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Heinemann v. Patchey

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

March 24, 2017

F. PARKER HEINEMANN and SUSAN VOIGT, Plaintiffs,
v.
ROSEANNE PATCHEY, Defendant.

          RULING ON PRELIMINARY INJUNCTION

          Michael P. Shea, U.S.D.J.

         This case arises out of a dispute over the management of the affairs of Plaintiff F. Parker Heinemann, a man in his eighties in Old Saybrook, Connecticut. On April 13, 2016, at the request of his wife and children, a court in Florida declared Mr. Heinemann to be incompetent and appointed an emergency temporary guardian for him, defendant Roseanne Patchey. (ECF Nos. 10-2 at 2, 17-1 at 1, 17-2 at 5-6.) One day later, on April 14, 2016, a court in Connecticut declared Mr. Heinemann to be competent, and appointed his companion, Plaintiff Susan Voigt, to be voluntary conservator of his person and estate. (ECF No. 10-2 at 5-6.) On May 19, 2016, Mr. Heinemann and Ms. Voigt initiated this federal action, bringing Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment claims against Ms. Patchey under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (“Section 1983”). (ECF No. 1.)

         Plaintiffs seek a preliminary injunction to prevent Ms. Patchey from bringing Mr. Heinemann to Florida and interfering with his financial accounts. (ECF No. 10.)[1] As set forth below, the preliminary injunction is DENIED, because it appears that Ms. Patchey was not acting under color of state law as required to sustain a Section 1983 claim. Plaintiffs have therefore not shown a likelihood of success on the merits or sufficiently serious questions going to the merits of the claim.

         I. Background

         A. Initial State Court Proceedings

         On February 10, 2016, Mr. Heinemann's son filed an application for involuntary guardianship in the Circuit Court of Florida. In Re: Frank Parker Heinemann, Nos. 16-GA-41 and 16-GA-42 (Fla. Cir. Ct.); see also ECF Nos. 10-2 at 2, 17-1 at 1. The court held at least one hearing on the application, at which Mr. Heinemann's wife and children were present or represented. Id.

         In March 2016, aware of the pending Florida action, Mr. Heinemann's attorney, Howard Gould, filed a voluntary application in Connecticut Probate Court to have Ms. Voigt appointed as Mr. Heinemann's conservator of person and estate. (ECF No. 10-2 at 1-2.) On March 23, 2016, the Probate Court held a hearing on the application, which was opposed by Mr. Heinemann's wife and children. (Id. at 5.)

         On April 13, 2016, the Florida Circuit Court determined that Mr. Heinemann was incompetent and appointed Ms. Patchey to be his emergency temporary guardian under Fla. Stat. § 744.3031. (ECF No. 17-2 at 5-6.) The letter of emergency temporary guardianship stated that Ms. Patchey had power “to contract; to sue or defend lawsuits; to control and manage property and income from any source; to apply for government benefits; to determine residence; to consent to medical and mental health treatment….” (Id. at 5.) The letter added that “[t]he emergency temporary guardian is further authorized and directed to travel to Connecticut to assist FRANK PARKER HEINEMANN in his return to Florida. Pursuant to Fla. Stat. § 731.3031(5), all interested persons are restrained from interfering with the emergency temporary guardian in her efforts to return FRANK PARKER HEINEMANN to Florida.” (Id.) The authority of the emergency temporary guardian appointment was set to expire in ninety days. (Id. at 6.)

         On April 14, 2016, the Connecticut Probate Court appointed Ms. Voigt the conservator of the person and the estate of Mr. Heinemann under Conn. Gen. Stat. § 45a-646, with certain special conditions. (ECF No. 10-2 at 5-6.) The court noted that the “case has a unique twist in that there is a pending Petition for Guardianship concerning Mr. Heinemann in the State of Florida, ” but found that it did have jurisdiction. (Id. at 5.) The court also found that Mr. Heinemann had “the requisite understanding necessary to request a Conservator on a voluntary basis, ” and that “the possibility of undue influence is muted” by the fact of Mr. Heinemann's and Ms. Voigt's “unique relationship, in that Mr. Heinemann remains married, but has been with Ms. Voigt in some capacity, (friend, caretaker, companion) for approximately thirty years.” (Id. at 6.)

         On May 4, 2016, Mr. Heinemann filed an initial appeal of the Florida Circuit Court's appointment of Ms. Patchey as temporary emergency guardian. The state court docket reflects a “NOTICE OF APPEAL TO 2ND DCA ON NON-FINAL ORDER RENDERED 4/13/2016.” In Re: Frank Parker Heinemann, Nos. 16-GA-41 and 16-GA-42 (Fla. Cir. Ct.).

         On May 11, 2016, Mr. Heinemann's wife filed an appeal of the Connecticut Probate Court's appointment of Ms. Voigt as conservator. Denise Heinemann v. F. Parker Heinemann, No. MMX-CV-16-6015584-S (Conn. Super. Ct.); see also ECF No. 28-1 at 4-8.

         B. This Federal Action

         On May 19, 2016, Mr. Heinemann and Ms. Voigt filed this lawsuit, bringing Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment claims under Section 1983 against Ms. Patchey. (ECF No. 1.) In the complaint, the plaintiffs alleged that Ms. Patchey, “acting under color of law, has contacted local law enforcement officials and requested assistance in forcibly abducting and transporting the plaintiff, Heinemann, to Florida against his will and contrary to the decree of the Connecticut Probate Court.” (Id. ¶ 7.) They also alleged that Ms. Patchey had directed third party financial institutions to freeze Mr. Heinemann's accounts. (Id. ¶¶ 8-9.)

         On August 24, 2016, plaintiffs filed a motion for preliminary injunction, asking me to enjoin Ms. Patchey from moving Mr. Heinemann to Florida, order her to return any seized funds, and order her to rescind any directives to third party financial institutions regarding such funds. (ECF No. ...


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