New York State Court of Claims

New York State Court of Claims

RODRIGUEZ v. THE STATE OF NEW YORK, #2001-015-124, Claim No. 098533, Motion No. M-62689


Inmate claim seeking equitable relief and money damages for intentional infliction of emotional harm, improper punishment resulting from disciplinary proceedings, cruel and inhumane treatment under the NYS Constitution and harm to inmate's institutional reputation dismissed for failure to state a cause of action and for lack of jurisdiction.

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:
Edwin Rodriguez, Pro SeNo Appearances
Defendant's attorney:
Honorable Eliot Spitzer, Attorney GeneralBy: Timothy P. Mulvey, Esquire
Third-party defendant's attorney:

Signature date:
February 20, 2001
Saratoga Springs

Official citation:

Appellate results:

See also (multicaptioned case)


The defendant's motion seeking an order dismissing the claim for failure to state a cause of action and for lack of subject matter jurisdiction is granted. This is a claim by a pro se inmate alleging
"(a) psychological torture, mentally and emotionally. (b) constant harass. (c) consecutive false statements. (d) consecutive false misbehavior report. (e) consecutive illegal punishment. (f) consecutive violation of grievance procedure law. (g) abuse of authority. (h) unfair hearing" [sic]
Claimant alleges that correction officers at Oneida Correctional Facility took certain retaliatory actions against him, including the filing of a false misbehavior report, because he complained about having his sleep disturbed by a correction officer. Specifically, claimant asserts that the correction officers violated applicable grievance procedures by preemptively issuing an allegedly false misbehavior report charging him with refusing a direct order and interference with an employee because they were aware that claimant intended to file a grievance regarding the incident involving the disturbance of his sleep on December 20, 1997. Claimant further alleges that the assigned Hearing Officer (Lieutenant Jon Ricker) rendered an "unfair and partial disposition" after the Tier II hearing by finding claimant guilty and sentencing him to the loss of 30 days recreation. Claimant filed an administrative appeal from the Hearing Officer's determination which was denied by the Deputy Superintendent of Security. Claimant alleges that as a result of the filing of the misbehavior report and the subsequent proceedings thereon he has been affected emotionally and mentally; correction officers have been authorized to file false reports; claimant has been subjected to discrimination, harassment and abuse and, finally, that his institutional record has been tarnished. For these reasons claimant seeks monetary damages as well as equitable relief determining his punishment to have been illegal and expunging the misbehavior report from his prison record.

On a pre-answer motion to dismiss a claim for failure to state a cause of action the Court is required to afford the pleading a liberal construction, accept claimant's allegations as true and accord him the benefit of every possible favorable inference (Parker v State of New York, 242 AD2d 785, 786). Viewing the instant claim in the manner required, the Court concludes that claimant has failed to state a viable cause of action and further concludes that the Court lacks jurisdiction to entertain the claim.

In asserting that this Court does not have jurisdiction the defendant relies on Arteaga v State of New York, 72 NY2d 212, for the proposition that matters of prison discipline are fully protected by sovereign immunity. In that case, inmates in a State correctional facility sued the State alleging unlawful confinement resulting from the prosecution of disciplinary charges against them. Justice Hancock writing for the majority (at p. 214) held as follows:
Their appeals from an order affirming the dismissal of their claims present a common issue: whether the State is immune from liability for the actions of employees of the Department of Correctional Services in commencing and conducting formal disciplinary proceedings. We hold that where, as here, the employees act under the authority of and in full compliance with the governing statutes and regulations (Correction Law §§112, 137; 7 NYCRR parts 250-254), their actions constitute discretionary conduct of a quasi-judicial nature for which the State has absolute immunity (see, Tarter v State of New York, 68 NY2d 511; Tango v Tulevech, 61 NY2d 34).
In the instant case, claimant seeks to recover damages based upon the filing of what he alleged was a false misbehavior report and the conduct of a Tier II hearing which resulted in what he deemed an unfair determination of guilt. Claimant, in addition to money damages, seeks equitable relief in the nature of the reversal of his conviction on the misbehavior charge and its removal from his prison record. Clearly, the activity of prison officials complained of in this claim, including the filing of the misbehavior report and the issuance of the Hearing Officer's determination, were discretionary or quasi-judicial acts subject to sovereign immunity as determined by the Court of Appeals in Arteaga,(supra) and for which correctional personnel are provided absolute immunity. As a result, this Court is deprived of jurisdiction to entertain this claim.

Even if this were not the case the instant claim, viewed liberally, fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted. If the Court were to infer from its averments that claimant was seeking to state a claim for intentional infliction of emotional harm by the correction officers, it is well settled that such a claim may not be maintained against the State (see, Wheeler v State of New York, 104 AD2d 496, 498). Moreover, punishment (loss of recreation for 30 days which was suspended) imposed on a sustained charge of misbehavior is said to be privileged (see, Lee v State of New York 124 AD2d 305; Edmonson v State of New York, 132 Misc 2d 452). The State does not recognize a cause of action for injury to one's institutional reputation brought by a prison inmate based upon the filing of a misbehavior report. Nor is the Court persuaded that the claim states a cause of action under the State Constitution for cruel and inhuman treatment upon the facts alleged despite claimant's use of the words "psychological torture, mentally and emotionally." Finally, lacking any opposition to this motion, there is nothing here to support claimant's assertion that the filing of the misbehavior report was retaliatory. The allegation on its face amounts to mere speculation on the part of the claimant.

Accordingly, the instant claim fails to state a cause of action and the defendant's motion to dismiss the claim is granted.

February 20, 2001
Saratoga Springs, New York

Judge of the Court of Claims

The Court considered the following papers:
  1. Notice of motion to dismiss claim dated November 6, 2000;
  2. Affirmation of Timothy P. Mulvey, dated November 6, 2000, with exhibits.