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Garcia v. S. Spaulding

United States District Court, D. Massachusetts

July 24, 2018

S. SPAULDING[1], Warden, FMC Devens, Respondent.



         Lorenzo Garcia presents this amended petition for a writ of habeas corpus seeking conditional release from his civil commitment at FMC Devens and placement in a non-penal setting. He completed his federal criminal sentence in 2003, but has remained civilly committed in federal prison medical centers since that time. In 1991, Mr. Garcia's underlying criminal conviction was imposed in the District of Arizona. In 2003, his civil commitment was ordered in the Western District of Missouri. Since 2004 he has been at FMC Devens within the District of Massachusetts. In addition to substantive questions regarding the appropriateness of his confinement, his petition raises complicated issues of jurisdiction generally and the scope of this court's habeas corpus authority under 28 U.S.C. § 2241 in particular.

         I. BACKGROUND

         A. Procedural History

         Mr. Garcia initiated this action by filing a pro se petition for writ of habeas corpus on January 28, 2008. The case was originally assigned to Judge Gertner but upon her retirement the case was reassigned to me. After that reassignment, given the complex jurisdictional issues, I relieved previously appointed counsel - who acknowledged less than complete familiarity with the full dimension of the legal questions presented - and appointed Attorney Jeanne Kempthorne pursuant to the Criminal Justice Act habeas corpus rubric.

         Through Ms. Kempthorne, Mr. Garcia filed an Amended Petition for writ of habeas corpus. Respondent opposed the petition and moved to dismiss or for a change of venue. Reserving on those motions, I held a bench trial to develop the underlying facts about Mr. Garcia's commitment in order to resolve the jurisdictional issues and advance substantive resolution of the case while the question of jurisdiction remained pending. Meanwhile, Ms. Kempthorne sought to find ways to secure alternative placements for Mr. Garcia but none proved feasible.

         As a result of my Findings of Fact in Section I.B. and my Conclusions of Law in Section II, I have determined this case is properly pursued in this court under 28 U.S.C. § 2241. Ms. Kempthorne, however, has now withdrawn from the active practice of law generally and, in particular, successfully moved to withdraw as counsel here for Mr. Garcia. I will use this Memorandum and Order resolving the outstanding motions to provide background for counsel to be appointed to succeed Ms. Kempthorne.

         B. Findings of Fact

         In accordance with Fed.R.Civ.P. 52, I find the underlying facts as follows.

         In 1991, a jury in the District of Arizona convicted Mr. Garcia of the aggravated sexual assault of his niece, who was under the age of 13. Judge Rosenblatt imposed a sentence of 96 months for the offense. Mr. Garcia was released in February 1998, but six months later, his supervised release was revoked for sleeping at the home of his victim in violation of a court order to stay away. Judge Rosenblatt imposed a sentence of 60 months in prison for the violation.

         Before Mr. Garcia had served the entirety of the revocation sentence, the government petitioned that he be civilly committed. Mr. Garcia has borderline intellectual functioning and began to exhibit persistent psychotic symptoms around 1995 during his first period of incarceration. During his second period of incarceration, he began to express paranoid delusions that a government conspiracy caused his incarceration and that government officials or mafia-like figures had killed his family, although, in fact, his family is still alive and living in Arizona. He also talked about and attempted suicide on several occasions. Eventually, he was diagnosed with schizophrenia.

         While Mr. Garcia was lodged at the Federal Medical Center in Springfield, Missouri in 2002, he was ordered civilly committed by Judge Dorr of the United States District Court for the Western District of Missouri under 18 U.S.C. § 4245, as a prisoner suffering from mental illness. Then, before Mr. Garcia's scheduled release from his criminal sentence, Judge Dorr ordered him, in 2003, to remain civilly committed pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 4246, as a person otherwise eligible for release, but posing a threat to his own safety or the safety of others as a result of his mental illness. In May 2004, Mr. Garcia was transferred to FMC Devens in Massachusetts, where he remains today.

         FMC Devens is a federal medical facility that primarily houses individuals serving federally-imposed criminal sentences who require substantial medical care. It also houses approximately 60 civilly committed patients, including Mr. Garcia. Mr. Garcia is housed in the Mental Health Unit known as the N-Building. At its most restrictive, the Mental Health Unit can lock prisoners and patients in individual cells for approximately 23 hours per day. At its least restrictive, the Mental Health Unit allows individuals full daytime access to the prison compound including TV, the library, movies, religious services, and outdoor recreation as well as treatment options including recreation therapy and sex offender treatment. FMC Devens requires patients who are civilly committed to wear prison-issue clothing, subjects them to the prison curfew, and includes them in the same mandatory counts and random cell searches as general population inmates. Devens also employs a full-time staff of mental health professionals including psychiatrists, psychologists, and social workers. Mr. Garcia has a treatment team that includes a treating psychiatrist, a treating psychologist, a social worker, a recreational therapist, and representatives from the medical and pharmacy departments.

         While serving his civil commitment, Mr. Garcia has generally not been a disciplinary problem, although there have been sporadic incidents of sexual misconduct such as indecent exposure and one incident of assault. He has shown little interest in therapy or mental health treatment, and in fact, has consistently denied both his mental illness and his guilt for his original crime of conviction. He has also gone through significant periods where he has refused to comply with his medication regimen, and the medical staff has consequently resorted to administering it by involuntary injection. Despite medication, his delusions persist - including the belief that he is or once was a U.S. Marshal; that he can predict the future; and that government staff killed or somehow stole his family from him. He frequently refuses medication, asserts a belief that he does not require medical treatment, denies misbehavior, and regularly threatens violent behavior, although the record demonstrates that he has rarely, if ever, followed through on his threats of violence while committed. The Risk Assessment Panel has concluded in its evaluation each year that Mr. Garcia should remain civilly committed.

         Mr. Garcia contends that his medical condition has deteriorated while serving his civil commitment at FMC Devens. Although he meets the requirements for continued civil commitment, the level of restrictions inherent in the prison setting, he contends, are not optimal for his treatment and this form of civil commitment is not necessary to protect him and others from harm. However, attempts to transfer Mr. Garcia out of FMC Devens and into a state hospital as the locus for his commitment have proven unsuccessful.

         The government has made annual requests for the state of Arizona to take custody of Mr. Garcia, and in the last few years has also made the same request of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Both Arizona and Massachusetts have denied the requests. The government's attempts at state placement have been limited to requests under ...

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