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Heath v. Hanks

United States District Court, D. New Hampshire

December 19, 2019

Anthony K. Heath
v.
Helen E. Hanks, Commissioner, New Hampshire Department of Corrections, et al.

          ORDER

          Joseph A. DiClerico, Jr. United States District Judge

         Anthony K. Heath brought this action against Helen Hanks, Commissioner of the New Hampshire Department of Corrections; Deborah Robinson, Administrator of the Secure Psychiatric Unit (“SPU”) at the New Hampshire State Prison; Jeffrey Meyers, Commissioner of the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services; Alexander de Nesnara, M.D., Chief Medical Officer at the New Hampshire Hospital (“NHH”); and Robert MacLeod, former Chief Executive Officer at the NHH. Heath brings his suit against all the defendants in both their individual and official capacities. There are three counts in Heath's Amended Complaint: two for violations of Heath's procedural due process rights (Counts I and II) and one for a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”, Count III).

         The defendants move to dismiss the Amended Complaint. Doc. 25. Heath opposes dismissal.

         Standard of Review

         In considering a motion to dismiss, the court asks whether the plaintiff has made allegations that are sufficient to render his entitlement to relief plausible. Manning v. Boston Med. Ctr. Corp., 725 F.3d 34, 43 (1st Cir. 2013). The court accepts all well-pleaded facts as true and draws all reasonable inferences in the non-moving party's favor. Hamann v. Carpenter, 937 F.3d 86, 88 (1st Cir. 2019). The court disregards conclusory allegations that simply parrot the applicable legal standard. Manning, 725 F.3d at 43. To determine whether a complaint survives a motion to dismiss, the court should use its “judicial experience and common sense, ” but should also avoid disregarding a factual allegation merely because actual proof of the alleged facts is improbable. Id.

         Background

         On August 21, 2015, Heath was indicted for second-degree assault and for operating a motor vehicle after being certified as a habitual offender. On January 15, 2016, Heath was indicted for first-degree assault and first-degree assault with a deadly weapon. On March 3, 2016, the Coos County Superior Court found that Heath was not competent to stand trial, and it found by clear and convincing evidence that there was no reasonable likelihood that Heath could be restored to competency through appropriate treatment within twelve months. The superior court dismissed the indictments against Heath without prejudice, but it found that the state had shown that Heath was dangerous to others. The court ordered Heath to remain in custody for ninety days to be evaluated for involuntary treatment.

         After a hearing on March 29, 2016, the First Circuit Court Probate Division in Lancaster admitted Heath to the NHH on an involuntary basis for a period not to exceed five years and a conditional discharge as soon as clinically appropriate. Pursuant to the Probate Court's order, Heath was admitted to the NHH on April 4, 2016.

         On April 14, 2016, however, MacLeod, who was then Chief Executive Officer of the NHH, ordered Heath to be transferred to the SPU, which is located at the New Hampshire State Prison. Commissioner Meyers approved the transfer, and Heath was transferred to the SPU on April 22, 2016.

         Under RSA 622:45, after MacLeod's transfer order, Heath was placed in the care and custody of the Commissioner of the New Hampshire Department of Corrections (who is now Commissioner Hanks) and the medical unit director. According to Heath's allegations, the SPU is a prison-like environment, with prisonlike restrictions. By contrast, the NHH is a hospital-like environment.

         Nearly a year later, on April 7, 2017, Deborah Robinson, Administrator of the SPU, requested that the NHH evaluate Heath for a transfer back to the NHH as a less restrictive alternative to the SPU. Dr. de Nesnara, the NHH Chief Medical Officer, denied the request on September 20, 2017, and Heath was left in the SPU.

         Heath began this action in July 2018, and he filed a three-count Amended Complaint in September 2019. In Count I, Heath alleges that the defendants transferred him to the SPU - and refused his request to be transferred back to the NHH - through a procedure containing insufficient due process, in violation of the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments. Heath also alleges that the defendants failed to follow the procedures they had in place for transfers between the NHH and the SPU. Count I is brought against the defendants in their official capacities. In Count II, Heath alleges the same violations as Count I but against the defendants in their individual capacities.

         In Count III, Heath alleges that the defendants violated Title II of the ADA by utilizing criteria or methods of administration that have the effect of subjecting qualified individuals with disabilities to discrimination on the basis of disability. Heath alleges that the defendants incarcerated him at the SPU rather than keeping him at the NHH based on the nature of his disability. Heath also asserts that the defendants violated the ADA when they did not provide him with treatment in the “least restrictive environment necessary to achieve the purposes of treatment.” Doc. 17 ¶ 56.

         In his Amended Complaint, Heath seeks injunctive relief and damages for all of his claims. As to injunctive relief, Heath requests “[a]n order for his release from the Secure Psychiatric Unit, so that he may receive treatment in the least restrictive environment necessary to achieve the purposes of treatment either at the New Hampshire Hospital or, alternatively, from community-based mental health services.” ...


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