New York State Court of Claims

New York State Court of Claims

TEICH v. THE STATE OF NEW YORK, #2000-014-517, Claim No. 101646, Motion Nos. M-61091, CM-61146


The defendant's motion to dismiss the claim, which seeks to recover payment for psychiatric services rendered pursuant to County Law §722-c, is granted, for lack of subject matter jurisdiction.

Case Information

Claimant short name:
Footnote (claimant name) :

Footnote (defendant name) :

Third-party claimant(s):

Third-party defendant(s):

Claim number(s):
Motion number(s):
Cross-motion number(s):
S. Michael Nadel
Claimant's attorney:
Stephen Teich, Pro se
Defendant's attorney:
Eliot Spitzer, Attorney GeneralBy: Susan J. Pogoda, Assistant Attorney General
Third-party defendant's attorney:

Signature date:
June 28, 2000
New York

Official citation:

Appellate results:

See also (multicaptioned case)


The following papers were read on the defendant's motion to dismiss the claim and on the claimant's cross motion seeking permission to file a late claim: Notice of Motion, Affirmation in Support and Exhibits annexed; Notice of [Cross] Motion and affidavit; Affirmation in Further Support of Motion and in Opposition to Claimant's Motion and Exhibits annexed; Claimant's Verified Answer and Exhibits annexed. Filed paper: Claim.

The claimant, a physician with a specialty in psychiatry, was appointed, pursuant to County Law §722-c, by Order of the Kings County Supreme Court, to provide psychiatric services to an indigent defendant in a criminal case. According to the claim, which sounds in contract, the trial court judge did not approve payment for all the services the claimant rendered, and with respect to some of the services for which payment was approved, the amount was less than the rate specified in the Order appointing him. He seeks to recover the amount he requested but was not paid.

The defendant moves to dismiss the claim on the ground that it was served by registered mail, and not personally or by certified mail, return receipt requested, as required by Court of Claims Act §11(a); and on the ground that the actions of the officials named in the claim are protected by the doctrine of judicial immunity. The claimant opposes the State's motion on both grounds, but has cross moved for permission to file a late claim in the event that the claim is dismissed for improper service.

. Although stated as a cause of action in contract, the import of the claim herein is to seek a determination of the amount he should have been paid for the services he provided. The effect, therefore, of entertaining the claim would be to circumvent two Court of Appeals decisions which held that the trial judge's discretion in such instances is unreviewable, whether on an application to increase the amount (Matter of Werfel v Agresta, 36 NY2d 624), or on one to reduce it (Matter of Director of the Assigned Counsel Plan of the City of New York [Bodek], 87 NY2d 191), except by way of administrative review.[1]

In Werfel (supra, at 627), the Court stated that an attorney would be "entitled to adjustment of the allowance made to him by application through the several layers of judicial administration, that is, to the appropriate Administrative Judges and even to the Administrative Board of the court system." In Bodek (supra, at 194), the Court stated that "to the extent that the trial courts' unreviewable discretion produces truly anomalous consequences or patterns of abuse in particular situations, the problem can and should be addressed through the available administrative tools."[2]

The allegations of the claim indicate that the claimant resubmitted his requests for payment to the trial judge, without any result, and in connection therewith he unsuccessfully sought the intervention of the Administrative Judge for the Second Judicial District.[3]

It would seem, therefore, that the claimant has sought the only review which the Court of Appeals has determined is available to him, and is precluded from further review by way of a suit for damages against the State. Indeed, the underlying premise of the claim, which seeks payment in full of the amount he requested, would negate the exercise of any discretion by the trial court in the matter, which is clearly at odds with the Court of Appeals view in Werfel and Bodek.

Moreover, while the Court of Appeals did not address the issue of judicial immunity in those cases, where the analysis and discussion were in the context of the issue of appellate review, the issue of judicial immunity is clearly implicated in the claim herein.

It is the claimant's position that the trial court judge's determination of his compensation was an entirely administrative act, which is not protected by judicial immunity. But in Werfel (supra, at 626), the Court stated that the responsibility for setting compensation, albeit administrative in nature, is "internal to, and performed entirely within the context of, the judicial offices involved." As such it is protected by judicial immunity. See, e.g. Weiner v State of New York, ___ AD2d ___, 2000 WL 769263 (First Dept.).

Finally, the claimant's reliance upon this Court's decision in Wells v State of New York (Court of Claims, Claim Nos. 85692 & 86127, filed September 16, 1998) is misplaced. The allegations in this claim are distinguishable from Wells, where damages were awarded as the result of the failure to process the vouchers for payment (see, Wells v State of New York, 267 AD2d 179), not the failure to approve the amounts submitted.

The gravamen of the basis for the relief he seeks is the claimant's assertion that he was not paid for the services he provided, as he expected to be. Whatever the ultimate merit of his claim, it is quite clear that, under controlling law, he has no adequate remedy by which to seek that relief. It is not as clear that he, and others in similar situations, should not have one. In his concurrence in Bodek, (supra, at 197), Judge Bellacosa noted that "the lack of any judicial review or appropriate check-and-balance of unilateral trial court action in these public services and public fiscal matters is unfortunate." Although the statement was made with respect to an application to reduce the amount of compensation determined by the trial court, its logic applies equally to an effort, such as the claimant's, to increase the amount.

In accordance with the foregoing, the defendant's motion is granted. The claim is dismissed for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. The claimant's cross motion seeking permission to file a late claim is denied as moot.

June 28, 2000
New York, New York

Judge of the Court of Claims

[1] Bodek involved the compensation of a social worker, pursuant to County Law §722-c. Although Werfel concerned the compensation of an attorney, pursuant to County Law §722-b, the Court in Bodek noted that with respect to the issues presented, there is no "meaningful distinction."
[2] See, Rules of the Chief Administrator of the Courts, §127.2(b).
[3] It is in connection with this resubmission, that the claim alleges the involvement of the Administrative Judge, and the Director of the Indigent Defendants Panel for the Second Judicial Department (Claim ¶¶. 60, 62 and 64).