IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE NORTHERN DISTRICT OF ILLINOIS
DENZIL LAWRENCE, ) Case No. 19-cv-5078
Plaintiff, ) Hon. Mary M. Rowland,
JAMES P. CORCORAN, individually, ) JURY DEMAND
as Statewide Forensic Medical )
Director for the Illinois )
Department of Human Services, )
Medical Administrator III, )
COMPLAINT FOR DAMAGES
WITH REQUEST FOR TRIAL BY JURY
NOW COMES the Plaintiff, Denzil Lawrence, by and through his attorneys, the Law Offices of Kretchmar and Cecala, P.C., with his complaint against the above-named Defendant and requests trial by jury, and in support of his Complaint states as follows.
II. JURISDICTION AND VENUE
1. This action arises under the Constitution and laws of the United States, including Article III, Section 1 of the U.S. Constitution, and it is brought pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§ 1983 and 1988. The jurisdiction of this Court is invoked pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1331, 1343 and 2201.
2. This case is instituted in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §1391, as the judicial district in which all relevant events and omissions occurred and in which Defendants maintain offices and/or reside.
3. At all times relevant hereto, Plaintiff Denzil Lawrence was a resident of the State of Illinois and a legal resident of the United States of America.
4. At all times relevant hereto, Defendant James Patrick Corcoran (“Defendant” or “Corcoran”) was a resident of the State of Illinois and a citizen of the United States, and was acting under color of state law in his capacity as an officer employed by Illinois Department of Human Services. Corcoran is sued individually for actions and omissions taken under color law while working in his official capacity as a senior administrator of Elgin Mental Health Center and/or consultant in the Illinois Department of Human Services.
IV. BACKGROUND FACTUAL SUMMARY AND GENERAL ALLEGATIONS BASED UPON INFORMATION AND REASONABLE BELIEF
5. Plaintiff was adjudicated not guilty by reason of insanity (“NGRI”) in the Circuit Court of Will County, on charges of arson and criminal damage to property in February, 2018. He was had been committed to the custody of the Illinois Department of Human Services (“IDHS”) for inpatient mental health treatment, initially at Chester Mental Health Center (“CMHC”) as unfit to stand trial on September 26, 2017, and subsequently beginning August 18, 2018, he was held at Elgin Mental Health Center (EMHC). His Thiem date (the date beyond which his involuntary NGRI commitment could not be constitutionally continued) was March 20, 2019.
6. While he was committed at CMHC, Plaintiff took psychotropic medications but experienced unacceptable weight gain as a side effect. Ultimately, after researching risks and benefits of medications, and after substantial remission of his earlier psychotic symptoms, he made an informed choice to try to recover more fully from mental illness without drugs. He never ruled out medical treatment, including with psychotropic drugs, in the event that he again became symptomatic. His psychiatrist at CMHC did not subsequently insist on Plaintiff being prescribed any particular prescription medication.
7. When he was transferred to EMHC in August 2018, he was assigned to the psychiatrist Dr. Richard Malis. Dr. Malis initially suggested (and the Plaintiff tentatively agreed) to take quetiapine, an anti-psychotic drug, after giving him a “likely” diagnosis “in the spectrum between delusional disorder and schizophrenia.”
8. By early September 2018, the Plaintiff has lost confidence in Dr. Malis and elected not to take psychotropic medications. He began to carefully document his disagreements with EMHC staff, made various attempts to obtain relevant records, and filed many specific written complaints with the Office of the Inspector General (OIG).
9. Despite a handful of minor “incidents” involving disagreements with peers or staff on the clinical units at EMHC, none of which involved any physical altercations or violence, monthly Treatment Plan Reports consistently stated between August 2018 and March 2019, that the Plaintiff was making some progress, cooperating with unit rules, and attending recommended therapy groups.
10. During his entire time at EMHC, the Plaintiff was never considered to be in need of emergency involuntary medication, restraint or seclusion, either for his own or anyone else’s protection.
11. Throughout his time at EMHC, up until mid-March of 2019, clinicians on the Plaintiff’s treatment teams were collaborating with him to develop relapse prevention and aftercare plans wherein he would be residing safely in the community with his parents in Florida and receiving any needed outpatient psychiatric and substance abuse treatment through a local Veterans’ Administration facility. The expectation that he would be leaving EMHC on his Thiem date was entirely implicit and apparently unquestioned.
12. On or about March 13, 2019, exactly one week before the Plaintiff had to be released, unknown to the Plaintiff a decision was purportedly made by the Plaintiff’s treatment team psychiatrist, Dr. Vikramjit Gill, M.D., to file an involuntary civil commitment petition in Kane County Circuit Court (“Petition”), alleging (in summary) that the Plaintiff was mentally ill and thereby dangerous to himself or others, meeting the definition in Section 1-119 of the Illinois Mental Health and Developmental Disabilities Code, 405 ILCS 5/1-119, of a “person subject to involuntary admission on an inpatient basis.”
13. Subsequently on March 20, 2019, without the knowledge of the Plaintiff, some hours after the Plaintiff should legally have been released, the threatened Petition was in fact filed, and the Plaintiff was held at EMHC, rather than released.
14. Plaintiff’s father had actually traveled to Elgin from Florida to pick him up and take him home, fully expecting that his son would be released on his Thiem date of March 20, 2019, according to the long-established plan.
15. The Petition itself, alleging that the Plaintiff was a “person subject to involuntary admission on an inpatient basis” was signed by Melissa Perkins, the Plaintiff’s clinical social worker on N Unit at that time.
16. The petition was accompanied by two certificates, one of Dr. Vikramjit Gill, M.D., and one of the Defendant James P. Corcoran, intended to certify pursuant to Section 3-702 of the Illinois Mental Health and Developmental Disabilities Code [405 ILCS 5/3-702] that the Plaintiff was subject to involuntary admission on an inpatient basis and containing other information.
17. On information and belief, Defendant James P. Corcoran was the actual instigator of the false involuntary civil commitment petition against the Plaintiff. Corcoran exerted undue influence upon social worker Perkins and psychiatrist Dr. Gill, to file and certify the petition at the last possible minute. As a Medical Administrator III and Statewide Forensic Medical Director, he was their boss, and he was in a powerful position to negatively impact or even end their careers as state mental health professionals. But for Corcoran’s undue influence over Gill and Perkins, the civil commitment petition against the Plaintiff would not have been filed, and he would have been released on March 20, 2019. As a direct result of the false Petition, the Plaintiff was falsely imprisoned for a period lasting from March 20, 2019 for a period of ninety days, lasting until his release from EMHC after the falsely filed Petition was dismissed on June 20, 2019 in the state court.
18. On information and belief, Dr. Corcoran is well known to be unreasonably prejudiced against forensic mental patients who decide to exercise their rights to refuse psychotropic medication, even when such decisions are based on legal and competent free choice, fully informed of risks and benefits. He has expressed opinions and directly advised patients that if they do not comply with the recommendations of orthodox American psychiatrists employed by the State of Illinois (including taking of prescribed psychotropic medication), or do not convincingly profess strong belief in the diagnoses given to them by orthodox American psychiatrists employed by the State of Illinois, they should not and will not, if he has anything to say about it, be released from involuntary commitment.
19. On information and belief, one psychiatrist at EMHC who is most loyal and supportive of Defendant Corcoran’s points of view is Dr. Richard Malis, the Plaintiff’s treating psychiatrist who prescribed psychotropic medications.
20. The Plaintiff, a well-educated East African immigrant who served honorably in the United States military in a combat role in Afghanistan, not only successfully refused to take psychiatric drugs, but also committed the affront of refusing to accept Dr. Richard Malis as his psychiatrist, and subsequently Plaintiff was able to fully recover drug-free and obtain the substantial collaboration of his clinical treatment team toward his release from EMHC.
21. On information and belief, Defendant Corcoran has directly, indirectly or impliedly threatened both Dr. Vikramjit Gill and social worker Melissa Perkins in the past, suggesting that they could suffer unfavorable employment consequences should they fail to effectively coerce their patients to take psychiatric drugs and profess full belief in their orthodox diagnoses.
22. In short, anyone, patient or employee, who does not toe Defendant Corcoran’s line in the forensic mental health system of the Illinois Department of Human Services, or who gives any impression that they do not adequately respect his status or his orthodox mental health culture, is threatened with negative consequences. The Plaintiff suffered retribution born of Defendant Corcoran’s unlawful coercion in violation of the Constitutional rights of the Plaintiff when Defendant Corcoran used fear of retribution perpetrated against both patients and staff who do not comply with his illegal orders. Vikramjit Gill and Melissa Perkins were credibly threatened with similar retribution and acted from self protection.
V. CLAIMS FOR RELIEF
False imprisonment, denial of due process of law, violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1983 Under the Fourth and the Fourteenth Amendment to
the Constitution of the United States
23. Plaintiff hereby incorporates Paragraphs 5-22, as if set forth here in their entirety.
24. Plaintiff was in custody and under the control of Defendant during and at all times described in this Complaint.
25. At all times described in this Complaint, Plaintiff was an unarmed, defenseless male and disabled person, such that he was no match for the trained and sophisticated Defendant, who was an experienced mental health professional with custodial authority over the Plaintiff as an educated and licensed as a medical doctor specializing in psychiatry.
26. All of the described acts and/or omissions by the Defendant were intentional, knowing, willful, wanton, malicious and/or in reckless in disregard for the Plaintiff’s federally protected rights and welfare, and these acts were done with deliberate indifference by the Defendants, acting under color of state law.
27. With deliberate indifference to the rights of citizens to be free from false imprisonment, Defendant ordered, encouraged, tolerated, ratified, and acquiesced to a dangerous environment of psychological brutality through the false imprisonment of the disabled, and other deprivations of essential, fundamental humanity under auspices of “mental health treatment” by:
a. Falsly alleging that Plaintiff was mentally ill, filing false court documents including coercion of other subordinate staff in filing a civil commitment petition to force Plaintiff to continue to be imprisoned in the Elgin Mental Heath Center while also failing to subject himself or his staff sufficient training or supervision with respect to the constitutional limitations on the incarceration and false imprisonment of patients, especially the Plaintiff;
b. failing to adequately punish unconstitutional false imprisonment of patients, especially the Plaintiff;
c. ordering and tolerating the false imprisonment of patients, especially the Plaintiff;
d. failing to properly or neutrally investigate whether his own actions and actions which he ordered others to take would create the false imprisonment of patients, especially the Plaintiff; and,
e. ordering, tolerating, encouraging, and permitting collusive statements among the staff, investigators and the police to discourage proper investigation and cover up crimes and illegal abuse in such situations.
28. On information and belief, Defendant ordered and/or permitted staff members at the Facility, under a “mental health” pretense, to falsely imprison disabled individuals when such activities are unnecessary, unjustified and contrary to any conceivable standard as “treatment”. Defendant also coerced staff or failed or refused to supervise and train staff in the appropriate constitutional implications and limits on false imprisonment, despite knowing that these staff are critical to the protection of the constitutional rights of the patients, and therefore may create a significant risk of injury to the public who are patients at Elgin Mental Health Center, especially the Plaintiff.
29. Under a pretense and with the cynical, false justification of “encouraging adherence” to treatment recommendations, the Defendant used tactics of coercion, false imprisonment and mental abuse to punish and threaten patients at the EMHC to establish a brutal and dehumanizing environment of control, instead of collaborating and rationally explaining benefits and risks of treatment in the spirit of their legal obligations under informed consent and legal and moral obligation to provide real help to the Plaintiff.
30. Under a pretense and with the cynical, false justification of “encouraging insight” into mental illness, the Defendant used false imprisonment to punish and threaten patients at the Facility, especially the Plaintiff, into robotic “lip service” and enforced, totalistic faith in the orthodoxy of mental-illness-as-brain-disease, instead of rationally explaining any actual, existing science in the field of aberrant human behavior, cognition and emotion to the patients, especially the Plaintiff.
31. The more Defendant Corcoran, habitually resorted to coercion and false imprisonment to obtain what he called “treatment adherence” and “insight” from patients, the more dependent he became on such tactics, and the more he lost any abilities he might have had, which courts and the public naturally expect him to employ, as a doctor and healer.
32. On information and belief, Defendant actively worked to find no fault with staff conduct, and to assure that no fault is found by any outside investigators, so long as any story at all is offered by staff in response to a patient complaint, regardless of how incredible such response is wherein the Defendant, willfully failed to prevent the ongoing false imprisonment of the Plaintiff.
33. Defendant routinely ratifies, acquiesces, rubber stamps, and tolerates malicious collusive conduct and unconstitutional actions of staff by routinely ignoring serious complaints of false imprisonment and other corrupt acts against patients, especially the Plaintiff, and by encouraging fabrication of evidence by the staff.
34. As a direct and proximate result of the wrongful conduct of the Defendant, Plaintiff has been substantially injured. These injuries include, but are not limited to, loss of constitutional and federal rights, loss of normal good family relations, loss of income, physical injuries, physical and mental impairments, great pain and emotional distress, and/or aggravation of pre-existing conditions, and ongoing special damages for medically/psychologically related treatment necessitated by the unconstitutional and brutal concerted conduct of the Defendant.
35. The Plaintiff now suffers from these injuries, with an inability to consistently live a normal life free from the trauma caused by the very staff charged with responsibility for his treatment or rehabilitation.
36. The Plaintiff also suffers persisting emotional damage the extent of which has not yet been fully ascertained. Plaintiff continues to suffer ongoing emotional distress, with significant stress related symptoms.
37. Plaintiff is also entitled to punitive damages on all claims against the individual Defendants personally, to redress their willful, malicious, wanton, reckless and fraudulent conduct.
PRAYER FOR RELIEF
Plaintiff prays that this Court enter judgment for the Plaintiff and against the Defendant and grant:
A. compensatory and consequential damages, including damages for emotional distress, humiliation, loss of enjoyment of life, and other pain and suffering on all claims allowed by law in an amount to be determined at trial and in excess of the jurisdictional limit;
B. economic losses on all claims allowed by law;
C. punitive damages on all claims allowed by law against the Defendant and in an amount to be determined at trial and in excess of the jurisdictional limit;
D. attorneys’ fees and costs associated with this action under 42 U.S.C. § 1988, including expert witness fees, on all claims allowed by law;
E. pre- and post-judgment interest at the lawful rate;
F. Court-ordered equitable and injunctive relief from all contact or communication by the Defendant; and
G. Any further relief that this Court deems just and proper, and any other appropriate relief at law and equity.
PLAINTIFF REQUESTS A TRIAL BY JURY.
__/s/ S. Randolph Kretchmar
S. Randolph Kretchmar
One of the Attorneys for the Plaintiff
The Law Offices of Kretchmar & Cecala, P.C.
1170 Michigan Avenue, Wilmette, IL 60091