United States District Court, W.D. Pennsylvania
CRAIG A. GENESS
JASON COX, et al.
mentally impaired man alleges state actors deprived him of
constitutional rights resulting in years of custody in a
state jail based on several orders delaying a decision on
whether he was competent to defend criminal charges.
Following discovery, he now moves to amend his complaint to
sue the Commonwealth under the Americans with Disabilities
Act arguing state court judges repeatedly issued orders
retaining him in custody based on the possibility of him
regaining competency to stand trial when medical evidence
demonstrated a permanent disability. He also argues the state
court judges failed to hear or rule on his four habeas
corpus petitions and the court's later nolle
prosequi Order violated the Americans with Disabilities
Act. While the Supreme Court removed the Commonwealth's
immunity from suit over a decade ago, the mentally impaired
plaintiff still cannot sue the Commonwealth under this Act
challenging state court orders and procedures as violating
his civil rights as a disabled man. He does not argue the
state failed to provide physical accommodations or proper
professional assistance to him as a disabled defendant;
rather, he asks us to hold a disabled person can state a
claim under the Americans with Disabilities Act because state
court judges' rulings and procedures adversely affected
him. We find no basis for this requested unprecedented
expansion of disabilities law effectively obviating the
Rooker-Feldman doctrine when the defendant is
2006 conduct leading to the charges in state court.
Geness is mentally impaired since birth. He resided at a
personal care home where on October 27, 2006, Ronald Fiffak,
another resident fell off the porch. Mr. Fiffak's wife
told treating medical personnel her husband fell from the
porch steps. The initial police report also reports Mr.
Fiffak fell from the porch.
November 16, 2006, Detective Jason Cox interviewed the owner
of the personal care home. The owner of the personal care
home told Detective Cox he heard Mr. Geness yell “shut
up” and slam the door right before Mr. Fiffak fell.
Police detectives began investigating Mr. Geness. On or about
November 16, 2006, the owner involuntarily committed Mr.
Geness to Highlands Hospital.
November 16, 2006, Detective Cox interviewed Mr. Geness about
Mr. Fiffak's fall in a psychiatric ward at Highlands
Hospital without an attorney present. Allegedly based on this
interview, he charged Mr. Geness with aggravated assault and
placed him in custody. Mr. Fiffak died on November 17, 2006.
On November 20, 2006, Detective Cox charged Mr. Geness with
homicide and incarcerated him in Fayette County Prison.
Geness' long delayed resolution in the state court.
Geness remained in custody until 2015 without a trial. On
June 18, 2007, Fayette County Judge Wagner found Mr. Geness
incompetent to stand trial and committed him to Mayview State
Hospital for no more than 60 days to evaluate Mr. Geness'
fitness to stand trial.
August 21, 2007, Fayette County Judge Warman found Mr. Geness
incompetent to stand trial and directed his attorney to move
for trial when Mr. Geness is found competent.
September 25, 2007, Mayview conducted a psychiatric
evaluation of Mr. Geness and deemed Mr. Geness incompetent to
stand trial. Mayview opined Mr. Geness may be
“decompensating.” After this Mayview evaluation,
the Commonwealth transferred Mr. Geness back to Fayette
Geness remained in Fayette County Prison with no legal action
on his case until November 29, 2010 when Judge Wagner ordered
Mr. Geness transferred from prison to Torrance State Hospital
for a period of 90 days to determine Mr. Geness'
competency to stand trial and the likelihood Mr. Geness will
ever be competent to stand trial. Inexplicably, the parties
took no action based on Judge Wagner's November 29, 2010
Order for ten months.
August 17, 2011, Fayette County Judge Solomon ordered the
parties to determine if Mr. Geness is then competent to
function in society. Mr. Geness underwent a forensic
psychiatric assessment at Fayette County Prison on or about
September 4, 2011. On or about September 21, 2011, Judge
Wagner found Mr. Geness not competent to stand trial and
involuntarily committed Mr. Geness to a Long Term Structured
Residence (“LTSR”). LTSR prohibits contact with
the general public, requires an ankle monitor, and Mr. Geness
is to be returned to Fayette County Prison upon completing
his therapeutic program or found competent to stand trial.
his period in custody, Mr. Geness filed four petitions for
habeas corpus relief. The Fayette County Court of
Common Pleas never held a hearing or ruled on Mr. Geness'
before June 18, 2014, Mr. Geness' new pro bono
defense counsel requested discovery from the Fayette County
District Attorney. On May 27, 2015, Mr. Geness' new
lawyer moved to compel discovery. On June 2, 2015, Judge
Leskinen ordered the District Attorney and Public Defender
provide Mr. Geness with all psychiatric and psychological
reports within ten days; on June 10, 2015, Judge Wagner
granted Mr. Geness' motion to compel discovery and
ordered the District Attorney to provide all discovery to Mr.
Geness by June 30, 2015. On June 17, 2015, Judge Wagner
ordered the District Attorney to provide information on all
eyewitnesses within ten days.
December 10, 2015, Fayette County Judge Leskinen granted
Fayette County's request to nolle prosequi all
charges against Mr. Geness.
Geness seeks federal civil rights remedies.
17, 2016, Mr. Geness sued Fayette County in this Court for
violating his rights under the Americans with Disabilities
Act (“Act”) by “depriving him of normal
benefits of criminal procedure and due process of
law.” On November 10, 2016, Mr. Geness
voluntarily dismissed his claims against Fayette
County. On December 2, 2016, we entered the
scheduling Order closing discovery on March 3,
March 6, 2017, Mr. Geness moved to amend his complaint to
dismiss the bankrupt personal care owner and now sue the
Commonwealth. Mr. Geness cites “recently discovered
case law” supporting an Americans with ...