New York State Court of Claims

New York State Court of Claims

JACKSON v. THE STATE OF NEW YORK, #2001-015-198, Claim No. 104689, Motion Nos. M-63928, M-63952


Synopsis


Claim seeking to recover damages for improper handling of claimant's grievance based upon alleged overcrowding of TV room during gym construction project dismissed for lack of subject matter jurisdiction since it as based entirely on allegations of violations of 8th and 14th Amendments to the United States Constitution.

Case Information

UID:
2001-015-198
Claimant(s):
SAMUEL L. JACKSON The caption of this claim has been amended sua sponte to reflect the only properly named defendant.
Claimant short name:
JACKSON
Footnote (claimant name) :

Defendant(s):
THE STATE OF NEW YORK
Footnote (defendant name) :
The caption of this claim has been amended sua sponte to reflect the only properly named defendant.
Third-party claimant(s):

Third-party defendant(s):

Claim number(s):
104689
Motion number(s):
M-63928, M-63952
Cross-motion number(s):

Judge:
FRANCIS T. COLLINS
Claimant's attorney:
Samuel L. Jackson, Pro Se
Defendant's attorney:
Honorable Eliot Spitzer, Attorney General
G. Lawrence Dillon, EsquireAssistant Attorney General
Third-party defendant's attorney:

Signature date:
November 5, 2001
City:
Saratoga Springs
Comments:

Official citation:

Appellate results:

See also (multicaptioned case)


Decision

Defendant's motion to dismiss the instant claim for lack of subject matter jurisdiction is granted. Claimant's motion pursuant to CPLR § 1101 et seq to proceed as a poor person relieving him of any obligation to pay costs, fees and expenses incurred in the prosecution of the claim and awarding him attorney's fees in lieu of assigning an attorney to represent him is denied as moot.

The claim filed on August 6, 2001 seeks to recover damages in the amount of $50,000.00 for the alleged violation of claimant's constitutional rights guaranteed by the 8th and 14th Amendments to the United States Constitution together with witness and attorney's fees. The claim alleges that on May 22, 2001 at Oneida Correctional Facility claimant was required to remain in an overcrowded recreation (TV) room at the facility in which a fight involving two or more inmates occurred thereby subjecting him to danger and causing him to fear for his physical safety. Claimant alleges that the overcrowding occurred as a result of the closing of the gymnasium for repairs and the fact that inclement weather prevented inmates from using the outdoor recreation yard. He alleges that the capacity of the TV room was exceeded by at least double its occupancy rate and that the failure of the Superintendent to prevent such overcrowding demonstrated "deliberate indifference" on his part to the claimant's safety.

The claim further alleges a violation of claimant's 14th Amendment right to due process based upon the treatment of a facility grievance which claimant filed regarding the alleged overcrowding. Specifically, he alleges that his grievance should not have been combined with another inmate's grievance; that it should not have been passed on "to his office"[1] without grievant/claimant's consent; and that grievant/claimant should have been afforded a hearing. He alleges that the Superintendent's written acceptance "in part" of the grievance is an admission of guilt.

The State, in a pre-answer motion, moved to dismiss the claim which it referred to as an "amended claim" in the caption and a "proposed claim" in the body of the notice of motion. The Court finds the claim should not have been so characterized. The motion purports to be made pursuant to CPLR 3211 (a) (2) and (a) (8) alleging a lack of subject matter jurisdiction and personal jurisdiction over the defendant.

Although defendant's argument on the motion is primarily focused on the lack of specific facts upon which liability of the State may be predicated, the Court's attention is more appropriately directed to the issue of subject matter jurisdiction arising from the nature of the claim itself; looking not to what it fails to allege but rather to what it does allege. It appears to this Court, not only from the clear language of the claim but also from the case law which the claimant cites in opposition to the State's motion, that claimant has predicated this claim upon rights which he believes are guaranteed by the United States Constitution generally and by the 8th and 14th Amendments thereto in particular.

It is well established that claims alleging violations of an individual's rights under the United States Constitution are not subject to adjudication in the Court of Claims (Brown v State of New York, 89 NY2d 172, 184; Ferrer v State of New York, 172 Misc 2d 1). Nor is the State a "person" amenable to suit under 42 USC § 1983 (Ferrick v State of New York, 198 AD2d 822; Thomas, Matter of, v New York Temporary State Comm. on Regulation of Lobbying, 83 AD2d 723, affd 56 NY2d 656). Accordingly, the claimant's attempt to predicate liability against the State upon alleged violations of the 8th and 14th Amendments to the United States Constitution is unavailing.

Claimant's attempt to recover damages for the alleged violation of his constitutional rights under the due process clause stemming from the handling of a facility grievance is likewise without merit. In the claim it is alleged that claimant's due process rights were violated by combining the claimant's grievance with the grievance of another, by passing it "to his office" without grievant's consent, and by failing to conduct a hearing upon the filed grievance. Claimant does not allege the violation of any specific statute, rule, regulation or Department of Correctional Services' directive. Moreover, judicial review of a determination of a DOCS official resulting from an inmate grievance procedure is confined to an article 78 proceeding in the Supreme Court (see, Bunny, Matter of, v Coughlin, 187 AD2d 119; Patterson, Matter of, v Smith, 53 NY2d 98; Hall, Matter of, v State of New York Dept. of Corrections, 88 AD2d 1102) upon a showing that grievant has exhausted all administrative remedies. This Court lacks subject matter jurisdiction to review the superintendent's determination of claimant's grievance and of related procedural matters or to award money damages for any irregularity which may have occurred in processing the inmate's grievance.

Accordingly, the defendant's motion is granted and the claim is dismissed in its entirety. The dismissal of the claim renders claimant's motion for poor person status moot and it is hereby denied for that reason.


November 5, 2001
Saratoga Springs, New York

HON. FRANCIS T. COLLINS
Judge of the Court of Claims


The Court considered the following papers:
  1. Notice of motion dated July 23, 2001;
  2. Affidavit of Samuel L. Jackson sworn to July 23, 2001 with exhibit.
  3. Notice of motion dated August 15, 2001;
  4. Affirmation of G. Lawrence Dillon dated August 15, 2001 with exhibits;
  5. "Rebuttal" of Samuel L. Jackson sworn to August 28, 2001.

[1]Claimant does not identify to whom he refers but for purposes of the motion it will be deemed to refer to the Superintendent of the Oneida Correctional Facility.