United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania
May 21, 2004.
MICHAEL ANTHONY MARCAVAGE Plaintiff,
BOARD OF TRUSTEES OF TEMPLE UNIVERSITY OF THE COMMONWEALTH SYSTEM OF HIGHER EDUCATION; WILLIAM BERGMAN, individually, and in his official capacity as Vice President of Operations for Temple University; and CARL BITTENBENDER, individually, and in his official capacity as Managing Director of Campus Safety Services for Temple University, Defendants
The opinion of the court was delivered by: PETRESE B. TUCKER, District Judge
MEMORANDUM & ORDER
Presently before the Court is a motion for summary judgment (Docs.
82-83) filed by Defendants Board of Trustees of Temple University of the
Commonwealth System of Higher Education ("Board" or "University")?
William Bergman, and Carl Bittenbender. Plaintiff Michael Anthony
Marcavage has filed a response in opposition (Docs. 90-91). Upon
consideration of the parties respective filings, the motion is granted in
part and denied in part.
The instant action was filed in October, 2000, by Plaintiff Michael
Anthony Marcavage, a former Temple University student who has since
graduated. The complaint alleges that Defendants violated his First,
Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment rights and engaged in other tortious conduct when they obtained his involuntary commitment at
Temple Hospital for emergency psychiatric evaluation, allegedly in
retaliation for his religious beliefs and efforts to stage a
demonstration in support of his beliefs on campus. Twelve of the original
13 counts remain and Defendants seek dismissal of them all.*fn1 The
following facts are viewed in the light most favorable to Plaintiff.
Anderson v. Liberty Lobby Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 255 (1986).
In the fall of 1999, Temple University's School of Communication and
Theater planned and presented a play entitled "Corpus Christi," which
portrayed Jesus Christ and his disciples as homosexuals engaged in sexual
acts with one another. Plaintiff, a Christian, opposed the play and
requested that the University bar its production on campus, a request
which was denied. Plaintiff then sought to organized an alternative event
("Protest Event"), "to depict Jesus as He really was," with the Campus
Crusade for Christ, a campus organization. Pl. Resp. at 4. Plaintiff
approached Defendant William Bergman, the University's Vice President of
Operations, about organizing the event in October of 1999. Defendant Carl
Bittenbender, the Managing Director of Campus Safety Services, attended
most if not all the meetings Plaintiff had with Bergman regarding the
Protest Event. Plaintiff requested to hold the Protest Event at the Bell
Tower area of Temple's main campus on November 8 and 9, 1999, the same
days Corpus Christi was scheduled to be performed. In October, Plaintiff
was told two or three times by Bergman that the University would provide
a stage for his counter-event. Marcavage Dep. at 130-31. Kathy Logan, a
minister who was assisting Plaintiff in organizing the alternative event
and a member of Campus Crusade for Christ, was told by Plaintiff that
Bergman had assured him a stage would be provided. Logan Dep. at 20. Throughout October, Plaintiff and Logan met several times to plan the
counter-event, which was to include speakers, a Christian band, and
performance of a play entitled "Final Destiny." During this time,
Plaintiff also posted and distributed flyers around campus urging others
to protest the Corpus Christi production. Plaintiff wrote letters
expressing his objections to the University's president and other
officials, and attended a meeting of the Board of Trustees in an effort
to bring the issue to the Board's attention as well.
On November 1, 1999, Plaintiff met with Bergman and Bittenbender for a
third time. Plaintiff fully advised them of the itinerary he and Logan
planned for the counter-event. Bergman expressed concern about the
placement of chairs at the proposed demonstration site due to pedestrian
traffic. Plaintiff informed Bergman that they could do without the
chairs. Marcavage Dep. at 143; Logan Dep. at 27-28. During the meeting,
Bergman brought in his secretary, Liset Cruz, to inquire about the size
of the stage she had obtained for another student event. Marcavage Dep.
at 148. After consulting with Cruz, Bergman assured Plaintiff that a
stage would be made available on the requested dates.*fn2 Id.
On November 2, 1999, Plaintiff attended another meeting with Bergman
and Bittenbender regarding the arrangements for the Protest Event.
Bergman testified that prior to this last meeting the Vice President of
Student Affairs, Valaida S. Walker, was contacted. Walker does not
recall who contacted her regarding Plaintiff's request, but explained
"[i]t's kind of hazy, but I thought that the request did not fit our
guidelines . . . [T]he request was not coming from an organization and
that it was not timely and there would have been finances involved and there was no mechanism for financing the program." Walker Dep. at
16-17. After consulting with Walker, Bergman informed Plaintiff at the
November 2 meeting that University would not provide him with a stage or
any other assistance. Initially, Bergman would not tell Plaintiff why his
request was denied and remained silent when asked. Marcavage Dep. at 186.
Plaintiff persisted and was told that a stage would cost too much.
Id. Plaintiff had come to the meeting with his checkbook and
offered to pay all expenses. At the time, Plaintiff had $1,000 to $2,000
in his checking account and approximately $20,000 in mutual funds.
Id. at 186-87. Bergman and Bittenbender did not respond to
Plaintiff's offer to pay and would not put a figure on the cost, except
to allow it would be "quite expensive." Id. at 188-89.
After denying Plaintiff's request for assistance, Bergman and
Bittenbender became silent and would not respond to Plaintiff's
questions. Id. at 189. Plaintiff testified, "[t]hat was the
problem. They just remained silent. And I'm sitting there wondering what
was happening here." Id. Plaintiff's "eyes welled up" and he
excused himself to go to the restroom to wash his face, collect his
thoughts, and to "[p]ray about what I could do next."*fn3
Id. at 189-90. Soon after Plaintiff entered the restroom, a
single-person facility in the hall near Bergman's office, Bergman pounded
on the door and told Plaintiff, "[C]ome out of there. We need to talk to
you." Id. at 190. Plaintiff states that he was only in the
restroom one to two minutes, just long enough to wash his face and begin
to pray, before Bergman knocked. Id. at 191. Plaintiff further
At first, I didn't hear the banging on the
door . . . I recall I thought it was maybe next
door or something, someone was banging something.
Then I could tell it was me they actually wanted to
come out of the bathroom. It was a one-person
bathroom. So, I had to open the door. It was kind
of confusing. I had told them I excused myself to go to the restroom, and that
was all that happened.
Id. at 192. Plaintiff exited the restroom within 30
seconds of Bergman's knocking. Id. Plaintiff then "proceeded to
tell Bergman that there is nothing else we need to talk about" and
attempted to leave. Id. at 194. Bergman insisted that Plaintiff
return to his office; when Plaintiff refused, Bergman physically forced
Plaintiff back into his office and pushed Plaintiff into a chair. When
Plaintiff again attempted to leave, he was tripped by Bergman and forced
back onto a couch and held down by Defendants. A Temple police officer
was summoned and ordered to handcuff Plaintiff, and instructed to
transport Plaintiff to Temple Hospital for a psychiatric evaluation.
Plaintiff was led out of the University's administrative building,
Conwell Hall, in handcuffs and escorted by two campus officers.
Throughout this period, Plaintiff protested Defendants' actions and asked
to contact his attorney. See, e.g., Walton Dep. at 52.
At the hospital, Bittenbender completed an application to have a
warrant issued to have Plaintiff admitted for an emergency psychiatric
evaluation pursuant to Section 302 of the Pennsylvania Mental Health
Procedures Act ("MHPA" or the "Act"), 50 Pa.C.S.A. §§ 7101 et
seq. Bittenbender signed the application ("302 Application")
attesting that Plaintiff had attempted suicide and was a "clear and
present danger" to himself and others. Based on Bittenbender's
statements, a warrant was issued and Plaintiff was held for over three
hours. During this time, Plaintiff was examined by two physicians who
found him to be "calm" and "very cooperative," and ordered his discharge.
Following his release Plaintiff attempted to file assault charges
against Bergman and Bittenbender with campus police, but his complaint
was refused. Plaintiff then filed a complaint with the Philadelphia
Police Department and subsequently initiated this lawsuit. Plaintiff
alleges that the actions taken against him were in retaliation for his
exercise of his First Amendment rights, and as a result of Defendants'
conduct he was unable to stage the Protest Event, was defamed, and
suffered harm to his reputation and emotional distress.
II. LEGAL STANDARD
Summary judgment may be granted "if the pleadings, depositions, answers
to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with affidavits, if
any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that
the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law."
Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)). An issue is "genuine" when the evidence is such that a
reasonable jury could return judgment in the non-moving party's favor,
and a disputed fact is "material" if its resolution could affect the
outcome of the case under governing law. Anderson, 477 U.S. at
248. Where the non-moving party bears the burden at trial, the moving
party may prevail on the motion by demonstrating that the "nonmoving
party has failed to make a sufficient [evidentiary] showing on an
essential element of her case with respect to which she has the burden of
proof." Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). "To
raise a genuine issue of material fact, however, the opponent need not
match, item for item, each piece of evidence proffered by the movant."
Big Apple BMW. Inc. v. BMW of North America. Inc.,
974 F.2d 1358, 1363 (3d Cir. 1992). However, to survive summary judgment, the
non-moving party's evidentiary production must at least exceed the "mere
scintilla threshold" to show a disputed material fact. Id.
(internal quotations omitted). In considering a motion for summary
judgment, all evidence is viewed in the light most favorable to the party
opposing the motion. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 255. III. DISCUSSION
A. Pennsylvania Mental Health Procedures Act ("MHPA")
This lawsuit stems from Plaintiffs involuntary commitment by Defendants
for an emergency psychiatric evaluation pursuant to Section 302 of the
Pennsylvania Mental Health Procedures Act ("MHPA" or the "Act"),
50 Pa.C.S.A. §§ 7101 et seq. The purpose of the Act
is "to assure the availability of adequate treatment to persons who are
mentally ill, and . . . to establish procedures whereby this policy
can be effected." MHPA § 102. The Act permits the involuntary
commitment of persons who constitute a "clear and present danger" to
themselves or others, within the meaning of the statute. Section 301 sets
forth the statutory factors that must be present to subject an individual
to the MHPA for purposes of emergency psychiatric evaluation, providing:
Whenever a person is severely mentally disabled
and in need of immediate treatment, he may be made
subject to involuntary emergency examination and
treatment. A person is severely mentally disabled
when, as a result of mental illness, his capacity
to exercise self-control, judgment and discretion
in the conduct of his affairs and social relations
or to care for his own personal needs is so
lessened that he poses a clear present danger of
harm to others or to himself.
MHPA § 301(a). A person constitutes a "clear and present
danger" under the statute if, in relevant part: (1) "within the past 30
days the person has inflicted or attempted to inflict serious bodily harm
on another that there is a reasonable probability that such conduct will
and/or (2) "within the past 30 days . . . the
person has attempted suicide and that there is the reasonable probability of suicide unless adequate treatment is
afforded under this act." MHPA § 301(b).
Section 302, the provision relevant here, allows involuntary commitment
of a person for emergency psychiatric examination for up to 120 hours,
where "reasonable grounds [exist] to believe that [the person] is
severely mentally disabled and in need of immediate treatment." MHPA
§ 302. Involuntary treatment pursuant to this section may be obtained
with or without a warrant. In the former circumstance, "[u]pon written
application by a physician or other responsible party setting forth facts
constituting reasonable grounds to believe a person is severely mentally
disabled and in need of immediate treatment, the county administrator may
issue a warrant requiring a person authorized by him, or any peace
officer, to take such person to the facility specified in the warrant."
MHPA § 302(a). A person held under this provision must "be examined
by a physician within two hours of arrival in order to determine if the
person is severely mentally disabled within the meaning of section 301
and in need of immediate treatment," and released if such a finding is
not made. MHPA § 302(b). Involuntary civil commitment constitutes a
serious liberty deprivation, and a person may bring a federal civil
rights action where the deprivation is achieved by unconstitutional
means. Addington v. Texas, 441 U.S. 418, 425 (1979). A person
acting pursuant to the MHPA may not be held civilly liable "[i]n the
absence of willful misconduct or gross negligence" under state law. MHPA
B. First Amendment Claims (Counts I and II)*fn5
Count I of the complaint alleges that Plaintiff's involuntary
confinement was undertaken in retaliation for his protest against the
Corpus Christi play, in violation of the First Amendment. Count II alleges that Defendants denied Plaintiff assistance in
staging the Protest Event and engaged in other conduct in violation of
his free speech rights. First Amendment retaliation claims are governed
by a three-step analysis, requiring a plaintiff to demonstrate "(1) that
[the plaintiff] engaged in protected activity; (2) that the government
responded with retaliation; and (3) that the protected activity was the
cause of the retaliation." Estate of Smith v. Marasco,
318 F.3d 497, 512 (3d Cir. 2003) (citation omitted). Defendants do not contest
that Plaintiff was engaged in protected activity during the period in
question for purposes of this motion. Defs. Mem. at 6 n.4. With respect
to the second prong, Defendants argue that Plaintiff cannot demonstrate
that his protected conduct was a substantial factor motivating the
decision to seek his involuntary commitment. Rather, Defendants contend
that "it was only after Defendants notified Plaintiff that they would not
accommodate his request to allow him to stage a several day production in
the center of campus did Plaintiff begin to demonstrate the signs of
losing control." Defs. Mem. at 7.
The question of whether Defendants' actions were retaliatory in nature
is question of fact that must be decided by a jury. As Plaintiff points
out, Defendants rely on material facts in dispute in moving for summary
judgment. First, the record includes evidence to support the inference
that prior to November 2, 1999, Defendants had adopted an unfavorable
view towards Plaintiff's protected conduct and public expression of his
opposition to the Corpus Christi production on campus.*fn6 Second,
Plaintiff testified that Bergman promised on two or three occasions in
October of 1999, to supply a stage and other support for the Protest
Event, and withdrew the offer at the final meeting. Though Bergman cited lack
of funding as the basis for withdrawing the University's support,
Plaintiff's offer to pay the expenses was not considered or accepted.
Third, there exists evidence from which it could be reasonably inferred
that Plaintiff was subjected to disparate treatment by Defendants.
Plaintiff was not offered an alternative accommodation, or given an
opportunity to modify his plans.*fn7 The evidence proffered by Plaintiff
entitles him to a trial on the question of whether his exercise of his
First Amendment rights was a substantial factor motivating Defendants'
decision to deny the University's assistance in staging the Protest Event
and their decision to subject Plaintiff to an involuntary psychiatric
evaluation. Merkle v. Upper Dublin Sch. Dist, 211 F.3d 782, 795
(3d Cir. 2000) (citations omitted) ("Where a reasonable inference can be
drawn that an employee's speech was at least one factor considered by an
employer in deciding whether to take action against the employee, the
question of whether the speech was a motivating factor in that
determination is best left to the jury.").
C. Fourth Amendment Claims
1. Unreasonable Seizure/False Arrest (Counts III and VII)
Defendants also move for summary judgment on Plaintiff's false arrest
and unreasonable seizure claims (Counts IE and VII). "The Fourth
Amendment applies to seizures in civil, as well as criminal, proceedings.
The fundamental inquiry in such proceedings, however, remains whether the government's conduct is reasonable under the
circumstances." Doby v. DeCrescenzo. 171 F.3d 858, 871 (3d Cir.
1999) (citing O'Connor v. Ortega, 480 U.S. 709, 714-15 (1987))
(add'l citation omitted). In determining whether an official's conduct
was reasonable within the meaning of the Fourth Amendment, "we must
decide whether the actions of the [officials] were `objectively
reasonable in light of the facts and circumstances confronting them,
without regard to their underlying intent or motivation.'" Id.
at 874 (quoting Graham v. Connor. 490 U.S. 386, 397 (1989)).
Generally, an official must have probable cause to effect a seizure.
Michigan v. Summers. 452 U.S. 692, 696 (1981). However, in the
context of seizures effected to obtain emergency psychological care
pursuant to the MHPA, the Third Circuit has applied the "special needs"
exception to the warrant and probable cause requirements. Doby,
171 F.3d at 871.
Concurring with the First Circuit, the Third Circuit in Doby
held that "the temporary involuntary commitment of those deemed dangerous
to themselves or others [pursuant to the MHPA] qualifies as a `special
need' permitting the state to act without a warrant." Id.
Doby affirmed the constitutionality of the MHPA, noting the
narrow scope of Section 302 (limiting involuntary commitments to
emergency situations) and the procedural safeguards embedded in the
statute. The court concluded:
Because the section 7302 procedures exist to
respond to emergency cases,. . . [t]he
statutory requirement that the individual appear
"responsible" and the warning on the application
form that false statements can subject a
petitioner to criminal prosecution are sufficient
safeguards in light of the circumstances to assure
the reliability of information communicated to the
Id. at 872. The special needs exception is therefore
applicable in this case and the determinative question is, therefore,
whether on November 2, 1999, the facts as known to Bergman and Bittenbender provided a reasonable basis to support their
determination that Plaintiff was in need of emergency psychiatric care.
As discussed with respect to Plaintiff's First Amendment claim, the
parties are in stark disagreement as to the material facts underlying
this question, requiring that the factual dispute be presented to a jury.
In addition, even if the Court were to limit its analysis to defense
statements and representations, Defendants would not be entitled to
qualified immunity or judgment on the merits on these counts.
Bittenbender wrote in the narrative section of the 302 Application
executed to facilitate Plaintiff's involuntarily commitment the
The student has been acting irrationally &
agitated. He has been confrontational with faculty
& staff . . . Today he [sic] been
extremely agitated, sobbing he ran from a meeting
and locked himself in a bathroom for 15 minutes.
Police were called to gain access to the bathroom
as I felt that he was going to hurt himself &
may be suicidal. As a result of his confrontations
with various people & the fear of harm others
have felt, additional police coverage has been
assigned to certain activities [around campus
where Plaintiff was present].*fn8
However, during his deposition, Bittenbender conceded that he had no
knowledge of Plaintiff threatening or causing harm to others.
Bittenbender Dep. at 244. Bittenbender also conceded that he had no
knowledge of Plaintiff attempting suicide prior to November 2,
Id. at 246. Rather, at the time of his deposition,
Bittenbender stated that his decision to seek an emergency psychiatric
consult for Plaintiff stemmed from his belief that Plaintiff may have
attempted suicide during the restroom incident outside Bergman's office;
Bergman concurred in this decision. Id. at 247; Bergman Dep. at
183. Defendants have not identified any physical evidence to suggest that
Plaintiff attempted to harm himself while he was in the restroom.*fn10
Further, while Bittenbender indicated that he believed Plaintiff may have
attempted to harm himself by taking medication, he conceded that he was
"not sure if [Plaintiff], in fact, had" taken any medication.
Bittenbender Dep. at 255. Nor could Bittenbender recall whether he asked
Plaintiff if he had taken any medication while in the restroom.
Id. at 273. In addition, neither Bittenbender nor Bergman
conducted a search of Plaintiff, and Bittenbender testified that when
Plaintiff was "patted down" by a campus police officer prior to his
transport to the hospital, he did not recall the officer finding anything
unusual in Plaintiff's possession. Id.
These facts render this case distinguishable from Doby and
Mervan v. Darrell. 1995 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 5594 (E.D. Pa. Apr.
26, 1995), two cases on which Defendants heavily rely. In Doby.
a case before the Third Circuit following a jury trial, the plaintiff had
a history of depression and was involuntarily committed after two suicide
notes she wrote were found, notes which the plaintiff's own expert
conceded were "frightening." Doby. 171 F.3d at 867. In
Mervan. the plaintiff, who apparently had a drinking problem,
"intentionally put antifreeze into his mouth in a self-admitted ploy to
force his mother to furnish his car keys so that he could drive to the
store to purchase beer." Mervan at *2. In the days prior to his
involuntary commitment, the plaintiffs mother also reported that he was
"agitated and had not been sleeping or eating." Id. at * 12. On
summary judgment, the court found that even based on the plaintiffs
version of events, the social workers and police officers who participated in
his 302 commitment had a reasonable basis to believe that he "posed a
serious risk of harm to himself and was in need of emergency treatment,"
and thus entitled to qualified immunity. Id. at * 12-13.
However, the attending physician who authorized the plaintiff's detention
beyond the initial two-hour period allowed under section 302(b) was not
granted qualified immunity; the record was disputed on the question of
whether the physician relied on the statements of the social workers and
police officers, or whether he examined the plaintiff himself prior to
authorizing the plaintiff's continued detainment as section 302(b)
required. Id. at * 16-17.
It was clearly established in 1999, that a civil commitment pursuant to
the MHPA could not be sought absent a reasonable basis to believe that
the person being subjected to the Act was "severely mentally disabled"
within the meaning the Act. As noted, Bittenbender has conceded that he
had no knowledge of Plaintiff ever attempting to harm others, or any
knowledge of Plaintiff attempting to harm himself prior to November 2,
1999. In light of this evidence and the factual disputes in the record
concerning whether Plaintiff had attempted to harm himself on November 2,
the Court cannot conclude as a matter law that Defendants are entitled to
qualified immunity. Accordingly, the motion for summary judgment on Count
III is denied.
2. Excessive Force (Count IV)
Similarly, Defendants are not entitled to summary judgment on the
excessive force count. The same reasonableness standard which applies to
claims of unconstitutional seizures governs claims of excessive force.
Doby. 171 F.3d at 874 (quoting Graham. 490 U.S. at
397). Plaintiff alleges that Defendants used excessive force against him
when they forcibly blocked his attempts to leave Bergman's office by,
inter alia, holding Plaintiff down in a chair by his
shoulders, intentionally tripping Plaintiff as he attempted to stand and leave
Bergman's office, lifting Plaintiff from the ground after he was tripped
and "tossing" him back onto the sofa, and restraining Plaintiff as the
campus police officers handcuffed him. As a result of this force,
Plaintiff sustained bruises to his right shoulder and around his wrists,
where he contends the handcuffs were excessively tight. Marcavage Dep. at
Defendants argue they are entitled to summary judgment since, "[a]t
worst, Plaintiff was pushed around as he sought to resist being
evaluated" and his injuries were de minimus. Defs. Mem. at 14.
Plaintiff contends any force used against him was constitutionally
violative since he "had done nothing wrong to warrant any use of force
against him." Pl. Resp. at 23. The controlling question is whether there
was a reasonable basis for Defendants to detain Plaintiff for a 302
evaluation, and whether the force used for that purpose was reasonable
under the circumstances. There is no dispute that Plaintiff was
manhandled and forcibly detained by Defendants in Bergman's office.
Absent a reasonable basis for the detention, or a good faith basis to
believe such a basis existed, the force used in this case would be
unjustified. Curley v. Klem, 298 F.3d 271, 279 (3d Cir. 2002)
(citation omitted) ("A claim for excessive force under the Fourth
Amendment requires a plaintiff to show that a seizure occurred and that
it was unreasonable."). As the factual basis for making this
determination is in dispute, the question must be presented to a jury.
The motion for summary judgment on this count is therefore denied. D. Substantive and Procedural Due Process Claims
1. Procedural Due Process (Count V)
Defendants are entitled to summary judgment on Plaintiff's procedural
due process claim. Plaintiff's contends that because he was not afforded
a pre-deprivation hearing, and because the post-deprivation process
his evaluation by two physicians at Temple Hospital as mandated
under the MHPA was (presumably) insufficient, he was denied due
process of law. The Third Circuit has observed that the MHPA "procedure
was created to allow the counties to handle emergency situations. Courts
have stated repeatedly that due process is a flexible notion and that
what kind of process is due depends on the individual and state interests
at stake. . . . [Thus] it may be reasonable . . . for a state to
omit a provision for notice and a hearing in a statute created to deal
with emergencies, particularly where the deprivation at issue, in this
case detention for a maximum of several hours to permit an examination,
continues for only a short period of time." Doby, 171 F.3d at
870 (citing Zinermon v. Burch, 494 U.S. 113 (1980);
Memphis Light. Gas and Water Div. v. Craft, 436 U.S. 1 (1978)).
Thus, Plaintiff's contention that the lack of a pre-deprivation hearing
violated his right to due process is without merit. Similarly,
Plaintiff's complaint that his procedural due process rights were
violated because the only post-deprivation process he was afforded was
the psychiatric examination conducted pursuant to Section 302(b) of the
MHPA, must also fail. The MHPA mandates such an evaluation occur within
two hours of an individual's involuntary commitment, and the statute
provides civil remedies for those improperly detained under the statute.
It is undisputed that the MHPA's requirements were followed in this
regard, providing Plaintiff with all the process he was due for
constitutional purposes. Doby, 171 F.3d at 870. 2. Substantive Due Process (Count VI)
Defendants' motion to dismiss Count VI alleging violation of
substantive due process, however, must be denied. It is Plaintiff's
contention that Defendants mocked him and had him involuntarily committed
for psychiatric evaluation in retaliation against him for his religious
beliefs and exercise of his First Amendment rights, and there is evidence
in the record to support this claim. In 1999, it was clearly established
that an individual may not, consistent with the Constitution, be civilly
committed for the mere exercise of his constitutional rights,
notwithstanding Defendants' seeming suggestion otherwise. See
Addington, 441 U.S. at 425 (citations omitted) ("This Court
repeatedly has recognized that civil commitment for any purpose
constitutes a significant deprivation of liberty that requires due
Pennsylvania courts have similarly recognized this established law.
In re Hancock. 719 A.2d 1053, 1056 (Pa. Super. 1998) (citation
omitted) ("[d]eciding to commit a person involuntarily for any
duration represents a serious deprivation of an individual's liberty.")
(emphasis added). Plaintiff suffered a serious deprivation when he was
involuntarily committed, and if a jury finds that Plaintiff's exercise of
his religious and free speech rights was a factor which substantially
motivated the decision to commit him, it could also find that Defendants'
conduct in this case forcibly detaining a student for psychiatric
evaluation as a retaliatory measure shocks the conscious.
SamericCorp. of Delaware. Inc. v. City of Philadelphia.
142 F.3d 582, 590 (3d Cir. 1998) ("[A] substantive due process violation is
established if the government's action w[as] not rationally related to a
legitimate government interest or w[as] in fact motivated by bias, bad
faith or improper motive."), quoted in Doby, 171 F.3d
at 871 n.4. E. Monell Claims*fn11
Defendants seek dismissal of Plaintiff's Monell claims on
grounds that there exists no evidence that the University maintains a
policy or custom which subjects its students to "undergo unnecessary
involuntary psychiatric evaluations." Defs. Mem. at 44. Plaintiff relies
principally on Bittenbender's testimony that "several commitments
pursuant to § 302 of the MHPA are sought by his officers each
month during the academic year," to establish a factual dispute as
to whether Temple, as a matter of policy or custom, abuses its authority
under Section 302.*fn12 Pl. Resp. at 41. This evidence is insufficient
to hold the University liable on this basis. The testimony on which
Plaintiff relies merely establishes that the University has, on several
occasions, acted pursuant to the statute, but not that it has an
established policy or custom of unconstitutional abuse. See Monell
v. New York City Dept. of Social Services. 436 U.S. 658 (1978)
(holding municipalities may not "be held liable unless action pursuant to
official municipal policy of some nature caused a constitutional tort").
Plaintiff must come forth with evidence demonstrating unlawful use of the
statute beyond his own alleged circumstance to sustain a Monell
claim of this nature against the University.
For this reason, Plaintiff's failure-to-train claim brought against
Temple must fail as well. While both Bergman and Bittenbender admitted
that they had never received training on the proper standards and
procedures for effecting MHPA commitments, a failure-to-train claim can
only succeed if it is shown that "the inadequacy . . . [or] failure to
train amounts to deliberate indifference to the rights of the persons
with whom the [officials] come into contact." City of Canton v. Harris. 489 U.S. 378, 388 (1989). The theory of
Plaintiffs case is that Defendants acted in bad faith and in retaliation
against him for his religious beliefs and exercise of his free speech
rights. Plaintiff has not come forth with evidence to show that the
failure to train "actually caused" Defendants to, allegedly, deliberately
disregard his constitutional rights. Id. at 391 (holding a
plaintiff "must . . . prove that the deficiency in training actually
caused the . . . [deliberate] indifference to [constitutional
rights]"). Accordingly, the University is granted summary judgment on
both Monell claims.
F. State Law Claims (Counts VIII-XII)
Defendants move for summary judgment as to Plaintiff's state law claims
on grounds that they are entitled to immunity under the MHPA. Section
7114 exempts individuals "who participate in a decision that a person
be examined or treated under [the MHPA]" and do not engage in "willful
misconduct or gross negligence" from civil and criminal prosecution under
state law.*fn13 The Third Circuit addressed the standard governing
willful misconduct and gross negligence determinations in Doby:
Pennsylvania law defines gross negligence in the
context of the MHPA as "facts indicating more
egregiously deviant conduct than ordinary
carelessness, inadvertence, laxity or
indifference.". . . . [and] willful misconduct
exist[ing] when "the danger to the plaintiff,
though realized, is so recklessly disregarded
that, even though there be no actual intent, there
is at least a willingness to inflict injury, a
conscious indifference to the perpetration of the
Doby, 171 F.3d at 875 (quoting Albright v. Abington
Memorial Hospital. 696 A.2d 1159, 1164 (Pa. 1997); Kriviianski
v. Union R. Co., 515 A.2d 933, 937 (Pa. Super. 1986)). To be
entitled to immunity on summary judgment, the factual record must demonstrate
that the defendant did not act in willful violation of the statute or
with gross negligence. In this case, Plaintiff alleges that the actions
taken by Defendants against him were retaliatory, and the parties dispute
whether or not the statutory factors necessary to seek a 302 commitment
existed when Plaintiff was involuntarily committed for psychiatric
evaluation. These differences need not be recounted here, as they have
previously been discussed in this opinion. Given the factual disputes in
the Court cannot conclude as a matter of law that
Bergman and Bittenbender were not grossly negligent or did not engage in
willful misconduct. Accordingly, the motion for immunity from suit on the
state law claims is denied.*fn15
In accordance with the foregoing, Defendants' motion for summary
judgment is granted with respect to Count V and the Monell
claims, and denied as to all other remaining counts. An appropriate Order