31 F.3d 1 (1st Cir. 1994), 92-1987, Chakrabarti v. Cohen

Docket Nº:92-1987, 92-1988.
Citation:31 F.3d 1
Party Name:Kishanlal CHAKRABARTI, Plaintiff, Appellee, v. Joseph L. COHEN, M.D., and Michael J. Gill, M.D., Defendants, Appellants. Kishanlal CHAKRABARTI, Plaintiff, Appellant, v. Joseph L. COHEN, M.D., et al., Defendants, Appellees.
Case Date:July 22, 1994
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the First Circuit

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31 F.3d 1 (1st Cir. 1994)

Kishanlal CHAKRABARTI, Plaintiff, Appellee,


Joseph L. COHEN, M.D., and Michael J. Gill, M.D.,

Defendants, Appellants.

Kishanlal CHAKRABARTI, Plaintiff, Appellant,


Joseph L. COHEN, M.D., et al., Defendants, Appellees.

Nos. 92-1987, 92-1988.

United States Court of Appeals, First Circuit

July 22, 1994

Heard Feb. 8, 1994.

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Timothy A. Mullen, Asst. Atty. Gen., Government Bureau, Trial Div., with whom Scott Harshbarger, Atty. Gen., Boston, MA, was on briefs, for defendants.

Robert LeRoux Hernandez, Malden, MA, for plaintiff.

Before SELYA, BOUDIN and STAHL, Circuit Judges.

BOUDIN, Circuit Judge.

Dr. Kishanlal Chakrabarti served as a staff psychiatrist at the Lemuel Shattuck Hospital ("the hospital"), a facility of the Massachusetts Department of Public Health. In this suit he sought redress for his discharge by the hospital, and won a jury award of $75,000. Both sides appeal. We affirm.

The background facts are straightforward. Born in India and trained in England, Chakrabarti joined the staff of the hospital in 1979 and worked initially in its geriatric psychiatry unit. In the early 1980s, another facility--this one managed by a different state agency--was merged into the hospital. Chakrabarti disagreed with the merger and its implementation and made his criticisms known; and he objected unsuccessfully to the naming of Dr. Michael Gill as head of the combined psychiatric unit at the hospital.

In October 1985 Gill asked Chakrabarti to resign, citing their inability to work together and asserted deficiencies in the latter's performance. Chakrabarti's new immediate supervisor, Dr. Susan Wehry, also expressed some concerns about his performance. Gill repeated his request in December 1985 and Chakrabarti rejected the request. In June 1986 Wehry replaced Chakrabarti in her unit with another doctor, and the hospital's chief of medicine, Dr. Joseph Cohen, assigned Chakrabarti to a newly created job: guardianship coordinator and utilization review physician for psychiatric patients.

During the next twelve months Chakrabarti did not perform his new duties to the satisfaction of Cohen, Gill or Wehry. Chakrabarti in turn took the view that his new job was effectively a demotion, cutting him off from medical practice with patients at the hospital. On June 5, 1987, Gill gave Chakrabarti a negative evaluation and told him that

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if Chakrabarti still declined to resign, Gill would urge the Medical Executive Committee not to renew Chakrabarti's clinical privileges. 1 On June 8, 1987, the Medical Executive Committee voted unanimously not to recommend renewal.

Later in June 1987 Chakrabarti was formally notified of the decision not to renew; the reason given was his failure to perform satisfactorily his current assignment. He was told that he could appeal pursuant to the hospital's medical-staff bylaws. Chakrabarti apparently could not perform his guardianship role without clinical privileges but he was continued on the hospital payroll until June 1988. At that time he was terminated on the ground that no post was available for him at the hospital because he could not perform clinical duties there.

In 1988 Chakrabarti brought the present action in district court, naming as defendants Cohen, Gill and several others who are no longer parties to the case. The complaint set forth five counts: a section 1983 claim under federal law, 42 U.S.C. Sec. 1983 (count I); a claim under the Massachusetts Civil Rights Act, Mass.Gen.L. ch. 12, Secs. 11H, 11I (count II); and state common law claims for intentional infliction of emotional distress (count III), interference with business relations (count IV), and defamation (count V). Damages and reinstatement were both sought.

The first trial occurred in November 1991. The court directed a verdict for defendants on count III. Thereafter the jury found in favor of Cohen and Gill on counts I, II and V. On count IV the jury found in favor of Chakrabarti and awarded him $1 in nominal damages and $30,000 in punitive damages. In answer to interrogatories, the jury said that Cohen and Gill had not sought to retaliate against Chakrabarti for constitutionally protected speech.

In January 1992 the district court resumed proceedings to consider equitable relief. The following month, the court allowed Chakrabarti to amend his complaint to allege--as count VI--violations of substantive due process and procedural due process; these were to be considered as bases for equitable relief on the existing record. The court also ordered a new jury trial on damages under count IV because it concluded that punitive damages were not permitted under Massachusetts law on count IV. A retrial on count IV occurred in March 1992, and the jury awarded Chakrabarti $75,000 in actual damages against Cohen and Gill.

Thereafter the district court resolved the claims for equitable relief. It first found that the substantive due process claim failed on the merits. Later the court rejected the procedural due process claim; the court said Chakrabarti had been terminated prematurely because Cohen and Gill failed to follow required procedures, but the state provided an adequate appeal process that Chakrabarti had failed to follow. Finally, as to count IV the court found that equitable relief was barred by the Pennhurst doctrine, see Pennhurst State School & Hospital v. Halderman, 465 U.S. 89, 104 S.Ct. 900, 79 L.Ed.2d 67 (1984). It also ruled that under state law attorney's fees were not available as to count IV.

On June 26, 1993, judgment in favor of Chakrabarti and against Cohen and Gill was entered on count IV in the amount of $75,000 plus $33,351.45 in pre-judgment interest, plus costs. Judgment was entered in favor of the defendants on all other counts. Represented by the state, Cohen and...

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