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Daniel Gross v. M. Jodi Rell

September 25, 2012

DANIEL GROSS, PLAINTIFF, CAROLYN DEE KING, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,
v.
M. JODI RELL, GOVERNOR, STATE OF CONNECTICUT, IN HER OFFICIAL CAPACITY; MAGGIE EWALD, FORMER ACTING LONG-TERM CARE OMBUDSMAN OF THE CONNECTICUT DEPARTMENT OF SOCIAL SERVICES, IN HER OFFICIAL CAPACITY; THOMAS P. BRUNNOCK, PROBATE JUDGE FOR THE DISTRICT OF WATERBURY, IN HIS INDIVIDUAL CAPACITY; KATHLEEN DONOVAN, IN HER INDIVIDUAL CAPACITY; JONATHAN NEWMAN, IN HIS INDIVIDUAL CAPACITY; GROVE MANOR NURSING HOME, INC., IN ITS INDIVIDUAL CAPACITY, DEFENDANTS-APPELLEES,



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

08-2626-cv

Daniel Gross v. M. Jodi Rell

(Argued: May 20, 2009 Questions Certified: October 27 2009 Certified Questions Answered: April 3, 2012 Final Submission: May 29, 2012

Before: JACOBS, Chief Judge, STRAUB AND HALL, Circuit Judges.

On return from the Connecticut Supreme Court after the answer of questions certified by 42 this Court on October 27, 2009. The Connecticut Supreme Court held as a matter of Connecticut 43 law that conservators enjoyed quasi-judicial immunity when acting with the approval or 44 authorization of the Probate Court and that court-appointed attorneys for conservatees do not 45 enjoy quasi-judicial immunity. It also advised that the Probate Court does not have the authority 1 to issue orders to entities not a party to its proceedings and so such entities taking care of 2 conservatees would not be acting as agents of the Probate Court. We hold that the scope of 3 federal quasi-judicial immunity for conservators and court-appointed attorneys for conservatees 4 is the same as Connecticut quasi-judicial immunity and that the nursing home in whose care the 5 conservator placed the plaintiff-conservatee is not entitled to quasi-judicial immunity. The 6 judgment of the District Court is therefore VACATED and the case REMANDED for further 7 proceedings not inconsistent with this opinion.

32 On October 27, 2009, we certified questions to the Connecticut Supreme Court regarding 33 the scope of Connecticut quasi-judicial immunity for conservators and court-appointed attorneys 34 for conservatees, as well as regarding the role of such actors and of nursing homes that house 35 conservatees in the Connecticut system. On April 3, 2012, the Connecticut Supreme Court 36 answered our certified questions in an opinion, holding as a matter of state law that conservators 37 are entitled to quasi-judicial immunity when their actions are authorized or approved by the 38 Probate Court and that court-appointed attorneys for conservatees are not entitled to quasi- 1 judicial immunity. It also described the role of nursing homes housing conservatees in the 2 Connecticut system and suggested that such entities should not be entitled to quasi-judicial 3 immunity.

4 We now consider whether the conservator for an elderly conservatee, his court-appointed 5 attorney, and the nursing home that housed him in allegedly abusive circumstances are entitled to 6 quasi-judicial immunity as a matter of federal law. We hold that federal quasi-judicial immunity 7 parallels state quasi-judicial immunity for these actors. The judgment of the District Court with 8 regards to Kathleen Donovan ("Donovan"), the conservator, Jonathan Newman ("Newman"), 9 Daniel Gross's ("Gross") court-appointed attorney, and Grove Manor Nursing Home, Inc. 10 ("Grove Manor"), the nursing home in which Gross was housed, as to the federal claims and, 11 with regards to Donovan and Newman, as to the state claims is therefore VACATED and the 12 case REMANDED for further proceedings not inconsistent with this opinion.

13 BACKGROUND

14 The facts necessary to understand this opinion are set forth below. A fuller account of 15 the factual background is available in our certification opinion, Gross v. Rell ("Gross I"), 585 16 F.3d 72 (2d Cir. 2009). The allegations of the complaint are accepted as true in this recitation. 17 Gross, an octogenarian resident of the state of New York, sought treatment in a hospital 18 in Waterbury, Connecticut, where his daughter lived. While there, a hospital employee filed an 19 application for appointment of a conservator in Waterbury Probate Court for reasons unknown. 20 The Probate Court appointed Newman to represent Gross in the involuntary 21 conservatorship action. Despite the fact that the hearing did not conform to the proper notice 22 procedure, that Gross was not a Connecticut resident, and that Gross appeared to be alert and 1 intelligent at the time of hearing, Newman concluded that there was no legal basis to deny the 2 application.

3 On September 1, 2005, the Probate Court appointed Donovan as conservator of Gross's 4 person and estate. A week or two later, Donovan placed Gross in a "locked ward" in Grove 5 Manor Nursing Home. Gross remained captive in Grove Manor for roughly ten months, and 6 during that time, numerous restrictions were placed upon him, including limits to the duration 7 and circumstances of visits with his daughter.

8 On June 9, 2006, Gross filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus with the Connecticut 9 Superior Court. Referring to Gross's conservatorship as "a terrible miscarriage of justice," the 10 court granted the writ. 11 Gross filed the instant suit in the District of Connecticut. The complaint contained both 12 federal and state claims against a number of defendants; only those claims at issue today are 13 discussed in this opinion. Gross filed state and federal law claims against Donovan and Newman 14 and federal claims against Grove Manor. The District Court dismissed these claims reasoning 15 that all three actors enjoyed quasi-judicial immunity. Gross appealed.

16 We held that Gross' appeal depended upon unresolved questions of state and federal law 17 regarding the scope of quasi-judicial immunity. Gross I, 585 F.3d at 96. We certified the 18 following questions to the Connecticut Supreme Court: 19 1. Under Connecticut law, does absolute quasi-judicial immunity extend to conservators 20 appointed by the Connecticut Probate Courts?

22 2. Under Connecticut law, does absolute quasi-judicial immunity extend to attorneys 23 appointed to represent respondents in conservatorship proceedings or to attorneys 24 appointed to represent Conservatees?

25 We also observed that resolving whether Donovan, Newman, and Grove Manor enjoyed 26 quasi-judicial immunity as a matter of federal law required further information regarding the role 1 these actors played in the state system. The Supreme Court has advised that we can determine 2 whether an actor is entitled to ...


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