United States District Court, D. Connecticut
RULING ON MOTIONS TO AMEND COMPLAINT AND MOTION TO
PROCEED IN FORMA PAUPERIS; ORDER DISMISSING CASE
A. BOLDEN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
Sharkany seeks to amend his Complaint as well as leave to
proceed in forma pauperis in this action under 28
U.S.C. § 1915. For the reasons set forth below, Mr.
Sharkany's motions to amend his Complaint and add
exhibits are GRANTED; his motion for leave to proceed in
forma pauperis is DENIED, and his Complaint is DISMISSED
Sharkany's two motions to amend the Complaint, ECF Nos. 5
and 6, he seeks to add several exhibits to the Complaint as
well as correct one typographical error. Courts are
instructed to “freely give leave when justice so
requires.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(a)(2). Accordingly, both
motions are granted. Mr. Sharkany's additional exhibits
and edits are incorporated into his Complaint, and all
documents submitted to the Court have been considered in
connection with this ruling.
Sharkany also moved for leave to proceed in forma
pauperis. It is well-settled that the decision to
proceed in forma pauperis in civil cases is
committed to the sound discretion of the district court.
Bounds v. Smith, 430 U.S. 817, 826 (1977);
Patterson v. Rodgers, 708 F.Supp.2d 225, 230 (D.
Conn. 2010). Applications to proceed in forma
pauperis require a two-step process of review by the
district court. Bey v. Syracuse Univ., 155 F.R.D.
413, 413 (N.D.N.Y. 1994). First, the Court must determine
whether the litigant qualifies to proceed in forma
pauperis based on economic status. 28 U.S.C. §
1915(a)(1). According to the Court's review of the
financial affidavits that Mr. Sharkany submitted, Mr.
Sharkany has satisfied this requirement.
second step of the review process requires the Court to
determine whether the cause of action is frivolous,
malicious, or without merit. 28 U.S.C. §1915(e)(2)(B).
This Court “shall dismiss the case at any time
if the court determines that…the action (i) is
frivolous or malicious; (ii) fails to state a claim on which
relief may be granted; or (iii) seeks monetary relief against
a defendant who is immune from such relief.”
Id. (emphasis added). The Court concludes that Mr.
Sharkany's claims cannot succeed on the merits.
Therefore, this case is appropriately dismissed for failure
to state a claim.
Sharkany's Complaint brings claims against two United
States Probation Officers, Brian Toper and Patrick Norton.
Compl., ECF No. 1. Specifically, he alleges that Mr. Toper
and Mr. Norton illegally arranged for his confinement at
Whiting Forensic Institute (“Whiting”),
mental health institution, following the completion of his
federal criminal sentence on March 26, 2016. Compl. at 3, ECF
No. 1. He alleges that, at the commencement of his term of
supervised release, Mr. Toper and Mr. Norton communicated
confidential health information to Whiting and improperly
arranged a psychological examination without a prior court
order, resulting in his eventual commitment by order of a
Probate Judge. Id. In a two-count Complaint, he
seeks to bring claims of unlawful confinement and cruel and
unusual punishment against Mr. Toper and Mr. Norton.
Id. at 3-4.
commitment for any purpose requires due process
protection.” Project Release v. Prevost, 722
F.2d 960, 971 (2d Cir. 1983). In Connecticut, Conn. Gen.
Stat. § 17a-520 governs the process by which a former
inmate may be transferred to a state hospital for persons
with psychiatric disabilities “at the time of the
expiration of the term of imprisonment for which he was
committed….” Conn. Gen. Stat. § 17a-520.
Under this statute, upon transfer to the state hospital,
“the superintendent of such hospital shall cause
proceedings for the commitment of such person to be
instituted in the court of probate having jurisdiction in the
town where such hospital is located, unless such person is
already under an order of commitment of a court of
probate.” Id. At that time, two probate
court-appointed physicians must “fully investigate the
facts of the case, ” after which time the probate court
“may order such person detained in such hospital until
he has recovered his sanity.” Id.
record demonstrates that this procedure was properly followed
in Mr. Sharkany's case. The Court takes judicial notice
of the Memorandum from the United States Probation Office to
Judge Bryant, who presided over Mr. Sharkany's underlying
criminal proceeding. See United States v. Sharkany,
Case No. 3:13-CR-00094 (VLB), Probation Mem., ECF No. 43
(Sealed). The Memorandum outlines the Probation Office's
initial request that Mr. Sharkany's mental health
information be provided to the State of Connecticut
Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services, Division
of Forensic Services, for purposes of a psychological
evaluation. This proposal was approved by Judge Bryant on
February 8, 2016, over three months before Mr. Sharkany's
scheduled release date on May 26, 2016. Id. The
record demonstrates that Mr. Sharkany was transported to
Connecticut Valley Hospital for an evaluation following his
release, and that Probate Judge Marino ordered him to be
civilly committed following a probate hearing on June 17,
2016, within one month of Mr. Sharkany's arrival. See
United States v. Sharkany, Case No. 3:13-CR-00094 (VLB),
Gov't Reply Br., ECF No. 50; Compl. at 4, ECF No. 1.
discussed above, the statutes governing civil commitment
following the completion of a criminal sentence allow for an
individual to be transferred to the institution in question
and held there involuntarily before a probate proceeding has
taken place, provided that the individual is properly
examined upon arrival and a probate proceeding is promptly
scheduled. Conn. Gen. Stat. § 17a-520. Mr. Sharkany does
not allege that the evaluation or probate proceeding never
took place; rather, he complains that Judge Marino's
order of commitment is “moot null and void”
because Mr. Sharkany had been initially “herded into
the building [without] any court order” following the
completion of his criminal sentence. Compl. at 4, ECF No. 1.
Sharkany's pre-hearing confinement in a psychiatric
hospital does not categorically violate his constitutional
rights. See Addington v. Texas, 441 U.S. 418, 431
(1979) (“As the substantive standards for civil
commitment may vary from state to state, procedures must be
allowed to vary so long as they meet the constitutional
minimum.”); Project Release, 722 F.2d at 975
(“That some states have chosen to limit pre-hearing
confinement to a shorter period does not mean that such a
model ‘is needed or is even adaptable to the needs of
all states.'”) (quoting Addington, 441
U.S. at 431). Mr. Sharkany's initial transfer to Whiting
and his time at Whiting in advance of his court-ordered
commitment did not violate Mr. Sharkany's rights under
Connecticut law. In addition, the facts alleged in the
Complaint, taken as true, do not raise a valid claim that the
Connecticut civil commitment statute, as applied here, is
Defendants' actions were found to be improper, Mr.
Sharkany's claims cannot succeed because the Defendants
named in the Complaint are immune from suit. Mr. Sharkany
brings this lawsuit against two United States Probation
Officers based on their actions as probation officers. The
Second Circuit has granted absolute immunity to probation
officers who are acting as an “arm of the court,
” protecting them from any liability for actions taken
in that capacity. Peay v. Ajello, 470 F.3d 65, 70
(2d Cir. 2006) (“In light of the role Connecticut law
assigns to presentence reports in aid of a judicial function
and the safeguards in place to protect a defendant's
right to be sentenced based on accurate information, we hold
that absolute immunity from claims for damages applies to
Connecticut probation officers in the preparation and
submission of presentence reports.”); Dorman v.
Higgins, 821 F.2d 133, 137 (2d Cir. 1987) (granting
absolute immunity to federal probation officers for the
improper completion of pre-sentence reports because they are
acting “as an arm of the court and that that task is an
integral part of one of the most critical phases of the
judicial process”); cf. Scotto v. Almenas, 143
F.3d 105, 112 (2d Cir. 1998) (protections of absolute
immunity do not extend to actions that are “not
performed under judicial direction”).
record demonstrates that Defendants arranged Mr.
Sharkany's psychological evaluation at Connecticut Valley
Hospital in accordance with Mr. Sharkany's judge-ordered
criminal sentence, which required participation in mental
health treatment as a condition of supervised release.
See United States v. Sharkany, Case No.
3:13-CR-00094 (VLB), Judgment, ECF No. 37. Judge Bryant
formally ordered Mr. Sharkany's evaluation on February 8,
2016, see United States v. Sharkany, Probation Mem.,
ECF No. 43 (sealed), and all subsequent conduct on the part
of Defendants, including transporting Mr. Sharkany to
Whiting, followed directly from that court-ordered
psychological examination. As a result, all of Mr.
Sharkany's complained of actions were actions taken by
Defendants “as an arm of the court” in their
handling of Mr. Sharkany's healthcare following his term
of incarceration. Accordingly, Defendants are protected by
absolute immunity, and Mr. Sharkany's claims against them
Sharkany has failed to state an actionable claim, dismissal
is warranted. See Ahmed-Al-Khalifa v. Trayers,
No. 3:13-CV-00869 (CSH), 2013 WL 3326212, at *1 (D. Conn.
July 1, 2013) (“[A] court shall dismiss a case in which
there has been a motion for proceeding in forma
pauperis… ‘if the court determines that ...
the action ... fails to state a claim on which relief may be
granted.'”) (quoting 28 U.S.C. §
1915(e)(2)(B)(ii)). Mr. Sharkany's pending motion to
stay, ECF No. 7, and his recent motion for an order directing
service, ECF No. 8, are denied as moot.
factual allegations that Defendants did something other than
what was approved under a court order, leave to amend Mr.
Sharkany's Complaint would likely be futile. See
Lucente v. Int'l Bus. Machines Corp., 310 F.3d 243,
258 (2d Cir. 2002) (“Where it appears that granting
leave to amend is unlikely to be productive… it is not
an abuse of discretion to deny leave to amend.”)
(citing Ruffolo v. Oppenheimer & Co., 987 F.2d
129, 131 (2d Cir.1993)). Nevertheless, the Court will dismiss
this case without prejudice in the event that Mr. Sharkany