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Lowry v. Fearing

United States District Court, D. Maryland

March 27, 2018

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



         Following dismissal of Plaintiff William Lowry's claims for monetary damages (ECF Nos. 22 & 23), plaintiff filed a self-styled pleading entitled “Response Memorandum” (ECF No. 24) in which he takes issue with this Court's denial of leave to file a surreply and of his request for a jury trial. The remainder of his pleading addresses the validity of his involuntary commitment and the treatment he has received. The pleading is construed as a motion to alter or amend the Court's judgment pursuant to Rule 59(e) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.

         Also pending is Defendants' response to this Court's order for further information concerning Lowry's exhaustion of state remedies. ECF No. 25. In light of Defendants' response, and for the reasons more fully set forth below, Lowry's motion for reconsideration is denied. The remaining claim asserted in the complaint, appropriately construed as a petition for habeas corpus challenging his confinement, is dismissed without prejudice.

         1. Motion to Alter or Amend

         The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure do not provide for a postjudgment motion for reconsideration. Katyle v. Penn Nat'l Gaming, Inc., 637 F.3d 462, 470 n.4 (4th Cir. 2011). Rather, under Rule 59(e) a party may move to alter or amend the judgment or under Rule 60(b), may move for relief from judgment. “Reconsideration of a judgment after its entry is an extraordinary remedy which should be used sparingly.” Pacific Ins. Co. v. American Nat. Fire Ins. Co., 148 F.3d 396, 403 (4th Cir. 1998) (citations omitted). The Fourth Circuit has recognized three grounds for amending an earlier judgment: “(1) to accommodate an intervening change in controlling law; (2) to account for new evidence not available at trial; or (3) to correct a clear error of law or prevent manifest injustice.” Id. Parties are not permitted, however, to raise arguments that could have been raised before the Court's decision. Further to the extent a party relies on newly discovered evidence, the party “must produce a ‘legitimate justification for not presenting' the evidence during the earlier proceeding.” Id. (citations and internal quotation marks omitted). Lowry's motion is timely and properly considered under Rule 59(e).

         Previously, this Court ruled, in pertinent part, that:

Here, the evidence construed in the light most favorable to Lowry supports the propriety of his continued commitment and the lack of actionable infirmities in the related commitment proceedings and treatment that he received. Lowry's belief that his symptoms worsened because he was prescribed medication appears to be a part of the illness he suffers. Even the evidence Lowry presents in support of his complaint establishes that the key to managing Lowry's mental illness is through prescribed medication. See ECF No. 17-1 at p. 17 (Dr. Holt noting that Lowry's compliance with psychotropic medication has eliminated symptoms of schizophrenia). Accordingly, Lowry's claim for monetary damages in connection with his commitment proceedings and related treatment must fail.
To the extent that Lowry claims that he is no longer in need of required continued hospitalization, ample evidence demonstrates that the professional judgment of those charged with his care support his continued commitment. Put differently, nothing presented in this case suggests that Lowry's hospitalization and continuing course of care has fallen so far below a professional standard as to be arbitrary and unprofessional. See Patten, 274 F.3d at 843. Defendants are entitled to summary judgment on the claim for monetary damages.
To the extent that Lowry's claim is a challenge to the validity of his continued confinement going forward, it is properly reviewable as a petition for habeas corpus. Pretrial federal habeas relief is available under 28 U.S.C. § 2241 if the petitioner is in custody, has exhausted state court remedies, and special circumstances exist that justify intervention by the federal court. See Dickerson v. Louisiana, 816 F.2d 220, 224-26 (5th Cir. 1987). Exhaustion is established where both the operative facts and controlling legal principles of each claim have been fairly presented to the state courts. See Baker v. Corcoran, 220 F.3d 276, 289 (4th Cir. 2000) (citations omitted). In the pretrial context, federal courts must abstain from exercising jurisdiction over a claim that may be resolved through trial of the merits or by other state procedures available for review of the claim. See Braden v. 30th Judicial Circuit Court, 410 U.S. 484, 489-90 (1973).
The Court cannot discern from this record whether Lowry has exhausted his state remedies. Lowry, as a detainee committed to a mental health facility, maintains the right under Maryland law to file a petition for release in state circuit court located in the county where he resides, where he resided before admission to the facility, or where the facility is located. See Md. Code Ann., Health-Gen. § 10-805(a) and (b). Denial of an application for release may be appealed. See id., § 10-805(h). However, the Court is unable to conclude whether Lowry is currently represented by counsel, has access to the appropriate state court for review of his continued involuntary commitment, or has availed himself of those remedies. Accordingly, this court will require counsel for defendants to file a status report on the issue of exhaustion. Upon receipt of that information, the court will determine whether Lowry's claim regarding the legality of his confinement may be heard or is subject to dismissal without prejudice for failure to exhaust state remedies.

ECF 22 at p.9-10 (footnote omitted).

         Lowry now argues that he “presented solid evidence supporting his claim of medical malpractice;” he was put into a “hostile environment” in violation of his Fourteenth Amendment rights; he was harmed when his medication was changed; he possesses “viable evidence supporting his innocence of any existing charge;” an independent doctor has examined him and found that Lowry presents no danger or threat to himself or others and is competent to stand trial; his “motion for summary judgment was superceeded (sic) by a request for a jury trial;” and this Court erred when it did not allow him to file a surreply. ECF No. 24 at pp. 4 -5. Lowry's motion amounts to a “disagreement with the Court's decision, ” and, as such, does not provide sufficient justification to alter or amend the Court's judgment under Rule 59(e). Hutchinson v. Staton, 994 F.2d 1076, 1082 (4th Cir. 1993).

         With respect to Lowry's assertion that this Court erred procedurally when it denied his request for a jury trial and his request to file a surreply, the allegation is without merit. A jury trial is unwarranted where, as here, no genuine dispute of material fact exists for a jury to resolve. See Bouchat v. Baltimore Ravens Football Club, Inc., 346 F.3d 514, 526 (4th Cir. 2003) (factually unsupported claims may not proceed to trial). As to Plaintiff's surreply, no party is entitled to file a surreply unless otherwise ordered by the Court. See Local Rule 105.2(a) (D. Md. 2016). A surreply is most often permitted when the moving party must respond to matters raised for the first time in a reply. See Lewis v. Rumsfeld, 154 F.Supp.2d 56, 61 (D. D.C. 2001). Defendants in this case did not present any new matters in their reply (ECF No. 13), and Lowry does not allege the contrary.[1] What is more, the Court had considered Lowry's supplemental pleadings submitted in connection with his response. (ECF Nos. 14, 17). The motion to file a surreply was properly denied under these circumstances.

         2. Defendants' Status ...

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