Summers v. Louisiana, Civil Action 20-21-JWD-SDJ

CourtUnited States District Courts. 5th Circuit. Middle District of Louisiana
Writing for the CourtJOHN W. deGRAVELLES JUDGE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
PartiesKENDALL SUMMERS v. STATE OF LOUISIANA, LOUISIANA DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND HOSPITALS, as the political entity responsible for Eastern Louisiana Mental Health System, ET AL. STORM ERIE, ET AL. v. STATE OF LOUISIANA, LOUISIANA DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND HOSPITALS, as the political entity responsible for Eastern Louisiana Mental Health System, ET AL. IVORY AMOS, ET AL. v. STATE OF LOUISIANA, LOUISIANA DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND HOSPITALS, as the political entity responsible for Eastern Louisiana Mental Health System, ET AL. CHRISTOPHER CAMPBELL, ET AL. v. STATE OF LOUISIANA, LOUISIANA DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND HOSPITALS, as the political entity responsible for Eastern Louisiana Mental Health System, ET AL.
Docket NumberCivil Action 20-21-JWD-SDJ,20-289-JWD-SDJ,20-386-JWD-SDJ,20-580-JWD-SDJ
Decision Date27 September 2022

KENDALL SUMMERS
v.

STATE OF LOUISIANA, LOUISIANA DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND HOSPITALS, as the political entity responsible for Eastern Louisiana Mental Health System, ET AL.

STORM ERIE, ET AL.
v.
STATE OF LOUISIANA, LOUISIANA DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND HOSPITALS, as the political entity responsible for Eastern Louisiana Mental Health System, ET AL.

IVORY AMOS, ET AL.
v.
STATE OF LOUISIANA, LOUISIANA DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND HOSPITALS, as the political entity responsible for Eastern Louisiana Mental Health System, ET AL.

CHRISTOPHER CAMPBELL, ET AL.
v.
STATE OF LOUISIANA, LOUISIANA DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND HOSPITALS, as the political entity responsible for Eastern Louisiana Mental Health System, ET AL.

Civil Action Nos. 20-21-JWD-SDJ, 20-289-JWD-SDJ, 20-386-JWD-SDJ, 20-580-JWD-SDJ

United States District Court, M.D. Louisiana

September 27, 2022


RULING AND ORDER

JOHN W. deGRAVELLES JUDGE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT

This matter comes before the Court on the Superseding Motion to Dismiss All Cases for Lack of Subject Matter Jurisdiction and Failure to State a Cause of Action (Doc. 57) (“Motion”) filed by Defendants, State of Louisiana, through the Department of Health (“LDH” or “LDOH”), and Courtney N. Phillips, the Secretary of the Louisiana Department of Health (collectively, “Defendants”). Plaintiffs Kendall Summers, Storm Erie, Glenn Stelly, Ivory Amos, Kirby Robinson, Christopher Campbell, Trevor McInnis, and Christopher Ryan Smith (“Plaintiffs”) oppose the Motion. (Doc. 64.) Defendants did not file a rely. Oral argument is not necessary. The Court has carefully considered the law, facts in the record, and arguments and submissions of the parties and is prepared to rule. For the following reasons, Defendants' Motion is GRANTED but Plaintiffs are given leave to amend their complaints.

I. BACKGROUND AND ALLEGATIONS OF PLAINTIFFS

Plaintiffs in these consolidated cases are all committed to the East Louisiana Mental Health System (“ELMHS”) per court order entered in connection with ongoing judicial proceedings. The eight Plaintiffs have filed four substantially identical lawsuits, which have been consolidated for all purposes except trial. (Summers, Docket Number 20-21, Doc. 53.) Plaintiff Summers was granted leave to amend his complaint to make the allegations consistent with those made by the other plaintiffs in the consolidated cases (id., Doc. 55), after which amended complaint (id., Doc. 56), all four consolidated cases have consistent operative complaints. (See Summers, 20-21, Doc. 56; Erie, 20-289, Doc. 28; Amos, 20-386, Doc. 14; Campbell, 20-580, Doc. 15.)[1] For reasons of

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judicial efficiency and clarity of the record, previous motions to dismiss in the four cases were dismissed without prejudice and Defendants were permitted to file a single motion to dismiss the consolidated cases. (Doc. 55 at 2.)

All Plaintiffs file suit under Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. § 12131, et seq. (“ADA”), the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, 29 U.S.C. § 794, et seq. (“RA”), and the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, 42 U.S.C. § 18116, et seq. (“ACA”). (Summers, Doc. 56 at 2; id. at 3, ¶ 1; Erie, Doc. 28 at 2-3; id. at 3, ¶ 1; Amos, Doc. 14 at 2-3; id. at 3, ¶ 1; Campbell, Doc. 15 at 2-3; id. at 3, ¶ 1.) With the exception of Plaintiffs Robinson and McInnis, all Plaintiffs have mental illness and are committed to ELMHS pursuant to Louisiana Code of Criminal Procedure Article 657 by virtue of having been adjudicated Not Guilty by Reason of Insanity (“NGRI”). (Summers, Doc. 56, ¶¶ 74-84; Erie, Doc. 28, ¶ 15; Amos, Doc. 14, ¶ 15; Campbell, Doc. 15, ¶ 20.)

Robinson alleges he was found to be “irrestorably incompetent to stand trial pursuant to Lockhart v. Armstead, 351 So.2d 496 (1977).” (Amos, Doc. 14, ¶ 15.)[2] McInnis alleges he has not been adjudged NGRI and is a pre-trial detainee. (Campbell, Doc. 15, ¶ 20.) He claims that he has cerebral palsy/spastic palsy and has difficulty walking and standing. (Id., ¶¶ 93.) However, Robinson's and McInnis' allegations in their operative complaints and arguments made in Plaintiffs' opposition to the Motion are in essential respects identical to those made on behalf of the other Plaintiffs, and Plaintiffs do not argue that the non-NGRI status of Robinson and McInnis requires that they be treated differently from the other Plaintiffs.

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All Plaintiffs allege that they are “qualified individuals” with a disability under the ADA, RA, and ACA by virtue of their mental conditions. (Summers, Doc. 56, ¶ 5; Erie, Doc. 28, ¶¶ 4, 9; Amos, Doc. 14, ¶¶ 6, 9; Campbell, Doc. 15, ¶¶ 4, 9, 11, 14, 16.) Defendants concede that “Plaintiffs' court-ordered commitments to ELMHS indicate that their conditions cause substantial limitations. Thus, Defendants accept for purposes of the instant motion, that Plaintiffs have qualifying disabilities.” (Doc. 57-1 at 4.)

According to Plaintiffs, a “treatment professional” has recommended Stelly, Erie, Amos Robinson and Campbell “for community-based treatment in the past.” (Erie, Doc. 28, ¶¶ 7, 12; Amos, Doc. 14, ¶¶ 7, 12; Campbell, Doc. 15, ¶ 7 (emphasis added); see also Summers, Doc. 56, ¶¶ 73-88, recounting Summers' prior releases from ELMHS.) There is no similar allegation for McInnis and Smith. None of the Plaintiffs allege that a treatment professional has made a current recommendation for their release from ELMHS, conditional or otherwise, or for their participation in community-based treatment. However, all Plaintiffs except Summers allege that “[e]ven if [Plaintiff] does not have a current recommendation for community-based placement, his individual needs are not static and he will likely obtain a recommendation for community-based treatment in the future.” (Erie, Doc. 28, ¶¶ 7, 12; Amos, Doc. 14, ¶¶ 7, 12; Campbell, Doc. 15, ¶¶ 7, 12, 17.)

Summers' allegations are more detailed. On June 17, 2003, Summers was charged by the State of Louisiana with attempted second-degree murder. (Summers, Doc. 56, ¶ 73.) Plaintiff was found NGRI on that charge and was committed to ELMHS for treatment on August 26, 2004. (Id. ¶ 74.) According to Summers, “[t]hrough inpatient treatment, Mr. Summers was able to overcome his psychiatric impairment, which is presently in remission.” (Id. ¶ 75.)

Subsequently, on March 17, 2011, a mental competency hearing was held. (Id. ¶ 76.) Dr. Joseph Bolton, Summers's treating doctor at ELMHS, was subject to direct examination and cross

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examination. (Id.) Another mental competency hearing was held on March 31, 2011, which resulted in the court finding Summers was “NOT DANGEROUS”. (Id. ¶ 77.) Summers further alleges that:

based on “a finding that he doesn't have a mental illness or mental defect at this time”, the Court ordered Mr. Summers released from ELMHS on conditional release, to participate in a Forensic Aftercare program Essentially, even though he was never convicted of a crime and no longer had an active disability, Mr. Summers was subjected to probation.

(Id. ¶ 78.)

However, on July 20, 2011, Summers was arrested for “purportedly violating the terms of his probation [and] was taken back to ELMHS.” (Id. ¶ 80.) Summers was again ordered to be released from ELMHS on September 5, 2014; however, he was taken back after a positive drug test caused by Summers' psychiatric medications. (Id. ¶¶ 81-84.) On March 22, 2018, Summers was once again ordered to be released from ELMHS, but one week after his release his probation was revoked, and he was taken back to ELMHS. (Id. ¶¶ 86-87.) Since then, Summers has not been released nor has an out-patient treatment program been provided for him. (Id. ¶ 88.)

Summers alleges that he
will likely not receive a court recommendation for placement in a less restrictive environment until he has been observed in a supervised setting. However, the LDOH practice of housing all forensic patients at ELMHS rather than complying with their obligations for Community Based Integration will make this recommendation very difficult to obtain. ***

(Summers, Doc. 56, ¶ 61.)

1. Request for Reasonable Accommodation

Prior to filing suit, Plaintiffs' counsel sent a request for reasonable accommodation/modification to the LDOH on behalf of Plaintiffs. (Summers, Doc. 56, ¶¶ 92-94; Erie, Doc. 28, ¶¶ 90-93; Amos, Doc. 14, ¶¶ 90-93; Campbell, Doc. 15, ¶¶ 103-105, 108-109, 113-115.)

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In this letter, Plaintiffs' counsel explained the nature of Plaintiffs' disability, their limitations, and their needed accommodations. (Id.) Plaintiffs' requested accommodations included adequate funding of the LDOH, the development of an outpatient treatment program, training of the LDOH staff on accommodating patients with disabilities, and the ongoing assessment of Plaintiffs' needs as individuals with a disability. For all Plaintiffs except Smith, Plaintiffs asked for release from ELMHS “while the above comprehensive outpatient treatment program is being developed.” (Id.)[3]

In the case of Summers, Erie, and Stelly, Defendants did not respond to this request for reasonable accommodation. (Summers, Doc. 56, ¶ 95; Erie, Doc. 28, ¶ 94.) In the case of Amos, Robinson, Campbell, McInnis, and Smith, counsel for LDH responded by saying “Because [they are] currently in the least restrictive, most medically suitable environment per [their] treating psychiatrist[s], the accommodations requested are not appropriate at this time.” (Amos, Doc. 14, ¶ 93; Campbell, Doc. 15, ¶¶ 106, 110, 116.) Defendants have also made no attempt to engage in a good-faith, interactive dialogue with Plaintiffs through their counsel of record. (Summers, Doc. 56, ¶ 108; Erie, Doc. 28, ¶ 105; Amos, Doc. 14, ¶ 104; Campbell, Doc. 15, ¶ 130.)

2. Examples of Non-Compliance

According to the operative complaints:
Instead of developing a comprehensive system to provide Community Based Integration, the LDOH has chosen to warehouse
...

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