This claim arose in June 1997 at Wende Correctional Facility (Wende), when
Claimant was charged with a disciplinary violation and sentenced to 90 days in
keeplock. He seeks to recover money damages for the time that he was confined
to his cell because, he alleges, certain witnesses who would have provided
relevant testimony were not interviewed or allowed to testify at the
disciplinary hearing. These witnesses were Mr. Gilmartin, of the facility's
Program Committee; Superintendent Frank E. Irvin; and Acting Superintendent for
Programs, Leslie Becker. Claimant's conviction was subsequently reversed on
September 2, 1997 on the ground that these witnesses were not interviewed (Claim
- Attachment A), and Claimant was released from keeplock at that time.
Claimant was charged with five violations: refusing a direct order, threats
spoken or by gesture, conduct disturbing the order of the facility, lock-in
procedures, and failure to accept a program assignment. The witnesses that he
sought to have interviewed, according to Claimant, could have provided
information relevant to the reasons he received a program reassignment, reasons
that he contends were improper.
The judicial and quasi-judicial acts of correction employees in bringing
disciplinary charges and conducting disciplinary hearings are entitled to
absolute immunity (
Arteaga v State of New York
, 72 NY2d 212). Thus, when the only acts
complained of are discretionary in nature, an inmate is not entitled to recover
damages for wrongful confinements imposed as the result of a disciplinary
proceeding, even when it results in a conviction that is ultimately overturned
(Melette v State of New York
, 163 AD2d 703). Where, however, a prison
disciplinary hearing is not conducted in accordance with governing rules and
regulations, liability may result (see, e.g., Kasiem v State of
, Ct Cl, Aug. 28, 2001 [Claim No. 101387 - Motion M-63784], Lebous,
J. [MacLaw No. 2001-019-561]; Varela v
State of New York
, Ct Cl, Aug. 23, 2000 [Claim No. 97607 - Motion No.
M-62078], McNamara, J. [MacLaw No. 2000-011-573]). Proof of such a rule
violation removes the protection of absolute immunity from the disciplinary
proceeding, but the inmate must still prove his or her case on its merits
(Kilpatrick v State of New York
, Ct Cl, Dec. 21, 2001 [Claim No. 100462 -
Motion No. 64030], Patti J. [MacLaw No. 2001-013-031]; Moreno v State of New
, Ct Cl, April 5, 2001 [Claim No. 100335], Bell, J. [MacLaw No.
2001-007-551]). Even if the investigating officer's failure to interview the
named witnesses was a clear violation of a governing rule or regulation,
Claimant has nevertheless failed to prove that he was, in fact, innocent of all
of the charges brought against him. While he may have had valid reasons for
objecting to his program assignment, failing to obey orders, making threats,
disturbing the order of the facility, and refusing to lock in are nevertheless
punishable offenses and might well have warranted the sentence that was imposed.
Consequently, Claimant has not met his burden of proving that his confinement in
keeplock was wrongful and he is not entitled to damages.
Accordingly, the Chief Clerk is directed to enter judgment dismissing the
All motions not heretofore ruled upon are denied.
LET JUDGMENT BE ENTERED ACCORDINGLY.