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Williams v. New York State Office of Mental Health

United States District Court, E.D. New York

March 31, 2014

ANTHONY WILLIAMS, Plaintiff,
v.
NEW YORK STATE OFFICE OF MENTAL HEALTH, et. al., Defendants,

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

SANDRA L. TOWNES, District Judge.

This case arises from the involuntary confinement of Anthony Williams ("Plaintiff") at the Kingsboro Psychiatric Center ("Kingsboro"), a facility operated by defendant New York State Office of Mental Health (the "OMH"). On March 5, 2010, Plaintiff, proceeding pro se, commenced this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 ("Section 1983") against the OMH, as well as other entities and individuals providing state-sponsored mental health services (collectively "Defendants"), alleging that Defendants violated his constitutional rights while he was confined at Kingsboro. Plaintiff filed an amended complaint on April 5, 2010 (Dkt. No. 8). Currently before the Court is Defendants' motion for judgment on the pleadings brought pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. Rule 12(c).

I. Legal Standard

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(c) ("Rule 12(c)") provides that "[a]fter the pleadings are closed-but early enough not to delay trial-a party may move for judgment on the pleadings." Under Rule 12(c), "a party is entitled to judgment on the pleadings only if it has established that no material issue of fact remains to be resolved and that [it] is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Bailey v. Pataki, No. 08 Civ. 8563(JSR), 2010 WL 234995, at *1 (S.D.N.Y. Jan. 19, 2010) (quotation marks and citations omitted) (alteration in original). "The same standard applicable to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) motions to dismiss applies to [Rule] 12(c) motions for judgment on the pleadings." Bank of New York v. First Millennium, Inc., 607 F.3d 905, 922 (2d Cir. 2010). Thus, the Court applies the Rule 12(b) "plausibility standard, " which is guided by "[t]wo working principles." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 173 L.Ed.2d 868 (2009). District courts should first "identify[ ] pleadings that, because they are no more than conclusions, are not entitled to the assumption of truth, " and second, if a complaint contains "well-pleaded factual allegations, a court should assume their veracity and then determine whether they plausibly give rise to an entitlement to relief." Id. at 679. Because "hasty or imprudent use of this summary procedure by the courts violates the policy in favor of ensuring to each litigant a full and fair hearing on the merits of his or her claim or defense, " district courts should not "grant a motion under Rule 12(c) unless the movant clearly establishes that no material issue of fact remains to be resolved and that he is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." 5C Charles Alan Wright & Arthur R. Miller, Fed. Prac. & Proc. Civ. § 1368 (3d ed.).

In deciding a Rule 12(c) motion, the district court may only consider the facts as presented within the four corners of the complaint. Sira v. Morton, 380 F.3d 57, 66-67 (2d Cir. 2004). "A complaint is deemed to include any written instrument attached to it as an exhibit, materials incorporated in it by reference, ... documents that, although not incorporated by reference, are "integral" to the complaint, " id. (citations omitted), and any facts of which judicial notice may be taken, Chambers v. Time Warner, Inc., 282 F.3d 147, 153 (2d Cir. 2002). The Second Circuit has emphasized that "a plaintiff's reliance on the terms and effect of a document in drafting the complaint is a necessary prerequisite to the court's consideration of the document on a dismissal motion; mere notice or possession is not enough." Id. (emphasis in original). However, documents that are "neither expressly cited in the complaint nor integral to the claims raised" may not be considered, even if the complaint makes "limited quotation[s] from or reference[s] to" those documents. Sira, 380 F.3d at 67. (citing Cosmas v. Hassett, 886 F.2d 8, 13 (2d Cir. 1989) (rejecting argument that short quotations from an annual report and 10K statement incorporated those documents into the complaint). "[I]f the motion includes material outside the pleadings' and that material is not excluded by the court'" the district court must convert the motion to one for summary judgment. Id. (quoting Rule 12(c)).

Where, as here, the complaint was filed pro se, it must be construed liberally with "special solicitude" and interpreted to raise the strongest claims that it suggests. Hill v. Curcione, 657 F.3d 116, 122 (2d Cir. 2011) (internal quotation marks omitted). Nonetheless, a pro se complaint must state a plausible claim for relief. See Harris v. Mills, 572 F.3d 66, 73 (2d Cir. 2009).

II. Factual Background

Consistent with Rule 12(c), the following facts were taken from the parties' pleadings and the documents relied upon therein.

Plaintiff was admitted to Kingsboro on September 9, 2009 after he was found to lack capacity to be tried on a larceny charge; he was involuntarily committed pursuant to Section 9.27 of the New York Mental Health Law ("MHL"). (Dkt. No. 110-2, MHL § 9.27 Application for Involuntary Admission dated Sept. 8, 2009, at 2, 7.) According to Defendants, while committed at Kingsboro, on December 4, 2009, Plaintiff attacked a physician, Dr. Manjula Vikas. (Dkt. No. 31, Defs.' Answer and Counterclaim, at 5-6.) As a result of that incident, Plaintiff was arrested and charged in state court with assault in the third degree. (Dkt. No. 110-5, MHL § 9.27 Application for Involuntary Admission dated March 9, 2010, at 3.) On March 9, 2010, the state court again found that Plaintiff lacked capacity to stand trial, dismissed the assault charge, and committed Plaintiff to the custody of the OMH Commissioner at the Creedmoor Psychiatric Center ("Creedmoor"). ( Id. at 14.)

In the interim, both Plaintiff and the OMH sought further legal relief in the state courts: Plaintiff moved for rehearing and review of the orders authorizing his detention at Kingsboro and Creedmoor, (Dkt. No. 109-2 at 7-8 and 30-31, Petitions for Rehearing and Review Pursuant to MHL § 9.35, dated September 24, 2009 and December 29, 2009; at 44, State Court Order denying Plaintiff's March 23, 2010 MHL § 9.31 Application, dated April 28, 2010), and the OMH moved to detain Williams for six more months and to continue to medicate him over his objection. (Dkt. No. 110-5 at 4, MHL § 9.33 Application for Continued Treatment and Care; Dkt. No. 110-7, MHL § 33.03 Application for Order Authorizing Medication Over Objection.)

During that same interim period, on March 5, 2010, Plaintiff commenced the instant litigation, pro se, by filing his original complaint and moving for a preliminary injunction barring OMH from administering treatment over his objection. (Dkt. Nos. 1, 4.) He filed an amended complaint, dated March 31, 2010, naming additional individual defendants, seeking both monetary damages and injunctive relief. (Dkt. No. 8 ("Amd. Compl.").) He brings claims against OMH and against individual defendants OMH Commissioner Michael F. Hogan, Kingsboro Clinical Director Dr. Andrea Norton, Kingsboro Psychiatrist Mr. Manjula Vikas, Kingsboro Dr. Jacqueline Castille, and Kingsboro Treatment Team Leader Barbara Burroughs. He also brings claims against Mental Hygiene Legal Services ("MHLS") and his MHLS attorney, Taylor Green, who he alleges conspired with Kingsboro staff to deprive him of his constitutional rights. Specifically, Plaintiff alleges that while he was involuntarily committed, Defendants violated his Fourteenth Amendment liberty and due process rights when they: (1) denied him access to jury review of his civil commitment, (2) denied him access to church services, (3) denied him access to mail, (4) deprived him of adequate psychological counseling, (5) violated his due process right to file grievances, and (6) forced him to take medication against his will. He does not appear to challenge the initial decision to involuntary commit him. (Pl.'s Br. at 3) (plaintiff states that he "does not challenge any state court decision[.]")[1] Rather, he challenges OHS's failure to produce him for a trial that was allegedly scheduled for October 11 and 14, 2009, in Brooklyn Supreme Court. (Amd. Compl. at 5, 7.) He contends that he was thus deprived of his right to "a jury review of his civil retention." ( Id; Pl.'s Br. at 3). Further, presumably in connection with this trial, he alleges that his attorney, defendant Green, "conspire[d] with [Kingsboro] doctors to deprive [Plaintiff of his] liberty interest, " and failed to prepare a defense for him and subpoena any witnesses. (Compl. at 6.)

On December 21, 2010, Williams was released from the inpatient facility to which he was previously confined. He therefore was no longer facing the immediate prospect of receiving medical treatments over his objections, and, accordingly, on July 11, 2011, this Court dismissed his preliminary injunction action as moot. (Dkt. No. 116.)

On June 13, 2011, Defendants filed the instant motion, pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. Rule 12(c), for judgment on the pleadings. Defendants assert that: (1) because they acted with court approval, Plaintiff has failed to show that Defendants violated his constitutional rights when he was involuntarily committed and involuntarily administered medication; (2) Defendants Hogan and Burroughs were not personally involved in the alleged deprivations of Plaintiff's rights and thus cannot be liable under Section 1983; (3) review of state court orders is barred by the Rooker-Feldman doctrine; (4) Defendants are entitled to ...


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