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Melendez v. Schneiderman

United States District Court, N.D. New York

April 24, 2014

ERIC T. SCHNEIDERMAN, et ano., Defendants.

EDGARDO MELENDEZ, Plaintiff pro se.

BRUCE J. BOIVIN, AAG, Attorney for Defendants.


ANDREW T. BAXTER, Magistrate Judge.

This matter has been referred for Report and Recommendation, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b) and Local Rules N.D.N.Y. 72.3(c), by the Honorable Gary L. Sharpe, Chief United States District Judge.

In this civil rights complaint, plaintiff alleges that he was denied due process in conjunction with his involuntary commitment to the Central New York Psychiatric Center ("CNYPC") as a sex offender requiring civil management, pursuant to Article 10 of the N.Y. Mental Hygiene Law ("MHL"). (Compl.) (Dkt. No. 1). Plaintiff also claims that the defendants violated a federal court preliminary and permanent injunction in confining him past his mandatory release date. Plaintiff seeks a substantial amount of money damages. (Compl. at CM/ECF pp. 8, 10).[1]

Presently before the court is the defendants' motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim and for lack of subject matter jurisdiction, pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(1) and (b)(6). (Dkt. No. 17). Plaintiff has responded in opposition to defendants' motion, and defendants filed a reply. (Dkt. Nos. 25, 26). For the following reasons, this court agrees with defendants and will recommend dismissal of the complaint.

I. Motion to Dismiss

To survive dismissal for failure to state a claim, the complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim that is "plausible on its face." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). "[T]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, " do not suffice. Id. (citing Bell Atl. Corp., 550 U.S. at 555). Plaintiff's factual allegations must also be sufficient to give the defendant "fair notice of what the... claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.'" Bell Atl. Corp., 550 U.S. at 555 (citation omitted).

When ruling on a motion to dismiss, the court must accept as true all of the factual allegations contained in the complaint and draw all reasonable inferences in the non-movant's favor. Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007) (citations omitted); Int'l Audiotext Network, Inc. v. Am. Tel. & Tel. Co., 62 F.3d 69, 71 (2d Cir. 1995). The court must heed its particular obligation to treat pro se pleadings with liberality. Phillips v. Girdich, 408 F.3d 124, 128 (2d Cir. 2005); Tapia-Ortiz v. Doe, 171 F.3d However, on page 8, in different handwriting, in the section entitled "Prayer for Relief, " the complaint asks for 7 million dollars per year in punitive and compensatory damages from each defendant, totaling $42 million dollars. 150, 152 (2d Cir. 1999) ( per curiam ).

In deciding a motion to dismiss, the court may review documents integral to the complaint upon which the plaintiff relied in drafting his pleadings, as well as any documents attached to the complaint as exhibits and any statements or documents incorporated into the complaint by reference. Rothman v. Gregor, 220 F.3d 81, 88 (2d Cir. 2000); Int'l Audiotext Network, Inc. v. Am. Tel. & Tel. Co., 62 F.3d at 72 (the court may take into consideration documents referenced in or attached to the complaint in deciding a motion to dismiss, without converting the proceeding to one for summary judgment). Finally, the court may consider matters of which judicial notice may be taken, such as public filings and administrative decisions. See Kavowras v. New York Times, Co., 328 F.3d 50, 57 (2d Cir. 2003) (citing inter alia County Vanlines, Inc. v. Experian Info. Solutions, Inc., 205 F.R.D. 148, 154 (S.D.N.Y. 2002) (taking judicial notice of NLRB decisions)). See also Combier-Kapel v. Biegelson, 242 F.Appx. 714, 715 (2d Cir. 2007) (taking judicial notice of the Impartial Hearing Officer's decision as well as certain other documents in the administrative record of an IDEA case); In re Howard's Exp., Inc., 151 F.Appx. 46, 48 (2d Cir. 2005) (taking judicial notice of Bankruptcy Court docket); Caro v. Fidelity Brokerage Services, LLC, No. 3:12-CV-1066, 2013 WL 3299708, at *6 (D. Conn. July 26, 2013) (taking judicial notice of record in prior litigation between the same parties).

II. Background of Relevant Caselaw

In order to better understand the plaintiff's claims, it is necessary to discuss the background of the specific cases he relies upon for his due process challenge. Effective on April 13, 2007, the New York Sex Offender Management and Treatment Act ("SOMTA"), codified in Article 10 of the MHL, authorizes the "civil management" of certain sex offenders after completion of their prison terms, parole terms, or other periods of state custody. Mental Hygiene Legal Service v. Cuomo ("MHLS-II" ), 785 F.Supp.2d 205, 209 (S.D.N.Y. 2011). This "civil management" is based upon the danger to society that is posed by recidivist sex offenders.[2] Id. "Civil management" can include placement and treatment in a secure facility, akin to incarceration as well as other "strict and intensive supervision." SOMTA provides for procedures to be followed when an individual who has been convicted of a sex offense is nearing the end of his sentence of incarceration or other state custody in order to determine whether civil commitment is necessary.

MHLS filed a "pre-enforcement" facial challenge to certain provisions of the SOMTA, only one of which is relevant to this case. Id. MHL Section 10.06(k) mandates involuntary civil detention, pending a commitment trial, based upon a finding at a probable cause hearing that the individual may have a mental abnormality, without a finding of current dangerousness. Id. In general, the MHL provides that when a convicted sex offender nears release from confinement or parole, a "multidisciplinary staff" provides a "preliminary review" to determine whether the individual should be referred for further evaluation. MHLS-II, 785 F.Supp.2d at 211 (citing MHL § 10.05(d)). If the staff determines that additional evaluation is necessary, a case review team ("CRT"), consisting of three individuals, at least two of whom are mental health professionals, must determine whether that person (the "respondent") requires additional civil management. Id. (citing MHL § 10.06(a)). The respondent is afforded notice of the referral. Id. (citing MHL § 10.05(e)).

The CRT determines whether the respondent suffers from a mental abnormality and is either a "dangerous sex offender requiring confinement, " or "a sex offender requiring strict and intensive supervision." Id. at 212 (citing MHL §§ 10.03(1), 10.03(q), 10.03(e), 10.03(r)). If it appears that the individual will be released prior to the time the CRT makes its determination, the Attorney General ("AG") is authorized to file a "securing petition, " preventing the individual's release from custody while the review is ongoing. Id. (citing MHL § 10.06(f)).

If the CRT determines that the individual requires additional "civil management, " the AG files a "sex offender civil management petition" in New York State Court. The court must conduct a hearing to determine whether there is probable cause to believe that the individual requires civil management. Id. (citing §§ 10.06(a), (g), and (k)). The hearing must commence withing 72 hours of the anticipated release date unless the individual consents or the AG shows good cause for the delay. MHL §§ 10.06(g), (h). Upon the court's finding of probable cause, SOMTA provides that the individual must be committed to a secure treatment facility pending resolution of a full commitment trial. MHL § 10.06(k). The statute provides that the trial must begin within 60 days of the probable cause hearing. MHL § 10.07(a).

In MHLS-1, the court granted a preliminary injunction, prohibiting the enforcement of MHL § 10.06(k), without an individualized finding that the individual was "dangerous, " and that no condition or combination of conditions of supervision could allow the respondent to be at liberty pending the final adjudication. See 2007 WL 4115936, at *15. The court in MHLS-II found that section 10.06(k) was facially unconstitutional and granted a permanent injunction, with the same conditions. The court must note that neither[3] court invalidated the section altogether as plaintiff seems to argue. Rather that prohibiting use of the section altogether, the court specifically enjoined enforcement of section 10.06(k) " absent a specific, individualized finding of probable cause to believe that a person is sufficiently dangerous to require confinement, and that lesser conditions of supervision will not suffice to protect the public during the pendency of the proceedings. "[4] Id.

The court notes that although the Second Circuit affirmed the preliminary injunction, it later reversed the court's order granting a permanent injunction and remanded the case to the district court to determine whether MHLS had standing to pursue the action on behalf of its clients, who were respondents in the MHL proceedings.[5] MHLS v. Schneiderman, 472 F.Appx. 45 (2d Cir. 2012). On remand, the District Court found that MHLS did not have standing to pursue the respondents' claims and dismissed the action. MHLS v. Cuomo (" MHLS-III "), No. 07 Civ. 2935 (DAB), 2014 WL 1345891 (S.D.N.Y. Mar. 31, 2014).

III. Facts and Contentions

Plaintiff alleges that he was arrested on March 18, 2002, was subsequently convicted, and was sentenced to serve three to six years of incarceration, with a maximum release date of March 18, 2008. Plaintiff states that he was held beyond his maximum release, without a hearing, based upon MHL § 10.06(k), in violation of due process and in violation of the injunctions issued in MHLS-I, and MHLS-II (Compl. at 7). Plaintiff takes an overly simplified view of the court's rulings and argues that the AG violated the injunctions, as well as the constitution, by applying section 10.06(k).

The plaintiff relies heavily on the decisions in the MHLS cases, rather than discussing facts in his own case, and he seeks only damages for the alleged violations. Defendants have submitted the court documents that were filed in plaintiff's MHL Article 10 proceeding, and they argue that the complaint should be dismissed on various bases, some unrelated to the merits of the due process claim, including the statute of limitations and absolute immunity. Defendants also argue that plaintiff has failed to state a claim on the merits of this action, that he received due process, and that he is properly confined under the MHL. The following facts are taken from the defendants' exhibits of which this court takes judicial notice.

Defendants' Exhibit A is the AG's "Petition for Civil Management" filed in plaintiff's case.[6] The petition is dated March 13, 2008 and states that plaintiff, Edguardo[7] Melendez was arrested on May 6, 2003[8] and charged with one count of Rape, First Degree; five counts of Sodomy, First Degree; five counts of Sexual Abuse, First Degree; and five counts of Endangering the Welfare of a Child. (Boivin Decl. ("Def.s'")[9] Ex. A at 4, 11) (Dkt. No. 17-1). He was subsequently indicted on May 27, 2003[10] for two counts of Rape, First Degree; one count of Sodomy, First Degree; and one count of Endangering the Welfare of a Child. ( Id. at 5) These charges involved sexual intercourse and related conduct with four of the plaintiff's children, aged ten, seven, and four years, respectively. ( Id. ) Plaintiff pled guilty to the entire indictment on May 28, 2003 and was sentenced to an indeterminate sentence of three ...

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