Defendant appearing here by the Attorney General of the State of New York has moved for an order dismissing plaintiff's complaint pursuant to Rule 12 (b) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, 28 U.S.C.A. on the ground that the Court lacks jurisdiction over the subject matter, lacks jurisdiction over the persons and that the complaint fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted. The plaintiff appears pro se, and, as is not unusual in such a situation, his complaint is prolix, redundant and contains much irrelevant matter. As required by the rules,
The record indicates that plaintiff was duly committed to a state mental hospital by order of a New York State Supreme Court Justice pursuant to section 873 of the New York Code of Criminal Procedure. Plaintiff escaped from that hospital, was returned, and later released to the custody of his aunt. In November 1954, due to an alleged relapse in his mental condition, he was again returned to the hospital and subsequently transferred to Middletown State Hospital. On August 10, 1955, plaintiff escaped from this hospital, and established residence in Virginia. He is still carried on escape status by the hospital authorities.
Plaintiff now seeks an order for a permanent injunction restraining the Director, Middletown State Hospital, and his agents, who are unnamed, from further confining or seeking to confine the petitioner in a mental institution and also for a judgment of $300,000. for alleged illegal confinement. These remedies should be granted, he contends, basically because he is and always has been sane.
Plaintiff urges that this Court has jurisdiction because he is now a citizen of Virginia. Although there may be some question as to whether the plaintiff has established a genuine domicile in Virginia,
The complaint is directed against an unnamed Director of the Middletown State Hospital. Plaintiff asserts in his affidavit opposing the present motion, that by "Director" he means to include "all Directors and responsible officials, their agents and employees under whose functioning plaintiff was unlawfully imprisoned * * *". Rule 10(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provides that, "In the complaint the title of the action shall include the names of all the parties * * *" (Emphasis added).) While it may be possible to dismiss the action even against the present Director for failure to state his name in the complaint, since he was served with the summons and complaint and was thereby given notice of the suit, and since he was not prejudiced by the omission, I will not base dismissal on this technical ground, but shall deal with the main issues.
We must determine whether there is a claim upon which any relief may be granted against the defendant. First, there is the question of civil liability for illegal confinement. In the first instance this is to be determined by looking to New York law. Even if we assume, as we must for purposes of this motion, that plaintiff Miller has always been sane and if we assume that the present Director was also the Director during Miller's confinement, which appears questionable from the allegations
Although plaintiff bases jurisdiction on diversity, indicating thereby that his action is based on state rather than federal law, if his allegations stated a valid claim under any applicable law the motion to dismiss must be denied. For this reason, I have inquired into the possibility that the Civil Rights Act
Since I find no ground alleged in the complaint upon which the plaintiff may recover civil damages from the defendant, his complaint must be dismissed as to that claim.
We come now to the second issue, whether plaintiff can obtain an injunction against defendant's future confinement of plaintiff in the Middletown State Hospital. This presents an issue of jurisdiction over the subject matter. Since this is the first case, to my knowledge, in which an escapee from a state mental institution has sought to enjoin that institution from resuming custody over him, it is necessary to look to analogous fields and general policies of federal jurisdiction to determine the guiding principles.
It has been clearly established that although a district court may have valid jurisdiction over a case either by reason of diversity of citizenship or a federal question, it has discretion in certain situations to determine whether it should accept that jurisdiction.
Since this Court has the power to withhold equitable relief, the question is whether it should do so in the instant case. Plaintiff alleges that he was sane at the time of his commitment and is now sane, and that there were certain abuses of procedure during his pre-commitment examinations which he believes are of constitutional proportions. These assertions are vigorously disputed by the defendant. The director contends in a letter annexed to plaintiff's complaint that plaintiff's mental state did not warrant release as of the time he escaped and that he cannot be discharged now without a further examination. Should this issue be litigated in a federal court at the request of an escapee when he has never given the state courts, which provide remedies for the alleged abuses, the opportunity to consider the matter?
These sentiments have been generally echoed by other federal courts.
The relevance of these policies to the instant situation cannot be doubted. In some respects the present case is even a stronger one for denying federal review in favor of original state action. It would certainly be incongruous to hold that an inmate who escapes from a mental hospital is in a better position with regard to access to the federal courts than one who observes the rules and remains in the hospital. Such a view would only serve to undermine state authority and procedures in the field of commitment of the insane — a field which is peculiarly suited to state regulation and peculiarly unsuited to control by the federal courts. Furthermore, there is no allegation that the state commitment procedure is unconstitutional.
Therefore, I conclude that this Court does not have jurisdiction over the subject matter of this suit at the present time. Defendant's motion to dismiss is granted. So ordered.
"But when a litigant contends that the factual allegations of his complaint demonstrate that a group of public officers, presumed to have done their duty, were guilty of such wanton, spiteful, malicious prejudice that their acts, ostensibly done in the performance of their statutory duties, were therefore not acts done `in relation to or connected with' those duties but were in fact vengeful acts committed for the purpose of personally injuring the litigant, the reviewing court must examine those factual allegations with meticulous care to determine whether such a case is stated. For, as frequently stated by the courts, it is easy for a disgruntled litigant to state his conclusion, and to even believe, that the officer responsible for the real or imagined injustice was guilty of the rankest kind of malice." Gibson v. Reynolds, 8 Cir., 1949, 172 F.2d 95, 99-100.