Kriz v. Roy, 8:20CV110

CourtUnited States District Courts. 8th Circuit. United States District Court of Nebraska
Writing for the CourtRichard G. Kopf Senior United States District Judge
PartiesMICHAEL J. KRIZ, Plaintiff, v. DR. SANAT K. ROY, Psychiatrist; DR. SHANNON BLACK, Psychologist; TERRY CURTIS, Box Butte County Attorney; and JEAN RHODES, Chairman, Box Butte County Mental Health Board, Defendants.
Docket Number8:20CV110
Decision Date01 September 2020

MICHAEL J. KRIZ, Plaintiff,
DR. SANAT K. ROY, Psychiatrist; DR. SHANNON BLACK, Psychologist;
TERRY CURTIS, Box Butte County Attorney; and JEAN RHODES,
Chairman, Box Butte County Mental Health Board, Defendants.



September 1, 2020


Plaintiff, Michael J. Kriz ("Kriz"), filed this action on March 24, 2020, and has since been granted leave to proceed in forma pauperis. The court now conducts an initial review of Kriz's Complaint (Filing 1) to determine whether summary dismissal is appropriate under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2).


Kriz alleges he was civilly committed to the Lincoln Regional Center ("LRC") in 1992 by the Box Butte County Mental Health Board. Kriz claims his constitutional rights are being violated because he is no longer mentally ill and dangerous, and does not require inpatient treatment. Kriz requests a court order directing that he be discharged from LRC to an outpatient treatment setting.

The court takes judicial notice that Kriz filed a similar action 15 years ago,1 which the court allowed to proceed to service of process. See Case No. 4:05CV3254,

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Order on Initial Review (Filing 9) entered December 5, 2005.2 Named as defendants in that action were the county mental health board and Dr. Sanat K. Roy, who, at the time, was employed by the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services as a psychiatrist at LRC and was in charge of the Sex Offender Services Program there. The board was dismissed from the action because of quasi-judicial immunity, and the action proceeded against Dr. Roy in his individual and official capacities for money damages and prospective injunctive relief.3 See id., Memorandum and Order (Filing 87) entered on June 25, 2008 (Kriz v. 12th Judicial Dist. Bd. of Mental Health of Box Butte Cty., No. 4:05CV3254, 2008 WL 2568270 (D. Neb. June 25, 2008)). The action subsequently was dismissed on a motion for summary judgment filed by Dr. Roy. See id., Memorandum and Order (Filing 118) entered on February 5, 2009 (Kriz v. Roy, No. 4:05CV3254, 2009 WL 277565 (D. Neb. Feb. 5, 2009)).


The court is required to review in forma pauperis complaints to determine whether summary dismissal is appropriate. The court must dismiss a complaint or any portion of it that states a frivolous or malicious claim, that fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or that seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B).

Pro se plaintiffs must set forth enough factual allegations to "nudge[] their claims across the line from conceivable to plausible," or "their complaint must be dismissed." Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 569-70 (2007); see also Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) ("A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.").

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"The essential function of a complaint under the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure is to give the opposing party 'fair notice of the nature and basis or grounds for a claim, and a general indication of the type of litigation involved.'" Topchian v. JPMorgan Chase Bank, N.A., 760 F.3d 843, 848 (8th Cir. 2014) (quoting Hopkins v. Saunders, 199 F.3d 968, 973 (8th Cir. 1999)). However, "[a] pro se complaint must be liberally construed, and pro se litigants are held to a lesser pleading standard than other parties." Topchian, 760 F.3d at 849 (internal quotation marks and citations omitted).


Liberally construing Kriz's Complaint, this is a civil rights action brought under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. To state a claim under § 1983, a plaintiff must allege a violation of rights protected by the United States Constitution or created by federal statute, and also must show that the alleged deprivation was caused by conduct of a person acting under color of state law. West v. Atkins, 487 U.S. 42, 48 (1988).

Kriz alleges that Defendants have violated his "constitutional right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment" by keeping him confined as an inpatient at LRC and denying him the "right to be treated in the least restrictive treatment setting and environment." (Filing 1 at 4.) The Eighth Amendment to the Constitution prohibits the infliction of cruel and unusual punishment, and applies to the states through the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Baze v. Rees, 553 U.S. 35, 47 (2008). "However, because an involuntarily committed psychiatric patient is confined for treatment rather than incarcerated for the purpose of punishment following conviction, the Eighth Amendment does not apply." Revels v. Vincenz, 382 F.3d 870, 874 (8th Cir. 2004). "The rights of patients in psychiatric hospitals more appropriately arise under the Fourteenth Amendment." Id.

The Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment prohibits state governments from depriving "any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law...." U.S. Const. amend. XIV, § 1. "This clause has two components: the procedural due process and the substantive due process components." Singleton v. Cecil, 176 F.3d 419, 424 (8th Cir. 1999) (en banc) (citing Cnty. of Sacramento v.

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Lewis, 523 U.S. 833 (1998)). "Analysis of either a procedural or substantive due process claim must begin with an examination of the interest allegedly violated, and the possession of a protected life, liberty, or property interest is a condition precedent to any due process claim." Id. (cleaned up).

In Youngberg v. Romeo, 457 U.S. 307 (1982), the Supreme Court considered "for the first time the substantive rights of involuntarily committed mentally retarded persons under the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution." Id. at 314. The Court concluded that committed individuals "enjoy constitutionally protected [liberty] interests in conditions of reasonable care and safety, reasonably nonrestrictive confinement conditions, and such training as may be required by these interests."4 Id. at 324. "In determining whether the State has met its obligations in these respects, decisions made by the appropriate professional are entitled to a presumption of correctness." Id.

The prevailing view, however, is that there is no general federal constitutional right to a least restrictive environment. See Kulak v. City of New York, 88 F.3d 63, 73 (2d Cir. 1996) (citing Society for Good Will to Retarded Children, Inc. v. Cuomo, 737 F.2d 1239, 1247-49 (2d Cir. 1984)); P.C. v. McLaughlin, 913 F.2d 1033, 1042 (2d Cir. 1990) ("The Constitution does not guarantee a mentally retarded person the right to live in the community of his choice or in the least restrictive environment."). Accord, Lelsz v. Kavanagh, 807 F.2d 1243, 1251 (5th Cir. 1987) ("[T]he federal constitution does not confer ... a right to habilitation in the least restrictive

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environment."); Rennie v. Klein, 720 F.2d 266, 268, 271 (3d Cir. 1983) (en banc) (plurality and concurring opinions) (acknowledging that Supreme Court declined to adopt a "least intrusive means" analysis in Youngberg). See also Conner v. Branstad, 839 F. Supp. 1346, 1351 (S.D. Iowa 1993) ("Following the Supreme Court's decision in Youngberg, several circuits have uniformly concluded that there is no federal right to treatment in the least restrictive setting."); Gieseking v. Schafer, 672 F. Supp. 1249, 1266 (W.D. Mo. 1987) ("[T]he courts have uniformly rejected the notion that mentally retarded and developmentally disabled individuals have a constitutionally-founded right to receive treatment in the least restrictive alternative."); Ass'n for Retarded Citizens of N. Dakota v. Olson, 561 F. Supp. 473, 486 (D.N.D. 1982) ("Prior to the Youngberg decision, this court held that the fourteenth amendment secures a right to the least restrictive practicable alternatives to institutionalization. While the Youngberg decision does not directly address this specific right, the Court's analysis indicates that it would reject an absolute right to the least restrictive alternatives." (citations omitted)), aff'd on other grounds, 713 F.2d 1384 (8th Cir. 1983).

"[A] state may create such a liberty interest protected under the Fourteenth Amendment by regulations, statutes, or court orders 'mandatory in character.'" Kulak, 88 F.3d at 73 (quoting Washington v. Harper, 494 U.S. 210, 221 (1990)). Importantly, however, these state-created liberty interests are only "entitled to the procedural protections of the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment." Vitek v. Jones, 445 U.S. 480, 488 (1980) (emphasis added). "A procedural due process claim focuses not on the merits of a deprivation, but on whether the State circumscribed the deprivation with constitutionally adequate procedures." Parrish v. Mallinger, 133 F.3d 612, 615 (8th Cir. 1998). Kriz does not claim that he has been denied procedural due process.5

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The United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit has not specifically addressed the "least restrictive environment" question, but has "held that although 'the Supreme Court has recognized a substantive due process right to reasonably safe custodial conditions, [it has not recognized] a broader due process right to appropriate or effective or reasonable treatment of the illness or disability that triggered the patient's involuntary confinement.'" Strutton v. Meade, 668 F.3d 549, 557 (8th Cir. 2012) (alteration in original; quoting Elizabeth M. v. Montenez, 458 F.3d 779, 788 (8th Cir. 2006)). In Strutton, a civilly committed sex offender brought a civil rights action challenging the adequacy of his treatment after budget cuts resulted in the temporary elimination of psychoeducational classes and cutbacks for process group sessions. The Eighth Circuit agreed with the district court that Youngberg's "professional judgment" standard did not...

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