New York State Court of Claims

New York State Court of Claims

HEPPARD v. THE STATE OF NEW YORK, #2000-016-102, Claim No. 100474


Pro se inmate's claim was dismissed following trial. Inmate had alleged that he was put in administrative segregation following a facility "slow-down" and was the transferred from a medium to maximum security correctional facility because he was a "participating member" of the Nation of Islam.

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):

Alan C. Marin
Claimant's attorney:
Darryl Heppard
Defendant's attorney:
Eliot Spitzer, Attorney GeneralBy: Mary Kavaney, AAG
Third-party defendant's attorney:

Signature date:
December 18, 2000
New York

Official citation:

Appellate results:

See also (multicaptioned case)

Pro se claimant Darryl Heppard alleges that he was wrongly confined in administrative segregation and then transferred from a medium to maximum security correctional facility because he was a "participating member" of the Nation of Islam. The claim was tried on August 1, 2000 at Mid-Orange Correctional Facility. Heppard testified on his own behalf; defendant called no witnesses.
Claimant stated that on March 18, 1999, there occurred what he described as a "slowage" at Otisville Correctional Facility, meaning that inmates were walking slowly to mess hall. He testified that he was immediately moved to the Special Housing Unit ("SHU") on administrative segregation status because an informant had falsely accused him of being an "orchestrator" of the "slowage" or slowdown. Claimant's Exhibit 1, a March 19, 1999 "Administrative Segregation Recommendation" states, in relevant part:

Based on a very reliable confidential source, inmate Heppard . . . is involved in organizing this on-going demonstration (along with other inmates). Placement in [administrative segregation] is recommended to limit the effect [and] duration of this mass demonstration. This confidential source has been credible in the past.

Heppard recalled that he was in the SHU for eight days and was then given a hearing, at which he pleaded "not guilty," stating that he had nothing to do with the slowdown. He said that he was found "guilty" on the grounds that the informant was a reliable source and that after claimant was placed in the SHU, the facility had returned to normal. See also Exhibit 2, claimant's "Administrative Segregation Hearing Determination."

Heppard recounted that he was then transferred from Otisville Correctional Facility to the SHU at Ulster Correctional Facility, where he stayed until April 8, 1999. Thereafter, he was transferred to Clinton Correctional Facility, a maximum security facility. He said that at Clinton, he was released into the general population. After 45 days at Clinton, he was transferred to Franklin Correctional Facility, where he remained for two months, after which he was transferred to Adirondack Correctional Facility. He said that at some point he was told by a counselor that he had been transferred because he had had trouble with other inmates and because he had been involved in a disturbance at Otisville, noting that "everything always went back to Otisville." Heppard later added that he was informed he had been transferred because of threats on his life. He recounted that at his July 26, 2000 Parole Board hearing, his institutional disciplinary record was read, and it was stated that he had been an instigator of the Otisville slowdown.

Claimant asserted that thirty inmates were accused of being orchestrators of the slowage, but he was the only one who was put in administrative segregation, while all of the others were given disciplinary tickets that were ultimately "overturned." He contended that he was treated differently in this regard because he was a member of the Nation of Islam. However, he acknowledged that of the thirty inmates, fourteen also belonged to the Nation of Islam.
* * *
Section 301.4(b) of 7 NYCRR provides that "[a]dministrative segregation admission results from a determination by the facility that the [inmate's] presence in general population would pose a threat to the safety and security of the facility." Section 301.4(a) provides that following admission to administrative segregation, a hearing must be conducted within 14 days. As set forth above, Heppard was admitted to administrative segregation because an informant had reported that claimant was involved in organizing the facility slowage. No evidence was presented to show that this admission was not consistent with §301.4(b). Moreover,
"corrections personnel are entitled to absolute immunity for those ‘discretionary decisions in furtherance of general policies and purposes where the exercise of reasoned judgment can produce different acceptable results.'" Minieri v State of New York, 204 AD2d 982, 613 NYS2d 510, 511 (4th Dept 1994) (citation omitted). It should also be noted that "[d]isciplinary proceedings in correctional facilities that are conducted consistent with the applicable rules and regulations are covered with a blanket of immunity. . . The fact that claimant was ultimately found not guilty of the charge does not give rise to a viable claim." Brown v State of New York, Claim Nos. 94875 and 94876, unreported decision filed October 27, 1998 (Bell, J.). In this case, with no evidence that he was ultimately found not guilty, claimant presented no evidence that any applicable rules or regulations had been violated by the facility.[1]
As to the allegation of discrimination, claimant's assertion of disparate treatment is belied by the evidence he presented – of the thirty inmates involved, nearly half were fellow members of the Nation of Islam, but Heppard was the only one placed in administrative segregation.

Finally, as to his transfers between facilities,
such decision "lies within the discretion of the Commissioner of Corrections . . ." Gregg v Scully, 108 AD2d 748, 749, 485 NYS2d 94, 96 (2d Dept 1985), lv denied, 65 NY2d 601, 491 NYS2d 1026 (1985). See also Taylor v Kennedy, 159 AD2d 827, 553 NYS2d 62, 63 (3d Dept 1990) ("Nor does [an inmate] have a right to serve his sentence in any particular facility . . .").
For the foregoing reasons, the claim of Darryl Heppard is

December 18, 2000
New York, New York

Judge of the Court of Claims

  1. [1]There is some discrepancy as to the timing of claimant's hearing. He stated that it was conducted eight days after his admission to the SHU on March 18, 1999. Exhibit 2 indicates that the hearing was conducted on March 30, 1999. In any event, however, the hearing was conducted within less than the permissible 14 days.