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David Mcchesney v. (Gts/Dep) Dr. Samuel A Bastien

September 20, 2012

DAVID MCCHESNEY, PLAINTIFF,
v.
(GTS/DEP) DR. SAMUEL A BASTIEN, IV, PH.D., EXEC. DIR., ST. LAWRENCE PSYCHIATRIC CTR., DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Glenn T. Suddaby, United States District Judge

MEMORANDUM-DECISION and ORDER

Currently before the Court, in this pro se prisoner civil rights action filed by David McChesney ("Plaintiff") against Executive Director of the St. Lawrence Psychiatric Center Samuel A. Bastien ("Defendant"), are the following: (1) Defendant's motion for summary judgment (Dkt. No. 12); (2) United States Magistrate Judge David E. Peebles' Report-Recommendation recommending that Defendant's motion be denied (Dkt. No. 14); and (3) Defendant's Objection to the Report-Recommendation (Dkt. No. 15). For the reasons set forth below, the Report-Recommendation is accepted and adopted, and Defendant's motion is denied.

I. RELEVANT BACKGROUND

Generally, construed with the utmost of liberality, Plaintiff's Complaint asserts a Fourteenth Amendment procedural due process claim against Defendant for continuing to involuntarily commit Plaintiff to the St. Lawrence Psychiatric Center (pursuant to Article 10 of the N.Y. Mental Hygiene Law) for sixty days after the expiration of an order involuntarily committing Plaintiff to that facility on consent for six months (pursuant to N.Y. Correction Law § 402), without affording Plaintiff prior notice and an opportunity to be heard as to that continuing involuntary commitment. (See generally Dkt. No. 1.) For a more detailed recitation of Plaintiff's claim, and the factual allegations giving rise to that claim, the Court refers the reader to the "Facts" and "Claims" section of his Complaint, the exhibits to that Complaint, and Part I of Magistrate Judge Peebles' Report-Recommendation. (Dkt. No. 1, at ¶¶ 7-19 & Exs. AF; Dkt. No. 14, at 3-10.)

Generally, in his motion for summary judgment, Defendant asserts the following four arguments: (1) based on the current record, Plaintiff's initial commitment to the St. Lawrence Psychiatric Center for six months (under N.Y. Correction Law § 402) did not violate his procedural due process rights under the Fourteenth Amendment, as a matter of law; (2) based on the current record, Defendant's 60-day delay in procuring a substitute order retaining Plaintiff in the St. Lawrence Psychiatric Center (under Article 10 of the N.Y. Mental Hygiene Law), after the expiration of the previously described six-month order of retention, did not violate Plaintiff's procedural due process rights under the Fourteenth Amendment, as a matter of law; (3) in any event, Plaintiff has failed to allege facts plausibly suggesting Defendant's personal involvement in the constitutional violation alleged; and (4) in any event, based on the current record evidence (including the fact that Defendant relied on the advice of Office of Mental Health counsel in deciding to "how to address plaintiff's stay at [St. Lawrence Psychiatric Center]"), Defendant is protected from liability as a matter of law by the doctrine of qualified immunity. (Dkt. No. 12, Attach. 10, at 9-20 [attaching pages "7" through "18" of Def.'s Memo. of Law].) For a more detailed recitation of Defendant's legal arguments, the Court refers the reader to the motion for summary judgment in its entirety. (Id.)

Despite having received adequate notice of the failure to respond to Defendant's motion, Plaintiff did not file such a response. (See generally Docket Sheet.) Nor did Defendant file a reply. (Id.)

Generally, in his Report-Recommendation, Magistrate Judge Peebles rejected each of Defendant's four arguments, and recommended that Defendants motion be denied. (See generally Dkt. No. 14, at 10-11, 17-44.) For example, with regard to Defendant's qualified immunity argument, Magistrate Judge Peebles found that the procedural due process right sought to be vindicated by Plaintiff in this action was clearly established during the time in question

(i.e., the fall of 2007), essentially for the following four reasons: (1) the Supreme Court had previously confirmed the existence of that right in the general context of an involuntary confinement in a psychiatric facility; (2) there is no merit to Defendant's argument that such a right ceases to exist, or even reasonably appears to cease to exist, in the specific context of confinements pursuant to Article 10 of the N.Y. Mental Hygiene Law; (3) Defendant has failed to adequately explain, and/or support, why he did not avail himself of the procedure (provided by Article 10) to afford Plaintiff due process while safeguarding the concerns of the community before his term of authorized confinement expired; and (4) Defendant's reliance on the advice of counsel is unavailing because it was objectively unreasonable to rely on that advice under the circumstances. (Id. at 35-43.) Familiarity with the remaining grounds of Magistrate Judge Peebles' Report-Recommendation is assumed in this Decision and Order, which is intended primarily for the review of the parties.

Generally, in his Objection to the Report-Recommendation, Defendant asserts the following four arguments: (1) because it was objectively reasonable for Defendant to rely on the advice of counsel, and because he did so in "good faith" (as expressly recognized by Magistrate Judge Peebles), Defendant should be entitled to qualified immunity; (2) in rejecting the advice-of-counsel argument that Defendant asserted in support of his qualified immunity defense, Magistrate Judge Peebles' erroneously relied on the case of In re Cnty. of Erie, 546 F.3d 222 (2d Cir. 2008), which is distinguishable because (a) that case involved an attorney-client privilege issue, not an advice-of-counsel issue, and (b) in any event, that case turned on the fact that the petitioners therein did not claim a "good faith or state of mind defense" (which is claimed by Defendant in this case; (3) the more-recent Second Circuit case of Taravella v. Town of Woolcott, 599 F.3d 129, 135, n. 3 (2d Cir. 2010), supports the more-applicable point of law that, "at the very least, the solicitation of legal advice informs the reasonableness inquiry" of a qualified immunity defense; and (4) here, it was objectively reasonable for Defendant to rely on the advice of counsel (even if the Court were to determine that the advice was ultimately incorrect), because Defendant was a non-lawyer who was "dealing with a new statute and a new New York Court of Appeals' decision applying that statute," as well as dealing with a "psychiatric patient with an absolutely horrendous record of violent abuse of children." (Dkt. No. 15, at 4-9 [attaching pages "2" through "7" of Def.'s Obj.].)

II. APPLICABLE LEGAL STANDARDS

A. Standard Governing the Review of a Report-Recommendation

When a specific objection is made to a portion of a magistrate judge's report-recommendation, the Court subjects that portion of the report-recommendation to a de novo review. Fed. R. Civ. P. 72(b)(2); 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(C). To be "specific," the objection must, with particularity, "identify [1] the portions of the proposed findings, recommendations, or report to which it has an objection and [2] the basis for the objection." N.D.N.Y. L.R. 72.1(c).*fn1 When performing such a de novo review, "[t]he judge may . . . receive further evidence. . . ." 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1). However, a district court will ordinarily refuse to consider evidentiary material that could have been, but was not, presented to the magistrate judge in the first instance.*fn2

When only a general objection is made to a portion of a magistrate judge's report-recommendation, the Court subjects that portion of the report-recommendation to only a clear error review. Fed. R. Civ. P. 72(b)(2),(3); Fed. R. Civ. P. 72(b), Advisory Committee Notes: 1983 Addition.*fn3 Similarly, when an objection merely reiterates the same arguments made by the objecting party in its original papers submitted to the magistrate judge, the Court subjects that portion of the report-recommendation challenged by those arguments to only a clear error review.*fn4 Finally, when no objection is made to a portion of a report-recommendation, the Court subjects that portion of the report-recommendation to only a clear error review. Fed. R. Civ. P. 72(b), Advisory Committee Notes: 1983 Addition. When performing such a "clear error" review, "the court need only satisfy itself that there is no clear error on the face of the record in order to accept the recommendation." Id.*fn5

After conducing the appropriate review, the Court may "accept, reject, or modify, in whole or in part, the findings or recommendations made by the ...


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