New York State Court of Claims

New York State Court of Claims

PLAIR v. THE STATE OF NEW YORK, #2000-029-023, Claim No. 95693


Synopsis


Prisoner - alleged wrongful confinement to keeplock. Disciplinary hearing untimely held; held nine days after misbehavior report issued rather than seven days allowed by DOCS rules. Court awards claimant damages for two days wrongful confinement.

Case Information

UID:
2000-029-023
Claimant(s):
NAHRUE PLAIR
Claimant short name:
PLAIR
Footnote (claimant name) :

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

Third-party claimant(s):

Third-party defendant(s):

Claim number(s):
95693
Motion number(s):

Cross-motion number(s):

Judge:
STEPHEN J. MIGNANO
Claimant's attorney:
Nahrue Plair, 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 28, 2000
City:
White Plains
Comments:

Official citation:

Appellate results:

See also (multicaptioned case)



Decision

The claim alleges that claimant, an inmate appearing
pro se, was wrongfully confined to his cell at Sing Sing Correctional Facility (hereinafter Sing Sing) for a period of ten (10) days. The trial of this claim was held at Sing Sing on September 21, 2000.
At trial, claimant was the only person to testify and established that: (1) an inmate at Sing Sing was assaulted on November 12, 1996 at about 11:50 a.m.; (2) the inmate accused claimant of the assault; (3) claimant was placed in keeplock confinement on November 12, 1996; (4) a Superintendent's Hearing was held on November 21, 1996, regarding the November 12, 1996 incident; (5) claimant was found not guilty of the charges on the basis of insufficient evidence and he was released from keeplock status on November 21, 1996.

7 NYCRR § 251-5.1 (a) provides as follows:

Where an inmate is confined pending a disciplinary hearing or superintendent's hearing, the hearing must be commenced as soon as is reasonably practicable following the inmate's initial confinement pending said disciplinary hearing or superintendent's hearing, but in no event may it be commenced beyond seven days of said confinement without authorization of the commissioner or his designee.

Here, claimant's uncontroverted testimony is that he was confined to his cell on November 12, 1996, the date of the assault. It was also established that the disciplinary hearing was not held until November 21, 1996, nine (9) days after he was confined to his cell. Thus, the hearing was not timely commenced in accordance with § 251-5.1 (a)

It is further noted that 7 NYCRR § 251-5.1 (b) provides:

The disciplinary hearing or superintendent's hearing must be completed within 14 days following the writing of the misbehavior report unless otherwise authorized by the commissioner or his designee. Where a delay is authorized, the record of the hearing should reflect the reasons for any delay or adjournment, and an inmate should ordinarily be made aware of these reasons unless to do so would jeopardize institutional safety or correctional goals.

No evidence was presented at trial to establish that an extension, as authorized by the rules, was granted or even requested by Sing Sing officials.

At trial, defendant relied on
Arteaga v State of New York (72 NY2d 212), claiming the immunities found therein. This reliance is misplaced.
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 (see, Covington v State of New York, Claim No. 74324, filed September 14, 1988, McMahon, J.). Here, claimant's excessive confinement was in the nature of a ministerial error rather than a discretionary decision that is prosecutorial or quasi-judicial in nature (Bailey v State of New York, Claim No. 87427, filed September 13, 1994, Benza, J.; Rivera v State of New York, Claim No. 73365, filed June 4, 1990, Benza, J.). "No discretion or independent judgment is involved in calculating the number of days that an inmate has been confined to his cell on a single misbehavior report; the alleged wrongful act, therefore, is wholly ministerial" (Gayle v State of New York), 135 Misc 2d 570, 573).
Accordingly, we find the State liable. However, we limit claimant's damages to the two-day period by which the confinement exceeded that authorized by the applicable rules and regulations. Claimant had sought damages for the entire period of his confinement to keeplock status, but there is nothing in the record to indicate that his initial confinement was other than privileged and in conformance with the regulations. Thus, the initial seven-day confinement is considered a discretionary action of correction personal that is prosecutorial or quasi-judicial in nature and is entitled to absolute immunity pursuant to
Arteaga (supra).
Claimant is awarded the sum of $10.00 per day for two days of wrongful confinement, for a total of $20.00. The Chief Clerk is directed to enter judgment accordingly.


September 28, 2000
White Plains, New York

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