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Julia Johnson and Djm v. Eddie James Myers

December 6, 2011

JULIA JOHNSON AND DJM, PLAINTIFFS,
v.
EDDIE JAMES MYERS, JR.; DONNA GUARTON, PSYCHOLOGIST; BENJAMIN MALEWICZ; JODY WEITZMAN-FISHER; P.O. PATTERSON, SHIELD NO. 658, 1ST PRECINCT COMMAND; ROBERT BARRIS, M.D.; DR. G. ST. VICTOR; NASSAU COUNTY BALDWIN, U.F.S.D.; ARTHUR A. GIANELLA, PRESIDENT/CEO NASSAU UNIVERSITY MEDICAL CENTER; JOHN CIAPOLI, NASSAU COUNTY ATTORNEY; JUSTICE KAREN MURPHY, NASSAU COUNTY SUPREME COURT; CYRUS R. VANCE, JR., NEW YORK COUNTY DISTRICT ATTORNEY; DEFENDANTS.



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

MEMORANDUM & ORDER

Plaintiff Julia Johnson commenced this action pro se on behalf of herself and her infant son DJM (collectively "Plaintiffs") against DJM's father, Eddie James Myers, Jr.; Donna Guarton and Nassau County Baldwin U.F.S.D. (the "School District Defendants"); Benjamin Malewicz, Jody Weitzman-Fisher, Police Officer Patterson and John Ciapoli (the "Law Enforcement Defendants"); Dr. Robert Barris, Dr. G. St. Victor and Arthur A. Gianella (the "NUMC Defendants"), New York County District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance, Jr., and Nassau County Supreme Court Justice Karen Murphy. Presently pending before the Court is the NUMC Defendants' motion for summary judgment. For the reasons that follow, the NUMC Defendants' motion is GRANTED.

BACKGROUND

I. Factual Background*fn1

On or about August 20, 2008, Ms. Johnson was admitted to Nassau University Medical Center's ("NUMC") Psychiatric Unit. She was referred for a psychiatric evaluation by Child Protective Services ("CPS") and by Mr. Myers after CPS received an anonymous complaint from Brookside Elementary School concerning the possible neglect of DJM. Upon arrival at the hospital, Drs. Karine Grigoryants and Jagjeet Singh, staff psychiatrists at NUMC, examined Ms. Johnson and diagnosed her with psychosis, not otherwise specified, rule out delusional disorder and executed an application for involuntary admission pursuant to New York Mental Hygiene Law § 9.37(a).*fn2 She was deemed a danger to herself and others--she presented as extremely paranoid, guarded, anxious and suspicious, she believed that the police were monitoring her through her burglar alarm system, she reported that she locked herself and her son in her son's bedroom in the middle of the night and made him push a heavy desk against the door because she was afraid of Mr. Myers, and she had on a prior occasion attempted suicide.

On August 21, 2011, Defendant Dr. St. Victor examined Ms. Johnson and diagnosed her with rule out delusional disorder and schizophrenia, paranoid type. Dr. St. Victor completed and executed a certificate stating that Ms. Johnson was in need of involuntary care pursuant to New York Mental Hygiene Law § 9.37(a).*fn3 She observed Ms. Johnson to be suspicious and paranoid, and she exhibited poor judgment. For example, she was advised that she had a urinary tract infection but refused to take any medication to treat it and she refused to sign a release to allow NUMC to obtain information from her prior doctors regarding her psychiatric condition. Dr. St. Victor prescribed Risperdal, an antipsychotic medication, but Ms. Johnson refused to take it. She was discharged by Dr. St. Victor on September 2, 2008 because, despite a noticeable degree of suspiciousness, she was no longer believed to be a danger to herself or others. Ms. Johnson advised Dr. St. Victor that she would not pursue any mental health follow-up treatment nor was she willing to participate in her discharge planning.

On or about October 8, 2008, Ms. Johnson again was admitted involuntarily to NUMC's Psychiatric Unit after CPS expressed concern regarding her ability to care for her son. She was examined by two psychiatrists in the emergency room--Drs. Franz Hinojosa and Josephine Dellarosa--who both diagnosed her with delusional disorder and rule out psychosis. Ms. Johnson was hostile, evasive and guarded with the doctors and staff. Defendant Dr. Robert Barris examined her on October 10, 2008, but she refused to speak to him. She was extremely paranoid and refused to take the Risperdal prescribed to decrease her paranoia. Ms. Johnson continued to exhibit paranoid delusions and refused to take any antipsychotic medication, so on October 31, 2008*fn4 NUMC filed a petition in the Supreme Court in Nassau County seeking permission to involuntarily treat Ms. Johnson with antipsychotic medication. Ms. Johnson opposed the petition at a hearing on November 6, 2008 before Defendant Justice Murphy where she was represented by counsel. That same day Justice Murphy issued an order allowing the administration of antipsychotic medications. Thereafter, Ms. Johnson began taking the prescribed medications, although on a few occasions she did not swallow the pills until she was asked to open her mouth. She was discharged on December 4, 2008 when her delusions and paranoia subsided significantly.

II. Procedural Background

Plaintiffs commenced this action pro se on April 23, 2010. (Docket Entry 1.) On June 29, 2010, the NUMC Defendants filed Answers to the Complaint (Docket Entries 18-20), and on August 30, 2010, the Law Enforcement Defendants filed their Answer (Docket Entry 39). The School District Defendants, Mr. Vance, and Mr. Myers all filed motions to dismiss (Docket Entries 26, 46, 64), which were granted in part and denied in part by this Court on February 23, 2011 (Docket Entry 77). All claims against the School District Defendants and Mr. Vance were dismissed with prejudice, and the only claim against Mr. Myers that survived the motion to dismiss was Plaintiffs' defamation claim. Mr. Myers filed his Answer to the remaining claim against him on June 1, 2011. (Docket Entry 96.) Justice Murphy has yet to make an appearance in this action.

Pending before the Court is the NUMC Defendants' motion for summary judgment. (Docket Entry 90.) The Court notes that no formal discovery has occurred to date.

DISCUSSION

I. Ms. Johnson's Representation of DJM

Before turning to the merits of the NUMC Defendants' summary judgment motion, the Court must first address Ms. Johnson's attempt to represent her infant son pro se. Although "an individual generally has the right to proceed pro se with respect to his own claims or claims against him personally," Berrios v. N.Y.C. Hous. Auth., 564 F.3d 130, 132 (2d Cir. 2009), "a person may not appear on another person's behalf in the other's cause." Iannaccone v. Law, 142 F.3d 553, 558 (2d Cir. 1998). The Second Circuit has repeatedly held that this bars parents from representing their minor children pro se. See, e.g., Cheung v. Youth Orchestra Found. of Buffalo, 906 F.2d 59, 61 (2d Cir. 1990); Wenger v. Canastota Cent. Sch. Dist., 146 F.3d 123, 125 (2d Cir. 1998), overruled on other grounds by Winkelman v. Parma City Sch. Dist., 550 U.S. 516, 127 S. ...


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