Kriz v. Roy

CourtUnited States District Courts. 8th Circuit. United States District Court of Nebraska
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 Date19 October 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.



October 19, 2020


Plaintiff, Michael J. Kriz ("Kriz"), filed this action on March 24, 2020, and was granted leave to proceed in forma pauperis. The court conducted an initial review of Kriz's pro se Complaint (Filing 1) under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2), and, in a Memorandum and Order entered on September 1, 2020 (Filing 10), determined that the Complaint fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. The court on its own motion gave Kriz 30 days to amend his pleadings.

An Amended Complaint (Filing 11) was timely filed on September 28, 2020. The court now conducts an initial review of the Amended Complaint 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 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

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in the least restrictive treatment setting and environment." (Filing 1 at 4; Filing 11 at 3.) Kriz requests a court order directing that he be discharged from LRC to an outpatient treatment setting. (Filing 1 at 4; Filing 11 at 13.)

Kriz's Amended Complaint is substantially similar to his original Complaint, but includes additional factual allegations. Kriz alleges a psychiatric evaluation that was conducted before his involuntary commitment included a recommendation that he receive intensive inpatient treatment at LRC for only one month, followed by outpatient treatment, but he has now been confined at LRC for 28 years. (Filing 11 at 4, 8-9.) Kriz also alleges he has been in the "transition phase" of the sex offender services treatment program at LRC since July 17, 2017, which is "more than double" the time most patients spend in that phase of the program before being discharged; Kriz states community outings were suspended in February or March of this year due to the Covid-19 pandemic, and he complains the outings were not resumed in September when visitation was reinstated at LRC. (Filing 11 at 4-7.) Finally, Kriz complains the treatment team has indicated he will require "24/7 supervision" once he is discharged from LRC; Kriz disagrees with this assessment and states his parents are willing and able to provide support and living accommodations for him in their home. (Filing 11 at 10-11.)

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, 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

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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.").

"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).

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Liberally construing Kriz's pleadings, 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).

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. 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." Id. at 324. "In determining whether the State has met its obligations in these respects,

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decisions made by the appropriate professional are entitled to a presumption of correctness." Id.4

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 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

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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))....

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