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Lowry v. Fearing

United States District Court, D. Maryland

June 12, 2017

WILLIAM EDWARD LOWRY, a.k.a. William Edward Lowery Plaintiff
DR. KIM JONES FEARING, et al. Defendants


          PAULA XINIS United States District Judge

         This is a civil rights case filed pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 by Plaintiff William Edward Lowry, a patient involuntarily committed to the custody of the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DHMH). Pending before the Court is Defendants' motion to dismiss and for summary judgment. ECF No. 5. Lowry has filed his own motions for summary judgment (ECF Nos. 4, 7), and oppositions to Defendants' motion (ECF Nos. 9, 14, 17). Lowry has also filed a motion for leave to file a surreply (ECF No. 21). The matters pending before the Court have been adequately briefed by the parties; no hearing is required (see Local Rule 105.6 (D. Md. 2016). For the following reasons, Lowry's motion for leave to file a surreply will be denied, Defendants' motion to dismiss or for summary judgment will be granted, Lowry's motions for summary judgment will be denied, and the complaint for monetary damages will be dismissed. Defendants will, however, be required to brief other matters further as set forth herein.

         I. Complaint Allegations

         Lowry, who is proceeding pro se, alleges that he is being held improperly via involuntary commitment at Clifton T. Perkins Hospital Center (“Perkins”), and seeks one million dollars in damages as a result. In his complaint, Lowry claims that his defense counsel had coerced him in an underlying criminal case to enter an Alford[1] plea with the understanding that he would be released in 50 days. ECF No. 1 at p. 3. Lowry further claims that, at the end of the 50 days, the defendant Assistant Attorney General Rhonda Edwards stated that if he agreed to an additional 90 day delay, he would be released. Id. Because the hearing was delayed, Lowry claims his two expert witnesses who were prepared to testify at the first scheduled hearing, were not present at the later scheduled hearing. Id.

         Further, in an attempt to undermine the validity of his continued commitment, Lowry claims that psychologist, Dr. Kim Jones Fearing, provided no support for her opinion that Lowry poses a danger to himself or others. Id. at p. 4. He claims that Dr. Annette Hanson also offered an opinion that Lowry was not competent to stand trial; and that Dr. Danielle Robinson stated that Lowry was not competent to stand trial after he received an additional 6 months of treatment. Id. Lowry states that in February and March of 2014, Dr. Elizabeth Holt, a court forensic psychologist, testified that Lowry “was sane and should be released to community.” ECF No. 1 at p. 5, see also ECF No. 17-1 (sealed, evaluation of Lowry's competence). To date, Lowry has not been released.

         II. Defendants' Response

         Defendants explain that Lowry, who has a long history of mental illness, was committed to the custody of the DHMH after he was found not criminally responsible (NCR) on a 2012 charge of first-degree arson. Lowry had been released on bond for the 2012 case when he was charged with indecent exposure in 2014. On April 30, 2014, Lowry was found not competent to stand trial and committed to Perkins on May 9, 2014. ECF No. 5 at Ex. 1 & 2. Lowry suffers from bipolar disorder with psychotic features to include a “history of paranoia, persecutory delusions, bizarre delusions, auditory hallucinations as evidence[d] by observed responses to internal stimuli, illogical and disorganized thinking, irritability, intrusiveness, aggression, threats of violence, impulsivity, lack of insight into illness and need for medication, and poor judgment.” ECF No. 5 at Ex. 3. Lowry has also been involuntarily hospitalized at Sheppard Pratt Hospital in 1985; at Harford Memorial Hospital in 2001, 2005, and 2010; and at Spring Grove Hospital from April 2011 to July 2011. Id. at Ex. 3.

         Defendants also clarify that Lowry was entitled to a “50 day release hearing” before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) pursuant to Md. Code Ann., Crim. Proc. § 3-115, but both counsel agreed to a postponement until October 23, 2014. At the October hearing, Perkins staff opposed Lowry's release based on his continued denial that he suffers from a mental illness, his lack of insight regarding the need to take prescribed medications, and because “following his NCR finding, he was discovered exposing himself to children in a play area in a manner similar to a situation in which he has been previously found.” ECF No. 5 at Ex. 5. The ALJ concluded that Lowry was not eligible for conditional release. Id. Lowry did not file exceptions to the ALJ's decision and the Circuit Court for Harford County adopted the ALJ's findings and recommendations. Id. at Ex. 6.[2]

         Lowry began refusing his medications in July of 2015. When Lowry stopped taking the prescribed medication, his condition deteriorated with “more active symptoms.” Id. at p. 3. His behavior when off medication is described as follows:

He became more irritable, intrusive, oppositional and hostile. He was paranoid of his psychiatrist and at one point he admitted to having violent thoughts about harming his treating psychiatrist. In August 2015 he penned a letter to this effect. He also approached a patient who was known to be extremely assaultive and told him that his father was deceased (not true). This unsafe behavior exposed Mr. Lowry to considerable risk for retaliatory violence.

         As a result, three clinical review panels recommended that Lowry should be forcibly medicated. See Md. Code Ann., Health-Gen. § 10-708 (governing clinical review panels), see also ECF No. 5 at Ex. 3 (March 23, 2016 clinical review panel), Ex. 7 (September 3, 2015 review panel), and Ex. 8 (December 24, 2015 clinical review panel). Lowry appealed all three of the recommendations to an ALJ who upheld the decisions of each. Id. Lowry then appealed the December 2015 decision of the ALJ to the Circuit Court for Howard County. The appellate court affirmed the administrative decision. ECF No. 5 at Ex. 9 (Order, In the Matter of William Lowery, Case No. 13-C-16-1066333; February 10, 2016). The medication Lowry is currently prescribed is Haloperidol and Thyroxin. He takes this medication voluntarily now, [3] but is still unable to assist his attorney in his defense for his open criminal cases. ECF No. 5 at Ex. 10 (Psychiatry ITP Note of Kim Jones-Fearing, M.D., August 31, 2016), see also ECF No. 13 at Ex. 1, p. 2 (Affidavit of Michael Menard, R.N.).

         III. Standard of Review

         A. Motion to Dismiss

         In reviewing a motion to dismiss pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. Proc. 12(b)(6), the Court accepts all well-pleaded allegations of the complaint as true and construes the facts and reasonable inferences derived therefrom in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. Venkatraman v. REI Sys., Inc., 417 F.3d 418, 420 (4th Cir. 2005) (citing Mylan Labs., Inc. v. Matkari, 7 F.3d 1130, 1134 (4th Cir. 1993)); Ibarra v. United States,120 F.3d 472, 473 (4th Cir. 1997). Rule 8(a)(2) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure requires only a “short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Migdal v. Rowe Price-Fleming Int'l Inc., 248 F.3d 321, 325-26 ...

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