May 30, 2019

Establishing a violation of a right to substantive administrative due process


The Plaintiffs in this action were formerly civil immigration detainees at the Orange County Correctional Facility [Jail] where they were treated for serious mental illnesses. Alleging that Orange County and some of its agencies and officials [Defendants] failed to provide planning for, or discharge plans upon release,* violated their substantive due process rights under the Fourteenth Amendment, Plaintiffs initiated litigation in United States District Court seeking relief under 42 U.S.C. §1983. The district court granted the Defendants’ motion to dismiss the complaint and Plaintiffs appealed .

The United StatesCourt of Appeals, Second Circuit, vacated the district court's ruling and remanded the matter to the district court for "further proceedings," finding that Plaintiffs "stated a plausible claim for relief under the Fourteenth Amendment for deliberate indifference to their serious medical needs."

Plaintiffs' complaint alleged that the Defendants were responsible for providing them with medical care while they were detained at a county detention facility [Jail] that houses civil immigration detainees pursuant to an intergovernmental agreement between Immigration and Customs Enforcement [ICE] and Orange County.**

Defendants asked the Circuit Court to dismiss the Plaintiffs' entire Complaint for failure to state a claim, contending that "there is no established substantive due process right to the post-release measures inherent in discharge plans." The Defendants argued that the government’s duty of care ends "the instant the inmate walks through the prison gates and into the civilian world, because that is when the inmate’s ability to secure medication or care on his own behalf is restored" to him or her."

Noting that "[t]his Court ... has never held that the state’s duties to an inmate or detainee extend beyond their release" ... Plaintiffs’ theory in this case is that “[d]ischarge planning is an essential part of mental healthcare in institutional settings” and “Defendants are constitutionally obliged to provide Plaintiffs with adequate medical care while they are confined to immigration detention.”

Taking Plaintiffs’ allegations as true and drawing all reasonable, the Circuit Court said that it found that Plaintiffs "have plausibly alleged that discharge planning is an essential part of in-custody care" and concluded that despite the forward-looking nature of discharge planning, a claim for damages caused by the lack of it can be considered a claim for deprivation of in-custody care for purposes of the “special relationship” exception. However,  on remand it will be necessary for Plaintiffs to prove to a fact-finder that "the care they complain of is the type that should have been provided to  them during their detention."

Citing Pena v. DePrisco, 432 F.3d 98, the court explained that "those in civil detention, as were Plaintiffs in this case, are also afforded a right to be free from deliberate indifference to their serious medical needs." Further, "in order to establish a violation of a right to substantive due process, such a plaintiff must demonstrate not only government action but also that the government action was so ‘egregious, so outrageous, that it may fairly be said to shock the contemporary conscience.'”

While remaining the matter for factual development as Plaintiffs have adequately stated a claim, this does not mean that Plaintiffs have established their entitlement to relief and the will need to provide evidence to support their allegations. Further, opined the court, "Defendants have raised significant factual issues that need to be fleshed out through discovery, including whether the discharge planning measures Plaintiffs identify should be provided as part of in-custody care (rather than undertaken upon or after release), the medical effects of a temporary deprivation of psychotropic medication, the causal relationship between the alleged interruption in Plaintiffs’ treatment and the consequences they complain of, and whether the circumstances of Plaintiffs’ release were so unexpected that Defendants could not have anticipated, and properly planned for, their release at the time it occurred."

However, at this, the pleading stage, the Circuit Court indicated that it has simply held that Plaintiffs have adequately stated a Fourteenth Amendment substantive due process claim justifying vacating the district court's opinion and remanding the matter for "proceedings consistent with this opinion." The Circuit also noted that the district court, in addition, may consider various issues it did not reach in its opinion such as (1) whether the Plaintiffs adequately pled a county policy, practice, or custom for purposes of Monell liability***; (2) whether Plaintiffs have adequately stated a claim against [a named Defendant]; and (3) whether [that named Defendant] is entitled to qualified immunity.****

* Plaintiffs alleged that discharge planning is a routine and necessary component of institutional mental health treatment.

** The decision notes that the policies and protocols governing Defendants and others providing treatment at the Jail themselves demand such discharge planning. Both ICE and Orange County have written policies recognizing that mental health discharge planning is an essential component of mental health treatment in institutional settings.

*** Under Monell v. Department of Social Serv., 436 U.S. 658 (1978), a municipal government can be held liable under Section 1983 if a plaintiff can demonstrate that a deprivation of a federal right occurred as a result of a "policy" of the local government's legislative body or of those local officials whose acts may fairly be said to be those of the municipality.

**** "Qualified immunity" protects a government official from lawsuits alleging that the official violated a plaintiff's rights, only allowing suits where officials violated a “clearly established” statutory or constitutional right.

The decision is posted on the Internet at:


CAUTION

Subsequent court and administrative rulings, or changes to laws, rules and regulations may have modified or clarified or vacated or reversed the decisions summarized here. Accordingly, these summaries should be Shepardized® or otherwise checked to make certain that the most recent information is being considered by the reader.
THE MATERIAL ON THIS WEBSITE IS FOR INFORMATION ONLY. AGAIN, CHANGES IN LAWS, RULES, REGULATIONS AND NEW COURT AND ADMINISTRATIVE DECISIONS MAY AFFECT THE ACCURACY OF THE INFORMATION PROVIDED IN THIS LAWBLOG. THE MATERIAL PRESENTED IS NOT LEGAL ADVICE AND THE USE OF ANY MATERIAL POSTED ON THIS WEBSITE DOES NOT CREATE AN ATTORNEY-CLIENT RELATIONSHIP.
Consistent with the Declaration of Principles jointly adopted by a Committee of the American Bar Association and a Committee of Publishers and Associations, the material in this blog is presented with the understanding that neither the publisher nor members of the staff are providing legal advice to the reader and in the event legal or other expert assistance is needed, the reader is advised to seek such advice from a competent professional.