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Curtiss v. Palmer

United States District Court, N.D. Iowa, Western Division

February 19, 2015

STEPHEN CURTISS, Plaintiff,
v.
CHARLES PALMER, BOB STOUT, AND JASON SMITH, Defendants.

COMBINED RULING ON PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR PRELIMINARY INJUNCTION AND DEFENDANTS' MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

DONALD E. O'BRIEN, Senior District Judge.

Presently before the Court are Plaintiff's Motion for Preliminary Injunction, Docket No. 29, and Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment, Docket No. 31. This matter has long been before the Court. The parties appeared for several hearings on this matter, most recently on May 9, 2013. After the hearing, the Court directed the parties to file periodic status reports. After considering the parties' arguments, the briefs, the status reports, and the progress of Mr. Curtiss' case in the Iowa state courts, the Court now enters the following.

I. INTRODUCTION AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

Plaintiff, Stephen Curtiss [hereinafter Mr. Curtiss], is an involuntarily committed patient at the Civil Commitment Unit for Sex Offenders [hereinafter CCUSO] located in Cherokee, Iowa.[1] On April 6, 2012, Mr. Curtiss filed a Pro Se Complaint requesting leave to proceed in forma pauperis and to have counsel appointed. On June 14, 2012, the Court filed an Initial Review Order allowing Mr. Curtiss to proceed in forma pauperis and appointing Pamela Wingert as Plaintiff's counsel. On August 12, 2012, the Defendants filed a Motion to Dismiss. Docket No. 18. The Court stayed ruling on the Defendants' Motion to Dismiss Mr. Curtiss' claim for injunctive relief, and denied the Defendants' other arguments. Docket No. 24. The Defendants filed an Answer on November 13, 2012. Docket No. 25. Shortly there after, the Plaintiff filed a new Motion for Preliminary Injunction. Docket No. 29. The Defendants filed a Motion for Summary Judgment on February 1, 2013. Docket No. 31. On March 18, 2013, the Court entered an Order denying the remaining issue from the Defendants' Motion to Dismiss. Docket No. 42. The Court held hearings on March 21, 2013, April 4, 2013, and May 9, 2013, on this matter. During the course of those proceedings, the Court noted that it would withhold ruling for an indefinite period in light of the State Court proceedings and directed the parties to file periodic status reports.

II. FACTUAL BACKGROUND

Mr. Curtiss' background has been set out by the Iowa Court of Appeals:

[i]n 1985 Stephen Curtiss was imprisoned for a conviction of sexual abuse in the third degree for molesting the four-year-old son of a woman he was dating. He was released in 1989. Three to four months after his release, Curtiss was imprisoned again for a conviction of sexual abuse in the third degree and indecent contact for molesting the five or six-year-old son of his new girlfriend. He was released in 1995. In 1997 Curtiss was again convicted of sexual abuse in the third degree, as well as two counts of lascivious acts with a child, when he molested an eleven-year-old neighbor boy. He was imprisoned for those convictions and released in 2007. Curtiss was forty-five years old at the time of the most recent incident. In 2007, while he was still incarcerated, the State petitioned to have Curtiss adjudicated a sexually violent predator subject to civil commitment. See Iowa CodeĀ§ 229A (2007). Following a bench trial, the district court determined Curtiss was a sexually violent predator under section 229A.2(11) and committed him to the custody of the Iowa Department of Human Services (DHS).

In re Det. of Curtiss, 773 N.W.2d 562 at 1 (Table) (Iowa Ct. App. 2009).

Since being committed to CCUSO, Mr. Curtiss has filed several federal lawsuits. In 09-CV-4015-DEO, Mr. Curtiss alleged constitutionally deficient medical treatment because a CCUSO staff nurse treated his medical issue rather than CCUSO staff doctor. The Court dismissed Mr. Curtiss' case at the initial review stage. 09-CV-4015-DEO, Docket No. 6. In 12-CV-4088-DEO, Mr. Curtiss filed a 42 U.S.C. Section 1983 lawsuit requesting that the Court initiate criminal charges against CCUSO employees. The Court dismissed Mr. Curtiss' case at the initial review stage. 12-CV-4088-DEO, Docket No. 2. In 14-CV-4021-DEO, Mr. Curtiss requested restraining orders against other CCUSO patients. The Court dismissed that case at the initial review stage. 14-CV-4021-DEO, Docket No. 2. Besides the above captioned matter, Mr. Curtiss has one remaining case currently progressing before this Court. In 12-CV-4047-DEO, Mr. Curtiss claims CCUSO Defendants are being deliberately indifferent by refusing to provide Mr. Curtiss dentures. The Court allowed the case to proceed, and the Defendants ultimately filed a Motion for Summary Judgment, which this Court denied. The Defendants appealed the case to the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals, who reversed this Court and dismissed most of Mr. Curtiss' claims. However, the 8th Circuit allowed one claim, Mr. Curtiss' request for injunctive relief, to continue, and that case is currently set for trial later this year. See 12-CV-4047-DEO, Docket No. 50, for an overview of the case.

The above captioned cases arises pursuant to Mr. Curtiss' actual confinement to CCUSO. Pursuant to I.C.A. Section 229A, those confined as predators at CCUSO are given an annual review hearing where the State carries the burden of proving that they should remain confined. In September 2010, Mr. Curtiss' confinement was reviewed by the Iowa District Court. On January 17, 2011, Judge William Pattinson of Iowa's 2nd Judicial District entered an Order stating that, "Because the State of Iowa did not meet its burden of proof as per Iowa Code Section 229A.8(6)(d)(1), Mr. Curtiss must be discharged from his Chapter 229A civil commitment." The Court went on to say that it was personally conflicted about allowing Mr. Curtiss to be release at all but that "my personal angst over this decision was assuaged, somewhat, by the options given to me by Iowa Code Section 229A.9A. Specifically, Section 229A.9A authorizes me to release Mr. Curtiss solely under a supervised basis if I find that it would be in the communities['] best interest to do so. And I do so find." Docket No. 30, Att. No. 2, p. 14. The Iowa Court went on to say that within thirty days, the Department of Human Services should prepare a release plan that addresses the issues related to Mr. Curtiss' transfer to Home for New Life, a residential facility in Omaha, Nebraska. The Court concluded by saying that a hearing on the release plan should be held on March 7, 2011.

The State did not immediately comply with that Order, but filed with the Court a Motion to Enlarge and Amend Judgment Entry arguing that the District Court's Order was in error. (This was the State's appropriate method of redress under Iowa Rule of Civil Procedure 1.904(2).) Specifically, the State argued that under the Iowa Code, sexually violent predators could only be put into transitional release in certain Iowa facilities. While that matter was pending, Mr. Curtiss filed the present action in Federal Court arguing that the State was ignoring the Iowa District Court Order saying he should be put into in transitional release in Nebraska.

On February 17, 2012, Judge Dale Ruigh of Iowa's 2nd Judicial District ruled on the State's Motion to Enlarge and Amend Judgment. The State Court stated that "the Court has some doubt as to whether the [Nebraska facility] would qualify as an agency with jurisdiction'" under I.C.A. 229A.2(1). The Court went on to say that I.C.A. 229A.9A "provides authority for the Court's designation of an agency with jurisdiction' to supervise a person's release and to initiate legal proceedings regarding alleged violations of a release plan." The State Court concluded that the earlier Order was inappropriate and that "Judge Pattinson's order should be amended or modified to provide a disposition consistent with the provisions of Section 229A.9A. The designation of [the Nebraska facility] should be stricken..." Docket No. 30, Att. No. 2, p. 29-30. In substitute, the Iowa District Court stated that:

[Mr. Curtiss] shall be released with supervision pursuant to Iowa Code Section 229A.A(1), following approval of a release plan... Within 30 days of the date of filing of this order, the Iowa Department of Human Services shall prepare and file with the Court a release plan addressing the matters described in Iowa Code section 229A.9A(2).

Docket No. 30, Att. No. 2, p. 29-30.

On April 11, 2012, the State filed a release plan pursuant to the Iowa District Court's Order. The release plan is detailed, but broadly speaking, it states that Mr. Curtiss should move into the transitional release portion of CCUSO and follow the guideline established by CCUSO. See Docket No. 30, Att. No. 2, P. 40-42. Mr. Curtiss had an opportunity to object to the release plan and was represented by the Iowa Public Defender's office. Docket No. 30, Att. No. 2, p. 44-45.

On September 5, 2013, the Iowa District Court entered an Order stating that "the state essentially asks the Court to approve the [release] plan, while [Mr. Curtiss] opposes the plan... the Court concludes that the release plan should be approved and implemented." Docket No. 30, Att. No. 2, p. 52. Specifically, the Iowa District Court Judge stated "[t]he Department of Human Services through its Civil Commitment Unit for Sex ...


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