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Case Name Foe v. Cuomo MH-NY-0003
Docket / Court 75-1029 ( E.D.N.Y. )
State/Territory New York
Case Type(s) Mental Health (Facility)
Case Summary
On June 27, 1975, involuntarily committed mental patients at the Brooklyn State Hospital (since renamed the Kingsboro Psychiatric Center) in New York filed a class action lawsuit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against the State of New York in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York ... read more >
On June 27, 1975, involuntarily committed mental patients at the Brooklyn State Hospital (since renamed the Kingsboro Psychiatric Center) in New York filed a class action lawsuit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against the State of New York in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York. The plaintiffs asked the district court for declaratory and injunctive relief, alleging that their constitutional rights had been violated by overcrowding, inadequate staffing, poor physical facilities, and discrimination on the basis of race, economic hardship, and voluntary status of committal.

On January 16, 1976, the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York (Judge Edward Raymond Neaher) dismissed all of the plaintiffs' claims except the equal protection claim. Woe v. Mathews, 408 F. Supp. 419 (E.D.N.Y. 1976). The plaintiffs appealed. On June 10, 1977, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit issued a table opinion affirming the district court's judgment. Woe v. Weinberger, 562 F.2d 40 (2nd Cir. 1977). The plaintiffs appealed. On January 23, 1978, the U.S. Supreme Court denied the petition for writ of certiorari. Woe v. Califano, 434 U.S. 1048 (1978).

In the four years that followed, the parties underwent discovery, amended their pleadings, and negotiated. On March 1, 1983, the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York (Judge Neaher) granted summary judgment to the defendants and dismissed the case, holding that: 1) the hospital system's accreditation criteria were sufficient to satisfy due process requirements of patients, 2) that involuntary commitment of mental patients, when compared to the private institutionalization of voluntarily committed patients, did not violate the equal protection clause, and 3) that the issue of whether a non-accredited facility could be found to have fallen below constitutional standards did not meet the class-action criteria for this case. Woe v. Cuomo, 559 F. Supp. 1158 (E.D.N.Y. 1983) . The plaintiffs appealed.

On February 22, 1984, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals (Judge Irving R. Kaufman) reversed the district court's dismissal and remanded the case, holding that summary judgment had been inappropriate. Woe v. Cuomo, 729 F.2d 96 (2nd Cir. 1984). The defendants appealed. On October 29, 1984, the U.S. Supreme Court denied the petition for writ of certiorari. Woe v. Cuomo, 469 U.S. 936 (1984).

On July 1, 1986, the U.S. District Court (Judge Neaher) granted the plaintiffs a permanent injunction, holding that the psychiatric center provided constitutionally inadequate care, noting that the facility was overcrowded and that it did not provide adequate clothing, storage, toothpaste, toothbrushes, toilet paper, paper towels, or bed linens. The court also noted that the facility was extremely dirty and smelly, infested with vermin, had poor plumbing, posed fire safety problems, and contained inadequate first aid equipment. The court enjoined the defendants from admitting any additional patients to the facility until these problems had been fixed. Woe v. Cuomo, 638 F. Supp. 1506 (E.D.N.Y. 1986). The defendants appealed.

On September 29, 1986, the Second Circuit reversed the issuance of the injunction and remanded the case, holding that: 1) the district court acted prematurely in granting a permanent injunction without notice at a hearing on a request for a preliminary injunction, 2) that the evidence supported the issuance of a preliminary injunction, but the court should have given the defendants the opportunity to present alternatives. Woe v. Cuomo, 801 F.2d 627 (2nd Cir. 1986).

On December 2, 1986, Judge Neaher recused himself, and the case was reassigned to Judge Henry Bramwell. On January 14, 1987, Judge Bramwell retired, and the case was reassigned to Judge John R. Bartels. In this intervening time, the lead plaintiff (Walter Woe) died, and his place was filled by Frank Foe.

On November 17, 1988, the district court (Judge Bartels) approved a settlement agreement between the parties and closed the case. Foe v. Cuomo, 700 F. Supp. 107 (E.D.N.Y. 1988). We have no information on the content of this settlement agreement. Some members of the plaintiff class appealed the court's approval of the agreement, and on December 15, 1989, the Second Circuit affirmed the district court's approval of the agreement. Foe v. Cuomo, 892 F.2d 196 (2nd Cir. 1989). The plaintiffs appealed. On November 13, 1990, the U.S. Supreme Court denied the petition for writ of certiorari. Foe v. Cuomo, 498 U.S. 972 (1990). On November 24, 1993, the plaintiffs asked the district court to award them attorneys' fees, but on March 1, 1994, the plaintiffs withdrew the motion and informed the court that they had reached an attorney fee settlement.

Kristen Sagar - 07/18/2006
Nick Kabat - 11/26/2014

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Issues and Causes of Action
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Constitutional Clause
Equal Protection
Crowding / caseload
Hospital/Health Department
Race discrimination
Bathing and hygiene
Classification / placement
Commitment procedure
Sanitation / living conditions
Staff (number, training, qualifications, wages)
Medical/Mental Health
Intellectual disability/mental illness dual diagnosis
Mental health care, general
Plaintiff Type
Private Plaintiff
Type of Facility
Causes of Action 42 U.S.C. § 1983
Defendant(s) State of New York
Plaintiff Description Involuntarily committed mental patients of the Brooklyn State Hospital/Kingsboro Psychiatric Center
Class action status sought Yes
Class action status granted Yes
Filed Pro Se No
Prevailing Party Plaintiff
Public Int. Lawyer Yes
Nature of Relief Injunction / Injunctive-like Settlement
Source of Relief Settlement
Form of Settlement Court Approved Settlement or Consent Decree
Order Duration 1988 - n/a
Filing Year 1975
Case Closing Year 1988
Case Ongoing No
75-1029 (E.D.N.Y.)
MH-NY-0003-9000.pdf | Detail
Date: 03/01/1994
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
Reported Opinion (408 F.Supp. 419) (E.D.N.Y.)
MH-NY-0003-0005.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 01/16/1976
Source: Google Scholar
Memorandum Decision (434 U.S. 1048)
MH-NY-0003-0009.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 01/23/1978
Source: Westlaw
Opinion (559 F.Supp. 1158) (E.D.N.Y.)
MH-NY-0003-0003.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 03/16/1983
Source: Google Scholar
Reported Opinion (729 F.2d 96)
MH-NY-0003-0006.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 02/22/1984
Source: Google Scholar
Memorandum Decision (469 U.S. 936)
MH-NY-0003-0010.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 10/29/1984
Source: Westlaw
Reported Opinion (638 F.Supp. 1506) (E.D.N.Y.)
MH-NY-0003-0004.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 07/01/1986
Source: Google Scholar
Reported Opinion (801 F.2d 627)
MH-NY-0003-0007.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 09/29/1986
Source: Google Scholar
Opinion and Order Approving Settlement (700 F.Supp. 107) (E.D.N.Y.)
MH-NY-0003-0001.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 11/17/1988
Source: Google Scholar
Opinion (892 F.2d 196)
MH-NY-0003-0002.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 12/15/1989
Source: Google Scholar
Memorandum Decision (498 U.S. 972)
MH-NY-0003-0008.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 11/13/1990
Source: Westlaw
Judges Altimari, Frank X. (E.D.N.Y., Second Circuit)
Bartels, John Ries (E.D.N.Y.)
MH-NY-0003-0001 | MH-NY-0003-9000
Cardamone, Richard J. (Second Circuit)
MH-NY-0003-0006 | MH-NY-0003-0007
Kaufman, Irving Robert (S.D.N.Y., Second Circuit)
Miner, Julius Howard (N.D. Ill.)
Neaher, Edward Raymond (E.D.N.Y.)
MH-NY-0003-0003 | MH-NY-0003-0004 | MH-NY-0003-0005
Oakes, James Lowell (D. Vt., Second Circuit)
Pierce, Lawrence Warren (Second Circuit, FISC, S.D.N.Y.)
MH-NY-0003-0002 | MH-NY-0003-0007
Timbers, William Homer (Second Circuit, D. Conn.)
Plaintiff's Lawyers Birnbaum, Morton (New York)
MH-NY-0003-0002 | MH-NY-0003-0003 | MH-NY-0003-0004 | MH-NY-0003-0005 | MH-NY-0003-0006 | MH-NY-0003-0007 | MH-NY-0003-9000
Carion, Elsa (New York)
Garofallou, George D. (New York)
Greenfest, Mark (New York)
Kurzmann, Mark J. (New York)
Lottman, Michael S. (New York)
MH-NY-0003-0001 | MH-NY-0003-0002
Zuckerman, Burton (New York)
MH-NY-0003-0002 | MH-NY-0003-0004 | MH-NY-0003-0007
Defendant's Lawyers Abrams, Seth (New York)
MH-NY-0003-0003 | MH-NY-0003-0004 | MH-NY-0003-0006
Abrams, Robert W. (New York)
MH-NY-0003-0001 | MH-NY-0003-0002 | MH-NY-0003-0003 | MH-NY-0003-0006 | MH-NY-0003-0007
Brutten, Caren S. (New York)
MH-NY-0003-0003 | MH-NY-0003-0004 | MH-NY-0003-0006
Caplow, William J. (New York)
Fleischer, Arnold D. (New York)
MH-NY-0003-0002 | MH-NY-0003-0004 | MH-NY-0003-0007 | MH-NY-0003-9000
Halleck, Nancy H. (New York)
MH-NY-0003-0001 | MH-NY-0003-0004
Hyman, Cyril (New York)
Lefkowitz, Louis J. (New York)
Leventhal, Melvyn R. (New York)
McMurray, Ralph L. (New York)
Petrila, John (New York)
MH-NY-0003-0003 | MH-NY-0003-0004 | MH-NY-0003-0006
Schneps, Murray B. (New York)
Sherwood, O. Peter (New York)
Trager, David G. (New York)

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