New York State Court of Claims

New York State Court of Claims

RAMOS v. THE STATE OF NEW YORK, #2000-029-017, Claim No. 94496


Synopsis


Prisoner - Wrongful, excessive confinement. Released 29 days after hearing disposition reversed. $10.00 per day for the 29 days.

Case Information

UID:
2000-029-017
Claimant(s):
LUIS RAMOS
Claimant short name:
RAMOS
Footnote (claimant name) :

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

Third-party claimant(s):

Third-party defendant(s):

Claim number(s):
94496
Motion number(s):

Cross-motion number(s):

Judge:
STEPHEN J. MIGNANO
Claimant's attorney:
Luis Ramos, Pro Se
Defendant's attorney:
Hon. Eliot Spitzer
Attorney General of the State of New YorkBy: Elyse Angelico, Esq., Assistant Attorney General
Third-party defendant's attorney:

Signature date:
September 8, 2000
City:
White Plains
Comments:

Official citation:

Appellate results:

See also (multicaptioned case)



Decision

This claim, by a
pro se claimant, seeks recovery for damages allegedly sustained for wrongfully confining claimant to his cell on keeplock status. The trial of this claim was held on August 17, 2000 at Sing Sing Correctional Facility (hereinafter Sing Sing).
At trial, claimant testified essentially as follows: (1) he was issued a misbehavior report on March 19, 1996 and that a disciplinary hearing regarding the charges contained on that report was held on March 25, 1996; (2) he was found guilty and a penalty was imposed which included 90 days keeplock with 60 days to be served and 30 days suspended; (3) he received a second misbehavior report on March 20, 1996 and the disciplinary hearing was held on March 27, 1996; (4) at that hearing, claimant was found guilty and a penalty was imposed, which included 10 days keeplock time.

Claimant stated that as a result of the first disciplinary hearing he was on keeplock status from March 19, 1996 through May 18, 1996 (60 days), and as a result of the second disciplinary hearing he was on keeplock status from May 19, 1996 through May 28, 1996 (10 days).

Claimant further testified that he received a third misbehavior report on April 18, 1996 and a disciplinary hearing was held on May 3, 1996 regarding these charges[1]
, and he was found guilty. The penalty imposed in the third disciplinary proceeding included 30 days of keeplock time with the notation "INV" (see Exh. B). This notation appears to indicate that the thirty days in question was not an imposition of new penalties, but rather a revival of previously suspended penalties.[2] As a result of the third disciplinary hearing, claimant's time in keeplock was extended from May 28, 1996 to June 27, 1996. It is this period which claimant asserts constituted "wrongful confinement".
Claimant stated that on May 30, 1996 he received notice of the determination of his administrative appeal challenging the March 25, 1996 disciplinary action. The modification order from Donald Selsky, Director of Special Housing, representing the Commissioner of the Department of Correctional Services, modified the sentence imposed on March 25, 1996 and removed all suspended penalties.[3]
Claimant asserts that the thirty day "invoked" time that he served was, in fact, not available to be so "invoked" by virtue of this modification.
Claimant's argument is persuasively buttressed by his Inmate Disciplinary History, which indicates that the penalty imposed on March 25, 1996 was modified by Director Selsky (see Exh. A). No such notation appears anywhere else in the history. Thus, the State's own records indicate that the March 25 penalty was the only penalty modified. On the evidence presented to the Court, I can only conclude that claimant's uncontradicted assertions are correct and the "invoked" 30 day sentence was unavailable for reimposition as of May 30, 1996. Further, giving the benefit of every doubt, defendant clearly had notice of this modification not later than May 30, 1996. Thus, this Court must find that the claimant's confinement from May 30, 1996 to June 27, 1996 was wrongful, despite the possibility that the facility could have imposed the same sentence without the necessity of invoking a prior penalty.

In
Arteaga v State of New York (72 NY2d 212), the Court of Appeals held that the State has absolute immunity from liability in the area of prison discipline when its employees act under the authority of and in full compliance with the statutes and regulations and their actions constitute discretionary conduct of a quasi-judicial nature.
In the case at bar, claimant does not assert that the proper rules and regulations were not followed in issuing misbehavior reports or holding disciplinary hearings, nor does he assert that he was improperly confined to his cell prior to the hearing on any of the three misbehavior reports cited above. Rather, claimant asserts that he should have been released from keeplock on May 30, 1996 when the modification order was received. On the record before the Court, claimant is correct.

Despite the State's argument,
Arteaga (72 NY2d 212) does not apply in the present situation. Arteaga immunizes those disciplinary decisions and actions of correction personnel that are prosecutorial or quasi-judicial in nature; it does not provide immunity for actions that are without authority or in violation of governing rules and regulations (McGowan v State of New York, Claim No. 79712, filed July 25, 1991, Benza, J.; Rivera v State of New York, Claim No. 73365, filed June 4, 1990, Benza J.). Here, claimant's wrongful and excessive confinement resulted from a ministerial error (the failure to keep track of the appeal disposition and resultant change in release date) rather than a discretionary decision and defendant's actions are not entitled to immunity (Tango v Tulevech, 61 NY2d 34).
Claimant is awarded the sum of $10.00 per day for each day of wrongful, excessive confinement, for a total of $290.00.

In his claim, claimant also asserted a cause of action for mental anguish and distress because he was unable to see a chaplain after he received correspondence from his wife on June 5, 1996. At trial, claimant presented no evidence regarding this cause of action and it is deemed abandoned and dismissed.

The Chief Clerk is directed to enter judgment accordingly.


September 8, 2000
White Plains, New York

HON. STEPHEN J. MIGNANO
Judge of the Court of Claims




[1]
The Court notes that Exhibit B (Disciplinary Hearing Disposition Rendered Form) indicates that the hearing for the April 18, 1996 incident was held on April 30, 1996 at 1:31 p.m. Claimant received the disposition form on May 3, 1996.
[2]
This interpretation of the notation "INV" is drawn solely from claimant's testimony, which was uncontradicted in any manner by the State.
[3]
See Exhibit 5 to the Verified Claim.