this initial burden is met, the opposing party must show, through affidavits or otherwise, that there is a material issue of fact for trial. Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(e); Celotex, 477 U.S. at 324, 106 S.Ct. at 2553; Anderson, 477 U.S. at 250, 106 S.Ct. at 2511. Where a party is proceeding pro se, the court must "read [his or her] supporting papers liberally, and . . . interpret them to raise the strongest arguments that they suggest." Burgos v. Hopkins, 14 F.3d 787, 790 (2d Cir. 1994). Though pro se plaintiffs are entitled to special latitude when defending against summary judgment motions, to successfully resist summary judgment they must establish more than mere "metaphysical doubt as to the material facts." Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586, 106 S.Ct. 1348, 1356 (1986); but see Vital v. Interfaith Med. Ctr., 168 F.3d 615, 620-21 (2d Cir. 1999) (noting obligation of court to consider whether pro se plaintiff understood nature of summary judgment process).

When deciding a summary judgment motion, a court must resolve any ambiguities, and draw all inferences from the facts, in a light most favorable to the nonmoving party. Jeffreys, 426 F.3d at 553; Wright v. Coughlin, 132 F.3d 133, 137-38 (2d Cir. 1998). The entry of summary judgment is warranted only in the event of a finding that no reasonable trier of fact could rule in favor of the non-moving party. See Building Trades Employers' Educ. Ass'n v. McGowan, 311 F.3d 501, 507-08 (2d Cir. 2002) (citation omitted); see also Anderson, 477 U.S. at 250, 106 S.Ct. at 2511 (summary judgment is appropriate only when "there can be but one reasonable conclusion as to the verdict"). In a case such as this, where parties have interposed cross-motions for summary judgment, each motion must be independently assessed, using this standard as a backdrop. See Light Sources, Inc. v Cosmedico Light, Inc., 360 F.Supp.2d 432, 434 (D. Conn. 2005).

B. Fourteenth Amendment Procedural Due Process Claim

Plaintiff challenges his involuntary commitment to CNYPC as violative of his right to due process and moves for summary judgment on this claim, arguing that the New York State Court of Appeals decision in Harkavy, should be given res judicata or collateral estoppel effect in this action. In Harkavy, the Court of Appeals held that the DOCS' resort to Article 9 of the MHL to institute commitment procedures for sex offenders in its custody was improper, observing that in the absence of a clear legislative directive in regard to inmates nearing their release from incarceration, we believe that [New York] Correction Law § 402 is the appropriate method for evaluating an inmate for postrelease involuntary commitment to a mental facility.

Harkavy, 7 N.Y.3d at 614.*fn12 Having been committed to CNYPC under MHL § 9.27, plaintiff now argues that Harkavy renders his commitment unconstitutional, and that defendants are bound by that decision. Defendants counter that since plaintiff was already removed from CNYPC and returned to prison by the time Harkavy was decided, the case has no bearing on his circumstances.

1. Res Judicata

Under the doctrine of res judicata, known also as "claim preclusion," a final judgment on the merits of an action precludes the parties, or those in privity with the parties, from relitigating issues that were or could have been raised in that action. Allen v. McCurry, 449 U.S. 90, 94, 101 S.Ct. 411, 414 (1980); Jacobson v. Fireman's Fund Insurance Co., 111 F.3d 261, 265 (2d Cir. 1997); Burgos v. Hopkins, 14 F.3d 787, 789 (2d Cir. 1994). "It is a cardinal principle of res judicata that 'the first suit and the subsequent case must involve the same cause of action[,]' otherwise, res judicata will not bar the second action." Thompson v. County Franklin, No. 92-CV-1258, 1996 WL 341988, at *3 (June 18, 1996) (McCurn, S.J.) (quoting Bloomquist v. Brady, 894 F.Supp 108, 114 (W.D.N.Y. 1995)). In the Second Circuit, there are three separate but related factors which together inform the analysis of the preclusive effect to be given a prior judgment, including "[w]hether the same transaction or connected series of transactions is at issue, whether the same evidence is needed to support both claims, and whether the facts essential to the second were present in the first."*fn13 Woods v. Dunlop Tire Corp., 972 F.2d 36, 38 (2d Cir. 1992) (quoting NLRB v. United Technologies, 706 F.2d 1254, 1260 (2d Cir. 1983) (internal quotations omitted)).

Neither Lane nor the defendants were parties to Harkavy. That lawsuit was a habeas corpus proceeding filed against the DOCS by the New York Mental Hygiene Legal Services seeking the immediate release of certain individuals whose prison terms had expired and were being held at the Manhattan Psychiatric Center. While it is arguable that defendants in this action are in privity with the DOCS, see Browdy v. Lantz, 3:03CV1981, 2006 WL 2711753, at *5 (D. Conn. Sept. 21, 2006), plaintiff, who had been released from CNYPC at the time Harkavy had been decided, was not a party to that action, does not allege any privity with the petitioners in Harkavy, and was never held in the Manhattan Psychiatric Center. Accordingly, the two actions do not arise from the same core of operative facts, nor would they involve the same evidence. In addition, although both Harkavy and this action involve MHL § 9.27, Harkavy did not determine the constitutionality of the DOCS' use of MHL § 9.27 to commit sex offenders leaving their custody. Rather, the issue presented and addressed by the New York Court of Appeals in that case was whether the DOCS' use of the MHL procedure, as distinct from that set forth in Correction Law § 402, was proper, and the court held only that it was not. Harkavy, 7 N.Y.3d at 610. For these reasons, the Harkavy decision does implicate the doctrine of res judicata in this action.

2. Collateral Estoppel

The doctrine of collateral estoppel, or claim preclusion, is equally inapplicable in this case. Once a court has decided an issue of fact or law necessary to its judgment, a party to the first action, or one in privity with the party, cannot relitigate that specific issue in a subsequent lawsuit. Allen, 449 U.S. at 94; Burgos, 14 F.3d at 792; Ryan v. N.Y. Telephone Co., 62 N.Y.2d 494, 500, 467 N.E.2d 487, 490 (1984). Under New York law, collateral estoppel applies only if 1) the issue in question was necessarily decided in the prior proceeding and is decisive of the present proceeding; and 2) the party against whom the doctrine is asserted had a full and fair opportunity to litigate the issue in the first proceeding. Burgos, 14 F.3d at 792; Khandhar v. Elfenbein, 943 F.2d 244, 247 (2d Cir. 1991). The party asserting collateral estoppel has the burden of showing that the identical issue was previously decided, while the party opposing estoppel must show the absence of a full and fair opportunity to litigate in the prior proceeding. Burgos, 14 F.3d at 792. Because the issue decided in Harkavy was not identical to the issue raised in this lawsuit, collateral estoppel does not preclude litigation of the constitutionality of defendants' actions in this case.

3. Due Process

Turning to the merits of plaintiff's due process claim, I begin by noting that to successfully state a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for denial of procedural due process, a plaintiff must show that he or she 1) possessed an actual liberty interest, and 2) was deprived of that interest without being afforded sufficient procedural safeguards. See Tellier v. Fields, 280 F.3d 69, 79-80 (2d Cir. 2000) (citations omitted); Hynes, 143 F.3d at 658; Bedoya v. Coughlin, 91 F.3d 349, 351-52 (2d Cir. 1996). It is undeniable that [i]nvoluntary confinement, including civil commitment, constitutes a significant deprivation of liberty, requiring due process." Abdul v. Matiyn v. Pataki, 9:06-CV-1503, 2008 WL 974409, at *10 (N.D.N.Y. April. 8, 2008) (Hurd, J. and Homer, M.J.) (quoting Fisk v. Letterman, 401 F. Supp.2d 362, 374 (S.D.N.Y. 2005) (citations omitted). "When a person's liberty interests are implicated, due process requires at a minimum notice and an opportunity to be heard." Mental Hygiene Legal Service v. Spitzer, 2007 WL 4115936, at * 5 (citing Hamdi v. Rumsfeld, 542 U.S. 507, 533, 124 S.Ct. 2633, 2648 (2004) (plurality opinion)). The Supreme Court has approved the use of involuntary confinement where there has been a determination that the person in question currently suffers from a "mental abnormality" and is likely to pose a future danger to the public. Abdul, 2008 WL 974409, at *10 (citing Kansas v. Hendricks, 521 U.S. 346, 371, 117 S.Ct. 2072, 2086 (1997)).

Plaintiff was committed to CNYPC by way of the procedures set out in MHL § 9.27, rather than Correction Law § 402. Lane was not afforded notice and an opportunity to be heard before, or even after, his transfer to that facility. In light of these facts, and for the reasons underpinning the Court of Appeals' decision in Harkavy, it appears that plaintiff's due process rights were violated in connection with his commitment. Abdul, 2008 WL 974409, at *10; see also Wheeler v. Pataki, No. 9:07-CV-0892, 2009 WL 674152, at *6-7 (N.D.N.Y. March 11, 2009) (McAvoy, S.J. and Lowe, M.J.). I therefore recommend denial of defendants' motion for summary judgment dismissing plaintiff's due process claim to the extent that defendants' basis for dismissal is addressed to the merits of that cause of action.*fn14

4. "Fruit of the Poisonous Tree"

In an apparent effort to make a claim for violation of his Fourth Amendment rights, plaintiff next argues that if he had not been committed to CNYPC under the MHL, he would not have been "illegally" confined and therefore would not have threatened defendant Lucenti and violated his parole. In a creative attempt to draw upon principles that do not translate well into this setting, Lane argues that the conduct giving rise to his parole revocation is "tainted" under the "fruit of the poisonous tree" principles.

"The fruit of the poisonous tree doctrine excludes evidence obtained from or as a consequence of lawless official acts." Townes v. City of New York, 176 F.3d 138, 145 (2d Cir. 1999) (quoting Costello v. United States, 365 U.S. 265, 280, 81 S.Ct. 534, 542 (1961)). It does not apply in this context where plaintiff apparently objects to use of evidence of his threats as a basis for a parole violation. See Rabb v. McMaher, No. 94-CV-614, 1998 WL 214425, at *7 (N.D.N.Y. Apr. 24, 1998) (Pooler, J.) ("This doctrine applies to evidence that is obtained during a criminal investigation as a result of an unconstitutional search; it does not apply to to prison disciplinary hearings."). Simply stated, the fruit of the poisonous tree doctrine cannot link the conduct allegedly violating plaintiff's Fourth Amendment rights to his return to prison and establish an actionable claim, since this evidentiary doctrine is inapplicable in a civil section 1983 setting. Townes, 176 F.3d at145.

C. Qualified Immunity

As one of the bases for their summary judgment motion, defendants assert their entitlement to qualified immunity from suit. Qualified immunity shields government officials performing discretionary functions from liability for damages "insofar as their conduct does not violate clearly established statutory or constitutional rights of which a reasonable person would have known." Harlow v. Fitzgerald, 457 U.S. 800, 818, 102 S.Ct. 2727, 2738 (1982) (citations omitted). Accordingly, governmental officials sued for damages "are entitled to qualified immunity if 1) their actions did not violate clearly established law, or 2) it was objectively reasonable for them to believe that their actions did not violate such law." Warren v. Keane, 196 F.3d 330, 332 (2d Cir. 1999) (citing Salim v. Proulx, 93 F.3d 86, 89 (2d Cir. 1996)); see also Zellner v. Summerlin, 494 F.3d 344, 367 (2d Cir. 2007); Iqbal v. Hasty, 490 F.3d 143,152 (2d Cir. 2007), rev'd on other grounds, sub. nom. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, ___ U.S. ___, 129 S.Ct. 1937 (May 18, 2009). The law of qualified immunity seeks to strike a balance between overexposure by government officials to suits for violations based upon abstract rights and an unduly narrow view which would insulate them from liability in connection with virtually all discretionary decisions. Locurto v. Safir, 264 F.3d 154, 162-63 (2d Cir. 2001); Warren, 196 F.3d at 332. As the Second Circuit has observed, [q]ualified immunity serves important interests in our political system, chief among them to ensure that damages suits do not unduly inhibit officials in the discharge of their duties by saddling individual officers with personal monetary liability and harassing litigation.

Provost v. City of Newburgh, 262 F.3d 146, 160 (2d Cir. 2001) (internal quotations omitted) (citing, inter alia, Bivens v. Six Unknown Named Agents of the Fed. Bureau of Narcotics, 456 F.2d 1339, 1348 (2d Cir. 1972)).

Until recently, it was generally agreed that a proper qualified immunity analysis entailed a three step inquiry. Harhay v. Town of Ellington Bd. of Educ., 323 F.3d 206, 211-12 (2d Cir. 2003). As a threshold matter a court considering the issue was charged with first determining whether, based upon the facts alleged, the plaintiff had facially established a constitutional violation. Id.; Gilles v. Repicky, 511 F.3d 239, 243-44 (2d Cir. 2007). If the answer to this inquiry was in the affirmative, then the focus turned to whether the right in issue was clearly established at the time of the alleged violation. Id. (citing Saucier v. Katz, 533 U.S. 194, 201-02, 121 S.Ct. 2151, 2156 (2001)); see also Poe v. Leonard, 282 F.3d 123, 132-33 (2d Cir. 2002). Finally, upon determining that the plaintiff had a clearly established, constitutionally protected right which was violated, the court next considered whether it was nonetheless objectively reasonable ...


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