New York State Court of Claims

New York State Court of Claims

BLADES v. THE STATE OF NEW YORK, #2000-015-104, Claim No. 102439, Motion No. M-62314


Defendant's motion to dismiss claim for failure to state a cause of action is converted to motion for summary judgment and upon conversion granted. Claimant misconstrued facts related to his confinement in special housing unit. His confinement did not exceed 90 days and no claim will lie for wrongful confinement. Claimant not entitled to credit for time spent in administrative segregation prior to determination of guilt on inmate misbehavior charges.

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):

Claimant's attorney:
John Blades, Pro Se
Defendant's attorney:
Honorable Eliot Spitzer, Attorney General
By: G. Lawrence Dillon, EsquireAssistant Attorney General
Third-party defendant's attorney:

Signature date:
November 30, 2000
Saratoga Springs

Official citation:

Appellate results:

See also (multicaptioned case)


Defendant's motion to dismiss the claim for failure to state a cause of action and for lack of jurisdiction is converted to a motion for summary judgment pursuant to CPLR 3211 (c) and upon such conversion is granted. It appears from the Court's file, including two separate disposition sheets attached to claimant's "Replay [sic] for Discovery Demands"[1] that claimant, while an inmate at Mid-State Correctional Facility in Marcy, New York, was the subject of two separate tier III hearings. The first, related to charge number 999-99 reported by Captain McCarthy and labeled Administrative Segregation, began on December 1, 1999 and ended on December 6, 1999. The disposition sheet indicates a "recommendation date" of November 25, 1999 and a "delivery date" of November 27, 1999 with regard to such charge. The designated hearing officer, Mark Kinderman, found that claimant knowingly participated in the preparation of a threatening letter sent to Susan Connell, Deputy Superintendent for Administration at Mid-State at the time the letter was written. The hearing officer recommended that claimant be taken from the general population and transferred. The second disposition sheet, which is of extremely poor quality, refers to an incident date of December 1, 1999 and a hearing date of December 7, 1999. It relates to charges made by Sergeant Lawrence for alleged rule violations identified as violent conduct (104.11), harassment (107.11) and threats (102.10). The designated hearing officer assigned to hear and determine these charges was identified on the sheet as Captain Kadien. It appears that the charge of "harassment" and the charge of "threats" were sustained upon the hearing, but the "violent conduct" charge was not. As a result of these findings the hearing officer ordered that the claimant be confined to the special housing unit for 90 days and ordered the suspension of package privileges, phone calls and commissary beginning on December 7, 1999 and ending on March 7, 2000 (i.e., the release date).

By letter dated January 16, 2000 claimant appealed from these separate determinations to the Commissioner of Corrections who, on review, affirmed the determination of the December 6, 1999 administrative segregation hearing. It is unclear from the record whether the Commissioner separately reviewed the December 7, 1999 hearing determination and/or issued an affirmance. For purposes of this motion, absent proof to the contrary, the Court assumes that either it was not separately reviewed or if reviewed that the determination was affirmed.

Paragraph 2 of the claim asserts causes of action based upon "False Imprisonment, Emotional Distress, Mental Anguish, Pain and Suffering, Violation of Due Process, Cruel and Unusual Punishment as guaranteed by the 5th, 6th, and 14th amendments of the New York State and United States Constitution." Claimant withdrew any cause of action premised upon denial of his right to due process by affidavit filed in opposition to the instant motion.

At the outset, the Court notes that mental anguish and pain and suffering are elements of damage incidental to other causes of action and are not actionable wrongs in and of themselves.

Construed liberally for purposes of this motion, the claim arguably attempts to assert causes of action for wrongful confinement, false imprisonment, intentional infliction of emotional distress and a violation of claimant's constitutional protection against cruel and unusual punishment. All of these causes of action stem from the claimant's erroneous belief that he was confined in a special housing unit beyond the 90 day penalty period imposed as a result of tier III disciplinary hearings. The record demonstrates that claimant's confinement in the special housing unit did not exceed the penalty period.

Initially, it is well established that as a matter of public policy a cause of action for the intentional infliction of emotional harm will not lie against the State for the acts of its employees or agents (Wheeler v State of New York, 104 AD2d 496, 498). It is equally well established that a cause of action for false imprisonment arising out of an inmate's special confinement attendant to a sustained charge of misbehavior will not survive a motion for summary judgment since such confinement will be said to be privileged (see, Lee v State of New York, 124 AD2d 305; Edmonson v State of New York, 132 Misc 2d 452).

Claimant's cause of action asserting that he was subjected to cruel and unusual punishment proscribed by the federal and state constitutions is likewise subject to dismissal. Claimant has failed to provide any factual detail from which a viable cause of action might be discerned. Claimant has neither alleged nor shown that the conditions of his confinement in the special housing unit were so intolerable as to shock the conscience. Mere confinement in a segregation cell does not alone constitute cruel and unusual punishment (Wilkinson v Skinner, 34 NY2d 53).

Finally, also on public policy grounds, New York State does not recognize a cause of action for negligent investigation (see, Coyne v State of New York, 120 AD2d 769, 770). To the extent the claim may be said to raise such a cause of action with regard to the disciplinary charges which precipitated the hearings, it too is dismissed.

The only surviving cause of action is one for wrongful confinement to which the Court's attention now turns. It is now well established that the actions of correctional facility employees related to inmate discipline are quasi-judicial in nature and, unless such employees exceed the scope of their authority or violate applicable rules and regulations, their actions are granted absolute immunity (see, Arteaga v State of New York, 72 NY2d 212, 218-220; Matter of Rivera v Smith, 63 NY2d 501, 513). Such disciplinary actions include the decision to confine an inmate who is reasonably perceived to pose a threat to the safety and security of the facility (see, 7 NYCRR 251-1.6[a]). Here it was alleged and proven to the satisfaction of the designated hearing officer that claimant, while not the author of a threatening letter to Deputy Superintendent Connell, was a knowing participant in its preparation. The decision on the part of prison officials to remove claimant from the general prison population, affirmed on administrative appeal, was both reasonable and subject to absolute immunity (see, Davis v State of New York, 262 AD2d 887, 888 citing Arteaga (supra, at 219-220); see also, Melette v State of New York, 163 AD2d 703).

Absolute immunity gives way, however, if a regulation has been violated such as the confinement of an inmate to a special housing unit beyond the time limit permitted by rule. Under such circumstances the State may be held liable for wrongful confinement (see, Minieri v State of New York, 204 AD2d 982; Gayle v State of New York, 135 Misc 2d 570).

A review of claimant's opposing affidavit reveals that the claim is based entirely upon claimant's belief that he was illegally confined in a special housing unit for 15 days more than the 90 day penalty imposed as a result of a single tier III disciplinary hearing. Claimant's belief is erroneous for several reasons. First, his own submissions reveal that there were two separate hearings; one begun on December 1, 1999 which ended on December 6, 1999 and which related to administrative segregation charges lodged against him on November 25, 1999; and a second hearing held on December 7, 1999 which related to alleged rule violations lodged against claimant on December 1, 1999. Claimant has submitted no proof on this motion and has not even alleged that either of these hearing determinations were overturned on administrative appeal. In fact, the record demonstrates that the Commissioner affirmed the findings of the December 6, 1999 hearing as noted above and such confinement was, therefore, privileged. A showing that the confinement was not privileged would, of course, be essential to recovery on a cause of action for wrongful confinement. Claimant is further mistaken in his belief that he is entitled to subtract the number of days spent in administrative segregation prior to his hearing on that charge from the 90 day penalty imposed as a result of the rule violation hearing held on December 7, 1999. Such a basis for liability on the part of the State was raised and rejected by this Court in Davis v State of New York, Claim No. 95266, which was subsequently affirmed by the Appellate Division, Third Department at 262 AD2d 887. A similar determination was made by the Appellate Division in Matter of Melluzzo v Goord, 250 AD2d 893, 895 lv denied 92 NY2d 814 where the Court said:
Finally, we reject petitioner's contention that he should be credited with the time he spent in administrative segregation prior to the initial determination of his guilt on September 13, 1996. There is nothing in the regulations of the Department of Correctional Services that requires petitioner's prehearing segregation be credited toward the penalty imposed after a disciplinary hearing (see, Matter of Fama v Mann, 196 AD2d 919, 920, lv denied 82 NY2d 662).
Claimant's admission, contained in his affidavit in opposition to the motion, that he was released from the special housing unit on March 6, 2000 conclusively demonstrates that he was not wrongfully confined beyond the 90 day penalty imposed as a result of the December 7, 1999 hearing. The claim for wrongful confinement, therefore, lacks merit and is dismissed.

November 30, 2000
Saratoga Springs, New York

Judge of the Court of Claims

The Court considered the following papers:
  1. Notice of motion dated August 30, 2000;
  2. Affirmation of G. Lawrence Dillon dated August 30, 2000 with exhibits;
  3. Reply to motion to dismiss claim dated September 19, 2000;
  4. Affidavit in support of reply to motion to dismiss claim dated September 19, 2000 with exhibits;
  5. Replay for discovery demands dated July 25, 2000.

[1]Claimant incorporated this document by reference in his opposition to this motion.