New York State Court of Claims

New York State Court of Claims

VARELA v. THE STATE OF NEW YORK, #2000-011-573, Claim No. 97607, Motion No. M-62078


Synopsis


Claimant's motion for summary judgment for wrongful confinement is denied.

Case Information

UID:
2000-011-573
Claimant(s):
ALBERTO VARELA, 88 A 0090
Claimant short name:
VARELA
Footnote (claimant name) :

Defendant(s):
THE STATE OF NEW YORK
Footnote (defendant name) :

Third-party claimant(s):

Third-party defendant(s):

Claim number(s):
97607
Motion number(s):
M-62078
Cross-motion number(s):

Judge:
THOMAS J. McNAMARA
Claimant's attorney:
Alberto Varela, Pro Se
Defendant's attorney:
Hon. Eliot Spitzer, Attorney General(Kevan J. Acton, Esq., Assistant Attorney General)
Third-party defendant's attorney:

Signature date:
August 23, 2000
City:
Saratoga Springs
Comments:

Official citation:

Appellate results:
affd 724 NYS2d 917
See also (multicaptioned case)



Decision


Claimant has moved for summary judgment in this claim for wrongful confinement. The proponent of a motion for summary judgment must make a prima facie showing of entitlement to judgment as a matter of law, tendering sufficient evidence to demonstrate the absence of any material issues of fact (Winegrad v New York Univ. Med. Center, 64 NY2d 851, 853). Once this showing has been made the burden shifts to the party opposing the motion to produce evidentiary proof in admissible form sufficient to establish the existence of material issues of fact which require a trial (Alvarez v Prospect Hospital, 68 NY2d 320).

On November 26, 1997, a misbehavior report was issued to Claimant charging that he was out of place and had failed to comply with the punishment imposed at a prior tier hearing. In the misbehavior report the correction officer wrote "... after locking in A3 Company from the big yard, I noticed that inmate Varela 88A0090 returned with them. He is on no rec til 12-1-97 and was to return to his cell after the noon meal." Claimant was found guilty of the charges and a penalty was imposed. On administrative appeal the determination was affirmed. Claimant then instituted an Article 78 proceeding to have the matter reviewed. While the Article 78 proceeding was pending in the Appellate Division, the court was advised that the determination had been administratively reversed. The court then dismissed the Article 78 proceeding as moot (Matter of Varela v Stinson, 253 AD2d 976).

In carrying out their duties relating to security and discipline, the actions of correction employees are quasi-judicial in nature and are cloaked with absolute immunity so long as the actions are not taken beyond their authority or in violation of the governing rules and regulations (Arteaga v State of New York, 72 NY2d 212, 220). Here, Claimant maintains that the rules and regulations governing the conduct of the Tier II disciplinary hearing were violated in that he was not provided assistance to prepare for the hearing and the hearing officer relied solely on the misbehavior report in finding him guilty.

The regulations governing Tier II disciplinary hearings provide that an inmate is entitled to pick an employee to assist in preparing for a hearing under certain limited circumstances enumerated in the regulations (7 NYCRR §253.4; 7 NYCRR §251-4.1). Claimant, however, has not alleged that any of the enumerated circumstances applied to him at the time of the hearing. Consequently, he has not established that the rule requiring assistance was violated.

Claimant has also failed to establish that in relying solely on the misbehavior report in determining guilt, the hearing officer violated the rules or regulations. A misbehavior report may be made by an employee who has observed the incident or who has ascertained the facts (7 NYCRR 251-1.4 [b]). As noted above, the correction officer who wrote the misbehavior report indicated that he "noticed" Claimant returning from recreation in the yard though he was not then entitled to that privilege. Inasmuch as the officer observed the incident and because a written misbehavior report is sufficient to support a finding of guilt at a disciplinary hearing (Matter of Foster v. Coughlin, 76 NY2d 964), Claimant has not established a violation of the rules or regulations on this point.

In the absence of proof sufficient to establish as a matter of law that the hearing officer exceeded his or her authority or that some governing rule or regulation was violated, the determination made following the disciplinary hearing remains cloaked by absolute immunity. Accordingly, the motion for summary judgment is denied.

August 23, 2000
Saratoga Springs, New York

HON. THOMAS J. MCNAMARA
Judge of the Court of Claims


Papers Considered:

1. Notice of Motion and Affidavit in Support sworn to the 11th day of July, 2000 with exhibits annexed.
2. Affirmation in Opposition of Kevan J. Acton, Esq., dated August 10, 2000.