Wednesday, October 21, 2020
Monday, October 19, 2020
(NOTE: Apologies for the formatting... It seemed important to get this out as early as possible, and it's difficult to just copy and paste from the court's .pdf document, so it's messy. The implication of this decision is that staff and administrators in the state psychiatric plantation system will be held to stricter account for the truth or falsity of their representations to courts, about patients' mental illness and recovery.)
Case: 1:19-cv-05078 Document #: 27 Filed: 10/19/20 Page 1 of 9 PageID #:130
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE NORTHERN DISTRICT OF ILLINOIS
JAMES P. CORCORAN, individually,
as Statewide Forensic Medical Director
for the Illinois Department of Human
Services, Medical Administrator III,
Case No. 19-cv-5078
Judge Mary M. Rowland
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
Plaintiff Denzil Lawrence brings this action against James Corcoran, alleging false imprisonment and denial of due process. The defendant moves pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) to dismiss the complaint for failing to state a claim. For the reasons given below, the Court denies the defendant’s motion to dismiss.
The following factual allegations are taken from the complaint (Dkt. 1) and are accepted as true for the purposes of the motion to dismiss. See W. Bend Mut. Ins. Co. v. Schumacher, 844 F.3d 670, 675 (7th Cir. 2016).
Plaintiff Denzil Lawrence claims that Defendant James Corcoran violated his constitutional rights by falsely imprisoning him and denying him due process of law. Dkt.1 at ¶¶22-23. On September 26, 2017, Lawrence, an Illinois resident, was committed to the Illinois Department of Human Services for inpatient mental health
Case: 1:19-cv-05078 Document #: 27 Filed: 10/19/20 Page 2 of 9 PageID #:131
treatment after being found incompetent to stand trial. Id. at ¶¶3, 5. In state court in February 2018, he was adjudicated not guilty by reason of insanity on charges of arson and criminal damage to property. Id. at ¶5. He continued his treatment under state care. Id. After initially being held at the Chester Mental Health Center, he was transferred to the Elgin Mental Health Center on August 18, 2018. Id. Corcoran is a senior administrator at Elgin. Id. at ¶4.
While at Chester, Lawrence decided, with his doctor’s acquiescence, to stop taking psychotropic medicine due to their negative side effects. Id. at ¶5. He also experienced a “substantial remission” of his earlier symptoms. Id. After transferring to Elgin, he was again prescribed psychotropic medication, but by September 2018 he had lost faith in his doctor and chose to stop taking the medication. Id. at ¶¶7-8. In Elgin, he made progress towards recovery, followed the facility’s rules, and attended therapy. Id. at ¶9.
Lawrence’s Thiem date, the date his commitment expired, was March 20, 2019. Id. at ¶5; see People v. Thiem, 403 N.E.2d 647 (1980). He believed he would be released on that day and was apparently never disabused of this belief by Elgin staff. Dkt. 1 at ¶11. On March 20, his father arrived from Florida to take him home. Id. at ¶14. Lawrence, however, was not released. Instead, that day, an involuntary civil commitment petition alleging that he was mentally ill and a danger to himself or others was filed in Kane County Circuit Court. Id. at ¶12-13. The petition was signed by Melissa Perkins, Lawrence’s social worker, and supported by certificates by Dr. Vikramjit Gill, his psychiatrist, and Corcoran. Id. at ¶¶15-16. As a result of the
Case: 1:19-cv-05078 Document #: 27 Filed: 10/19/20 Page 3 of 9 PageID #:132
petition, Lawrence was held for ninety days beyond his Thiem date. Id. at ¶17. He was released on June 20, 2019, when the petition was dismissed. Id.
Lawrence says that the petition included false claims, including “[f]alsly [sic] alleging that Plaintiff was mentally ill.” Id. at ¶27. These false claims directly led to his extended confinement. Id. at ¶17. Lawrence further alleges that Perkins and Gill knew that the petition was inaccurate but filed it due to the coercive pressure of Corcoran, their boss. Id.
Corcoran is allegedly prejudiced against patients who refuse psychotropic medication, and he has told patients that he will resist attempts to release patients who refuse them or other psychiatric orthodoxies. Id. at ¶18. Corcoran has also created a culture where medical professionals under his supervision know they will suffer negative career outcomes if they fail to coerce patients into taking psychotropic medication. Id. at ¶19. This pressure resulted in Perkins and Gill certifying the false
petition. Id. at ¶22.
These allegations are the basis of Lawrence’s claim against Corcoran. Although written as a single claim, Lawrence raises two harms for which he says he should recover. The first is that he was denied due process of law, in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment, and the second is that he was unlawfully seized in violation of the Fourth Amendment. Id. at ¶22-23. 42 U.S.C. § 1983 provides a cause of action based these alleged constitutional violations. Id. In this motion, Corcoran seeks to dismiss the suit for failing to state a claim.
Case: 1:19-cv-05078 Document #: 27 Filed: 10/19/20 Page 4 of 9 PageID #:133
A motion to dismiss tests the sufficiency of a complaint, not the merits of the case. Gibson v. City of Chi., 910 F.2d 1510, 1520 (7th Cir. 1990). “To survive a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), the complaint must provide enough factual information to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face and raise a right to relief above the speculative level.” Haywood v. Massage Envy Franchising, LLC, 887 F.3d 329, 333 (7th Cir. 2018) (quotations and citation omitted). See also Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2) (requiring a complaint to contain a “short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.”). A court deciding a Rule 12(b)(6) motion accepts plaintiff’s well-pleaded factual allegations as true and draws all permissible inferences in plaintiff’s favor. Fortres Grand Corp. v. Warner Bros. Entm't Inc., 763 F.3d 696, 700 (7th Cir. 2014). A plaintiff need not plead “detailed factual allegations”, but “still must provide more than mere labels and conclusions or a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action for her complaint to be considered adequate under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8.” Bell v. City of Chi., 835 F.3d 736, 738 (7th Cir. 2016) (citation and internal quotation marks omitted).
Dismissal for failure to state a claim is proper “when the allegations in a complaint, however true, could not raise a claim of entitlement to relief.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 558, 127 S. Ct. 1955, 1966 (2007). Deciding the plausibility of the claim is “‘a context-specific task that requires the reviewing court to draw on its judicial experience and common sense.’” McCauley v. City of Chi., 671 F.3d 611, 616 (7th Cir. 2011) (quoting Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 679, 129 S. Ct. 1937, 1950 (2009)).
Case: 1:19-cv-05078 Document #: 27 Filed: 10/19/20 Page 5 of 9 PageID #:134
In his motion to dismiss, Corcoran argues that (1) Lawrence’s due process rights were not violated because his extended confinement was consistent with Illinois law; (2) he has not sufficiently pled that the confinement petition intentionally contained
false information; and (3) he has not shown that Corcoran was personally responsible for the false information entering the petition.
A. A Petition for Confinement Relying on Knowingly False Information Does Not Satisfy Due Process
An individual who has been found not guilty by reason of insanity may be civilly committed “as long as he is both mentally ill and dangerous, but no longer.” Foucha v. Louisiana, 504 U.S. 71, 77 (1992). Once “the State lacks ‘clear and convincing evidence’ that [the committed individual] meets both conditions,” due process requires that he be released. Martin v. Bartow, 628 F.3d 871, 874 (7th Cir. 2010) (quoting Foucha, 504 U.S. at 80). The Illinois Mental Health and Developmental Disabilities Code outlines Illinois’s procedure for evaluating and committing individuals consistent with the above constitutional requirement. See 405 ILCS 5/3- 601. The Northern District of Illinois has found that the Code’s procedure, if followed, provides sufficient “checks and balances against inappropriate detention” to satisfy one’s due process right. McKinney v. George, 556 F. Supp. 645, 650 (N.D. Ill. 1983), aff'd, 726 F.2d 1183 (7th Cir. 1984).
Corcoran argues that Lawrence’s confinement was extended consistent with the Code, and so his due process right cannot have been violated. Both sides agree that the Code’s facial requirements were satisfied. Instead, Lawrence claims that his
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caregivers knowingly lied when they certified that he was mentally ill. Dkt. 1 at ¶27; see 405 ILCS 5/3-601; 405 ILCS 1/1-119.
This Court and the Seventh Circuit have analogized the emergency commitment procedures of the Illinois Code to the constitutional requirements for a lawful arrest. See Villanova v. Abrams, 972 F. 2d 792, 798-99 (7th Cir. 1992); Baltz v. Shelley, 661 F. Supp. 169, 178 (N.D. Ill. 1987). Just as a warrant cannot pass constitutional muster if it relies on knowing or reckless false statements, Knox v. Smith, 342 F.3d 651, 658 (7th Cir. 2003), a deliberately false certification of mental illness is inconsistent with the Code and, by extension, due process. Olsen v. Karwoski, N.E.2d 444, 450 (1979) (noting that a physician’s certification that he examined a patient when he allegedly did not, raised an issue of probable cause). Procedural regularity alone is not a shield. Lawrence’s due process claim thus turns on whether he has sufficiently pled the alleged false statements and Corcoran’s responsibility for them.
B. Lawrence’s Allegation of False Information is Sufficient to Survivea Motion to Dismiss
Lawrence’s due process claim depends on his having sufficiently pled that the confinement petition intentionally included false information. The same is true of his unlawful seizure theory, which apparently is based on the falsification of evidence. Manuel v. City of Joliet, Ill., 137 S. Ct. 911, 918 (2017) (holding that a person detained through a legal process that relied on knowingly false statements had a valid Fourth Amendment claim). As noted earlier, he need not provide “detailed factual allegations,” but the pleadings must state “more than mere labels and conclusions.” Bell v. City of Chi., 835 F.3d 736, 738 (7th Cir. 2016) (citation and internal quotation
Case: 1:19-cv-05078 Document #: 27 Filed: 10/19/20 Page 7 of 9 PageID #:136
marks omitted). In practice, we look for “a story that holds together.” Swanson v. Citibank, N.A., 614 F.3d 400, 404 (7th Cir. 2010). The Court asks itself “could these things have happened, not did they happen.” Id.
Corcoran argues that the complaint must fail because it does not specify what claims were actually false in this allegedly false petition. Relying on a Second Circuit case, he contends that a complaint alleging fabrication of evidence requires identification of the specific evidence that was falsified to survive a motion to dismiss. See Jackson v. County of Rockland, 450 Fed. Appx. 15, 18-19 (2d Cir. 2011). But even if this is the appropriate standard, Lawrence meets it.
Despite Corcoran’s claims otherwise, Lawrence does identify the specific evidence that he believes was falsified. In his complaint, Lawrence states that the petition falsely alleged that he was mentally ill. Dkt. 1 at ¶27(a). By identifying this specific falsehood, the plaintiff moves past “labels and conclusions” and provides the Court with a story that could have happened. The story goes like this: (1) Lawrence was adjudicated not guilty by reason of insanity; (2) over the course of his confinement he recovered to the point that he was no longer mentally ill; and (3) his medical caregivers were aware of his recovery but, because of Corcoran’s desire to punish Lawrence, they falsely claimed that he was still ill in order to extend his confinement. This narrative is supported by the claims that his symptoms were in substantial remission while at Chester, and that at Elgin he made progress and attended therapy.
Id. at ¶¶6, 9. It is too early to say whether this is what did happen, but it is plausible, and that is all that is needed at this stage.
Case: 1:19-cv-05078 Document #: 27 Filed: 10/19/20 Page 8 of 9 PageID #:137
Corcoran insists that it is implausible to say that Lawrence was not mentally ill. After all, Lawrence was previously ruled unfit to stand trial and was held not guilty by reason of insanity. But Lawrence had been receiving state treatment since September 2017. He was to be released in March 2019, a year and a half later. It is not implausible that in that time he would have recovered to such an extent that he was no longer mentally ill. And claiming as much does not imply that he was never mentally ill. The Court disagrees that his claim “necessarily impl[ies] the invalidity of [his] criminal conviction.” Haywood v. Hathaway, 842 F.3d 1026, 1028 (7th Cir. 2016). Perhaps an expert in psychiatry would find the alleged recovery implausible, but that is a question for another day—perhaps requiring the opinion of an expert. While the complaint could have been more detailed regarding the petition’s shortcomings, such detail is not required at this stage. By specifically identifying the false portion of the confinement petition, Lawrence has met his present burden.
C. Lawrence’s Allegation of Corcoran’s Personal Responsibility Is Also Sufficient
In order to make out a claim of supervisory liability under § 1983, the plaintiff needs to show the supervisor’s “personal involvement” in the alleged violation. Matthews v. City of East St. Louis, 675 F. 3d 703, 708 (7th Cir. 2012). Personal involvement can be demonstrated by showing that the supervisor must “know about the conduct and facilitate it, approve it, condone it, or turn a blind eye for fear of what they might see.” Jones v. City of Chicago, 856 F.2d 985, 992–93 (7th Cir. 1988). Here, the complaint adequately pleads Corcoran’s personal involvement.
Case: 1:19-cv-05078 Document #: 27 Filed: 10/19/20 Page 9 of 9 PageID #:138
Lawrence alleges that Corcoran was well known to be prejudiced against patients who exercised their right to refuse medication. Dkt. 1 at ¶18. He created a culture of fear where staff and patients risked severe professional and personal consequences if they acted inconsistently with his prejudices. Id. at ¶¶18, 21-22. This cultural coercion, along with possible direct threats, led Lawrence’s social worker to file the false petition and his psychiatrist to falsely certify it. Id. at ¶15, 16, 21. Corcoran also personally certified the false petition. Id. at ¶16. In other words, Corcoran was aware of the false statement and certified it.
Corcoran argues that the allegations are too general and vague. It is true that more specific examples of Corcoran’s coercion would make the complaint more persuasive. But the plaintiff need not provide “detailed factual allegations” when pleading. Bell v. City of Chi., 835 F.3d 736, 738 (7th Cir. 2016). Lawrence provides a plausible account of Corcoran’s personal involvement and so survives the motion to dismiss.1
For the stated reasons, the defendant’s Motion to Dismiss is denied.
Dated: October 19, 2020
E N T E R:
MARY M. ROWLAND
United States District Judge
1 Plaintiff sought leave to file a sur-reply.  The Court has not relied on the briefing in the surreply,
so the motion to file a sur-reply is denied as moot.
Friday, October 9, 2020
It was explained to me this morning by a former Elgin Mental Health Center “patient” (i.e., psychiatric slave) that on the plantation nothing is ever done by any identifiable person. Things get done or just happen, but nothing is done by anyone. The active voice is an essential, strict taboo, for all narratives, all documents, all communications.
This will need to be checked in progress notes, court reports, treatment plan documents, etc. But it is expected that the point will be observed to be very, literally, true. The passive voice is absolutely dictated by the culture of the nuthouse.
This explanation is well validated by the recent phenomena of Tom Zubik’s reported panic over it being said by Gus that improprieties were committed by individually named staff, and Zubik’s subsequent insistence upon the record being set straight with me (especially while/if it had been reported to, or was known about by, Master Corcoran).
It seems difficult or awkward to me, to speak/write entirely in the passive voice. (It probably feels like an odd style to readers here.) But on the plantation it has become instinctive and normal.
Always: “The patient was redirected...” — never: “Staff redirected the patient.”
Always: “PRN was offered...” — never: “Nurse offered PRN.”
Always: “Mental health education is recommended by the treatment team...” — never: “The treatment team recommends mental health education.”
Always: “Activities are restricted during COVID...” — never: “The administration restricted activities during COVID.”
Omnipresent generalities and euphemisms are also noted.
What exactly is meant by “redirected” in the context of any specific incident? What is meant by “offered” when the object is a psychiatric drug? How exactly is “education” applied to a totally subjective, disputed field of pseudo-medicine? It can be suspected that what’s meant is, more accurately, controlled, ordered, and propaganda/bullshit.
Who exactly is identified by “staff” or “the treatment team” or “the Administration”? The question has frequently been asked by legal counsel: “WHO, dammit? Give me a name! Testimony under oath is demanded as my client’s right.”
This question is resisted, direct answers are avoided like the plague.
So when a notebook is carried by a patient and times, places, events and perpetrators are industriously chronicled, when the slaves are trained and incited by an attorney to violate this strict plantation taboo against all use of the active voice and against any identification of individuals or responsibility, screams of offense are heard from the overseers and the plantation managers and the masters.
Now that this dynamic is understood more clearly, it can be used to even better advantage for the cause of abolition.
Thursday, October 8, 2020
Update on overseers, plantation managers, slavemasters (Shaletha Jones, Jessica Lopez, Tom Zubik, Joanne Langley, James Patrick Corcoran)
I had a Zoom staffing today, and Tom Zubik, looking perfectly dapper on video, asked me right up front about having missed yesterday’s meeting for Gus. He was not really trying to figure out why I hadn’t shown up, however. Rather, he wanted to correct my portrayal in yesterday’s blog, of his behavior.
Tom seemed slightly anxious to get his side of the story to me, and I don’t mind amending what I published yesterday. He said he had not actually stormed out of the staffing the way Gus portrayed it to me. He had remained on the line, although he muted himself most of the time (lurking?), until the staffing concluded. He complained about how Gus goes on and on and on, with apparently unlimited details about all his continuing complaints.
Gus does do that and it can be frustrating. But Gus also responds to respectful acknowledgment and allows me to talk if he notices that I am listening to him. It’s not like two-way communication with him is impossible, or even all that difficult. It’s more like some people consider, or they’re part of a culture which considers, that they are the masters and Gus is the slave. In that context things get difficult indeed, and in my opinion it’s to Gus’ credit: he refuses to be a slave.
In yesterday’s blog I wrote that I was confused about why Tom Zubik would be so upset that Gus was actually naming individual staff about whom he has complaints. I went to the trouble of also naming them in the blog. I probably wouldn’t have bothered, but for concluding from Zubik’s reported reaction yesterday that this is a very productive tactic. But a new theory about this was suggested today, which incidentally supports my conclusion.
Zubik clearly had some priority on “setting the record straight” about whether he had left the staffing yesterday in impatience over Gus’ identification of individuals by name for accused misdeeds. He insisted that he didn’t read my blog himself, so somebody must have told him about it. Maybe one of the people I named (Joanne Langley, Shaletha Jones, Jessica Lopez, Kristina somebody) complained, and Tom felt he had to stick up for his people.
But the description of Zubik’s reaction as related to me by Gus, plus Zubik’s oh-so-earnest side of the story, were hard to reconcile. Plus, Tom didn’t say anything about anyone else, he only “corrected the record” about his own behavior.
Then, at the very end of today’s Zoom staffing, after well over an hour, an individual spoke up who had never announced his lurking presence: James Patrick Corcoran, the Master.
Maybe now I get it.
Wednesday, October 7, 2020
I missed a staffing for Gus this morning, which I regret because it was apparently a rather entertaining one. Tom Zubik is said to have been very inappropriate, even non-sequitur. Maybe he's just having one bad morning. I hope so, because he's normally an influence for reason and practical solutions.
The thing that seemed to set Tom off was Gus' mention of the names of staff who had falsely reported or falsely charted about him this month.
Gus is meticulous and relentless, partly on my specific and repeated advice, about documenting false reports which go into supposed "medical records" and thereby (because of their status as medical records) become admissible in court hearings. Probably as often as not, such documents as progress notes, security reports or treatment plan reports contain opinions, interpretations, speculations and outright lies, which are taken as facts in evidence. It becomes a modern day version of spectral evidence in witchcraft trials.
I've heard from virtually every involuntary "patient" (psychiatric slave) whom I have ever represented, that staff lie in these reports, often out of mean prejudice, due to grudges, for political or tactical advantages, or to protect their own or their friends' misdeeds. Since any written document that goes to court as evidence is presumed to have been made as if under oath, this is perjury.
It's not just the lower-position or non-clinical employment echelons who commit such perjury, either. I once heard none other than Joanne Langley, an administrative official at Elgin plantation (and I believe, a Ph.D.), flagrantly lie, in court, on the witness stand under oath.
The point is, it's a very righteous cause to document falsehoods and lies that amount to perjury. Gus does this, and I will continue to encourage him to do this, and teach him to do it more and more effectively. He has a journal with him constantly, in which he takes notes.
But it sure does piss off staff!
In today's staffing Gus brought up the fact that a staff member named Shaletha Jones had accused him of staring at her, and prompted a false report in his chart saying he told someone she was paranoid and needed a PRN. He also mentioned Jessica Lopez and another STA (Kristina something) who had been jabbering back and forth with each other in alarm over Gus taking notes that might be evidence of their inappropriate behavior.
Tom Zubik lost it because Gus was naming names. In fact, he quickly hung up on the (teleconferenced) staffing. I haven't seen Tom react so dramatically before, and it's hard to imagine why Gus' mention of staff names in the non-public context of his own monthly staffing would have so alarmed him.
It suggests the question: who was there that Tom didn't want to hear those names? I wasn't there, and I probably wouldn't have paid attention but for the extreme protest.
But like I said, maybe Zubik was just having a bad morning. Maybe he'd like a PRN.