Sunday, May 28, 2023 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Court Seeks Clarification in Conservatorship Case

(CN) - In the case of a New York man who was wrongfully placed in a nursing home for 10 months against his will, the 2nd Circuit affirmed dismissal of the man's claims against the probate judge, the nursing home and state officials, but asked the Connecticut Supreme Court whether quasi-judicial immunity extends to court-appointed conservators and attorneys.

In 2005, octogenarian Daniel Gross had a conservatorship imposed on him and was kept in a nursing home until a Superior Court judge in Connecticut ordered him released, citing "a terrible miscarriage of justice."

Gross sued probate Judge Thomas P. Brunnock, court-appointed attorney Jonathan Newman, conservator Kathleen Donovan, Grove Manor Nursing Home, Gov. M. Jodi Rell and state ombudsman Maggie Ewald.

Gross said the defendants wrongfully kept him at Grove Manor, where he lived with a violent roommate who attacked him, and ignored his complaints about the mistreatment.

The defendants all asserted absolute or quasi-immunity, and U.S. District Judge Vanessa Bryant dismissed the complaint. She dismissed the claims against state officials for procedural reasons, but cited immunity for the rest.

"We affirm the dismissal of claims against the state officials, the tort claims against the nursing home, and the finding of absolute judicial immunity as to the judge," the New York-based appeals court ruled.

However, it found Connecticut law on quasi-immunity "unclear" and certified the following questions to the state Supreme Court:

"Under Connecticut law, does absolute quasi-judicial immunity extend to conservators appointed by the Connecticut Probate Courts?

"Under Connecticut law, does absolute quasi-judicial immunity extend to attorneys appointed to represent respondents in conservatorship proceedings or to attorneys appointed to represent conservatees?" and;

"What is the role of conservators, court-appointed attorneys for conservatees, and nursing homes in the Connecticut probate court system, in light of the six factors for determining quasi-judicial immunity outlined in Cleavinger v. Saxner, 474 U.S. 193, 201-02 (1985)?"

The 2nd Circuit said it would apply the federal law of quasi-judicial immunity "upon receiving the Connecticut Supreme Court's response."

Read the Top 8

Sign up for the Top 8, a roundup of the day's top stories delivered directly to your inbox Monday through Friday.