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Brooks v. Spitzer

United States District Court, N.D. New York

March 24, 2015

CHARLES BROOKS, Plaintiff,
v.
ELIOT SPITZER, et al., Defendants.

Charles Brooks Pro Se Marcy, NY, for the Plaintiff.

HON. ERIC T. SCHNEIDERMAN, New York State Attorney General, The Capitol BRUCE J. BOIVIN Assistant Attorney General, Albany, NY, for the Defendants.

MEMORANDUM-DECISION AND ORDER

GARY L. SHARPE, Chief District Judge.

I. Introduction

Plaintiff pro se Charles Brooks commenced this action against defendants Eliot Spitzer, Andrew M. Cuomo, Michael Hogan, Steve Robinowitz, Richard P. Miraglia, Samuel J. Langer, and Jeffrey Jackson, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging 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. ( See generally Compl., Dkt. No. 1.)

On April 18, 2014, defendants filed a pre-answer motion to dismiss. (Dkt. No. 21.) Brooks filed a response, (Dkt. No. 32), supplemental responses, (Dkt. No. 35, 38), and, after defendants filed their reply, a surreply, (Dkt. No. 41). In a Report-Recommendation (R&R) issued on December 3, 2014, Magistrate Judge Andrew T. Baxter recommended that defendants' motion to dismiss be granted and Brooks' complaint be dismissed. (Dkt. No. 45.) Pending are Brooks' objections to the R&R. (Dkt. No. 49.) For the reasons that follow, the R&R is adopted in part and rejected in part.

II. Background[1]

In 2000, pursuant to a plea agreement, Brooks was convicted of one count of sexual abuse in the first degree, one count of sexual abuse in the second degree, and two counts of burglary in the second degree. (Compl. ¶ 17.) He was sentenced to eight years in prison, and was transferred to the custody of the Department of Correctional Services, now known as the Department of Corrections and Community Supervision (DOCCS). ( Id. ) Before he reached his maximum release date-October 11, 2005-proceedings were initiated under § 9.27 of the New York Mental Hygiene Law (MHL), which resulted in an order placing Brooks in the custody of the Manhattan Psychiatric Center (MPC).[2] ( Id. )

Over the next several years, a series of state and federal decisions, along with legislative action, continuously changed the procedures for instituting and maintaining involuntary civil confinement for recidivist sex offenders. Each time the legal tide changed, Brooks was swept up in it. First, in State of N.Y. ex rel. Harkavy v. Consilvio, 7 N.Y.3d 607, 614 (2006) ( Harkavy I ), the New York Court of Appeals concluded that, for individuals who were still incarcerated, such as Brooks, Corrections Law § 402, not Article 9, governed the procedures for initiating civil confinement. The court specifically noted, however, that it was "not propos[ing] that these petitioners be released, " but, instead, ordered "that those petitioners remaining in [Office of Mental Health (OMH)] custody be afforded an immediate retention hearing pursuant to article 9 of the Mental Hygiene Law-now controlling-since they are no longer serving a prison sentence." Harkavy I, 7 N.Y.3d at 614. Consistent with this order, Brooks was afforded a retention hearing under Article 9, and the state court concluded that Brooks should continue to be retained. See Brooks v. Sawyer, No. 9:11-CV-248 (N.D.N.Y. Dec. 16, 2003), Dkt. No. 55 at 3.

Next, in April 2007, New York's Sex Offender Management and Treatment Act (SOMTA), codified in Article 10 of the New York Mental Hygiene Law, took effect. Thereafter, the New York Court of Appeals issued another decision, State of N.Y. ex rel. Harkavy v. Consilvio, 8 N.Y.3d 645 (2007) ( Harkavy II ), which held that individuals such as Brooks, who had been committed from correctional facilities to psychiatric hospitals under Article 9, were to be afforded a hearing in compliance with the new Article 10. See Harkavy II, 8 N.Y.3d at 652-53. Accordingly, the state then commenced Article 10 proceedings for Brooks. ( See generally Compl. at 14-16.)

After SOMTA took effect, the Mental Hygiene Legal Service (MHLS) filed a facial challenge to certain provisions in federal court, only one of which is relevant here-§ 10.06(k), which 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. See Mental Hygiene Legal Serv. v. Spitzer, No. 07 Civ. 2935, 2007 WL 4115936, at *15 (S.D.N.Y. Nov. 16, 2007) ( MHLS I ), aff'd sub nom. Mental Hygiene Legal Serv. v. Paterson, No. 07-5548-cv, 2009 WL 579445 (2d Cir. Mar. 4, 2009). In MHLS I, the court granted a preliminary injunction, prohibiting the enforcement of § 10.06(k), not in toto, but "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 pendency of the proceedings." Id. A permanent injunction to the same effect was issued in Mental Hygiene Legal Serv. v. Cuomo, 785 F.Supp.2d 205 (S.D.N.Y. 2011) ( MHLS II ).[3]

In his R&R, Judge Baxter thoroughly outlined Brooks' Article 10 process. (Dkt. No. 45 at 10-15.) Although there is no need to rehash that history here, the court highlights that, after a probable cause hearing, New York Supreme Court Justice Joseph Dawson issued an eleven-page decision concluding that Brooks "lacked, and continues to lack, the ability to control himself, " and committed Brooks to a secure treatment facility pending a final trial, based on his finding that "there [was] probable cause to believe that [Brooks] is a sex offender requiring civil management and that he is sufficiently dangerous to require confinement because there are no lesser conditions of supervision that will suffice to protect the public during the pendency of the proceedings." (Dkt. No. 21, Attach. 1 at 36-46.)

After a jury trial, dispositional hearing, and an appeals process, Brooks remains confined at CNYPC. ( Id. at 48-57, 59-60, 62-63, 65-67, 69-71, 73; see Compl.) The thrust of his complaint in this lawsuit is that he was improperly held beyond his maximum release date because: (1) after Harkavy I, the state lost jurisdiction over him, which mandated his immediate release; and (2) defendants improperly utilized § ...


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