New York State Court of Claims

New York State Court of Claims

MARTOCCI v. COUNTY OF ULSTER, et. al., #2001-028-557, Claim No. 104345, Motion Nos. M-63627, M-63660, M-63690, M-63692, M-63856


Synopsis


Motions to dismiss claim granted. Court lacks jurisdiction over individuals, town and county. Supreme Court and Appellate Division justices are entitled to absolute judicial immunity for their roles in deciding underlying Supreme Court litigation.

Case Information

UID:
2001-028-557
Claimant(s):
JOHN AND THERESA MARTOCCI
Claimant short name:
MARTOCCI
Footnote (claimant name) :

Defendant(s):
COUNTY OF ULSTER(Albert Spada), TOWN OF SAUGERTIES (Justice Court), DANIEL A. BOONS, GILBERT DeMARE (Surveyor)and RICHARD C. BROOKS (Surveyor)
Footnote (defendant name) :

Third-party claimant(s):

Third-party defendant(s):

Claim number(s):
104345
Motion number(s):
M-63627, M-63660, M-63690, M-63692, M-63856
Cross-motion number(s):

Judge:
RICHARD E. SISE
Claimant's attorney:
JOHN and THERESA MARTOCCI, pro se
Defendant's attorney:
HON. ELIOT SPITZER, ATTORNEY GENERAL
BY: Michele M. Walls, Esq. Assistant Attorney General
Third-party defendant's attorney:

Signature date:
September 6, 2001
City:
Albany
Comments:

Official citation:

Appellate results:

See also (multicaptioned case)


Decision

The following papers were read on the pre-answer motions to dismiss the claim:


Motion No.: M-63627

  1. Notice of Motion and supporting affidavit of J. Philip Zand, Esq. filed June 18, 2001 (Zand Affidavit);
  1. "Notice of Motion To Denie [sic] Dismissl [sic] of Claim" filed June 20, 2001 (Martocci Opposition), with annexed exhibits;

Motion No.: M-63660

  1. Notice of Motion and supporting affidavit of Scott C. Paton, Esq. filed June 22, 2001 (Paton Affidavit);
  1. Opposition: None

Motion No.: M-63690

  1. Notice of Motion and supporting affirmation of Assistant Attorney General Michele M. Walls, filed June 28, 2001 (Walls Affirmation), with annexed
Exhibit A;

  1. Opposition: None

Motion No.: M-63692

  1. Notice of Motion and supporting affidavit of Francis T. Murray, Esq. filed June 29, 2001 (Murray Affidavit);
  1. Opposition: None.

MOTION NO.: M-63856

  1. Notice of Motion and supporting affirmation of Assistant Attorney General Michele M. Walls, filed July 31, 2001 (Walls II), with annexed
Exhibits A -B;


Filed Papers: Claim, filed May 29, 2001 and Amended Claim filed July 11, 2001.

Claimants, John Martocci and Theresa Martocci (Martoccis) commenced this action seeking damages from the named defendants following unsuccessful litigation to establish title to a riverfront parcel of land in the Town of Saugerties, Ulster County, New York. A judgment of the Supreme Court entered May 27, 1998 in Ulster County, upon a decision in favor of the Martoccis was reversed on appeal and the Martoccis were barred from all claims to an estate or interest in the parcel (see, Boons v Martocci, 268 AD2d 616, 620, lv to appeal denied Boons v Martocci, 94 NY2d 765). The Martoccis appear herein pro se.

The defendants County of Ulster (Ulster), Daniel A. Boons (Boons) and Richard C. Brooks (Brooks) each move for an order of dismissal asserting that the Court lacks jurisdiction pursuant to Court of Claims Act § 9. The State of New York, although not named a defendant, has moved for dismissal for the failure to state a claim against the State of New York. The Martoccis have opposed only the application of Brooks, pleading ignorance of Court of Claims Act § 9 and expressing frustration at the decision of the Appellate Division which vested title in Boons. While these motions were pending, the Martoccis filed an Amended Claim adding a Supreme Court Justice, the Hon. George L. Cobb, and the five justices of the Appellate Division, Third Department who presided over the appeal in Boons v Martocci, supra, to the case. The allegation against Justice Cobb is incomprehensible, somehow apparently involving a ruling on a motion. The gist of the allegations against the appellate panel is that they simply got it wrong in deciding against the Martoccis (Amended Claim)[2]. The State has now moved to dismiss the amended claim pursuant to CPLR 3211 (a)(2) and (8). The Martoccis opposition did not contain factual or legal arguments which addressed the pending motion other than to state an appeal not to dismiss the case. The attachments indicate that litigation is still proceeding in both the Supreme Court, Ulster County and the Appellate Division, Third Department.

The Court of Claims is not a court of general jurisdiction. Rather, its jurisdiction is limited to that prescribed by statute (see, Court of Claims Act § 9).

The Martoccis have identified the defendants Brooks and DeMare[3] as the surveyors (Claim ¶ 2) for Boons, who was the plaintiff in the underlying Supreme Court litigation. There is no allegation whatsoever that any of these individuals engaged in any conduct under the guise of New York State authority or as employees or agents of the State (see also, Walls Affirmation, ¶6). There being no basis to conclude that any of the individual defendants were "acting as such officers or employees" of the State (Court of Claims Act §9[2]), this Court lacks subject matter jurisdiction.[4]

Similarly, the Claim against Ulster County is premised on an "improper tax auction" (Claim ¶ 2) in failing to "abide by state ruling and law" (Id.) and makes no allegation implicating any state actor. Neither Ulster County, which is generally amenable to suit only in that county (County Law § 52, CPLR § 504, see also, Pandolph v State of New York, 155 Misc 2d 612 [finding jurisdiction lacking in Court of Claims for claim against Olympic Regional Development Authority][5]), nor its employees is subject to the jurisdiction of this Court (Court of Claims Act §9; see, Vasile v the State of New York, [Ct Cl Lebous, J.], Claim No. 99806, Motion No. M-61844, UID #2000-019-535; Williams v State of New York, 90 AD2d 861, Walker v State of New York, 104 Misc 2d 221).[6]

The Court now turns to the State's motion to dismiss the claim. Accepting the factual averments of the claim as true and according Claimants the benefit of all favorable inferences which may be drawn from the pleading, the test on a motion to dismiss pursuant to CPLR 3211(a)(7) is whether Claimants can succeed upon any reasonable view of the facts stated (Campaign for Fiscal Equity v State of New York, 86 NY2d 307). A review of the claim discloses no allegation of wrongdoing by the State of New York, and, as already noted, the individuals were not state officers or employees. Even giving the claim an expansive reading, there is neither an allegation made, nor an inference to be drawn that could possibly implicate the State of New York in the Martoccis' claim. Accordingly, the State's motion to dismiss the Claim pursuant to CPLR 3211(a)(2) and (7 and (8) is granted.

The Court now examines the amended claim. As previously noted, this Court's jurisdiction is limited, and it does not extend to individuals as defendants.[7] Furthermore, this Court also does not sit in review of the Supreme Court, the Appellate Division or the Court of Appeals (see, Court of Claims Act §9 and see, generally CPLR § 5501 [5][b] and [c]; see also, Vasile v State of New York, supra, [Court does not have jurisdiction to intervene in ongoing supreme court matters or to review judicial rulings made in connection therewith]). Moreover, the causes of actions against supreme court justices should be dismissed based upon the doctrine of absolute judicial immunity. (Harley v State of New York, 186 AD2d 324, appeal dismissed 81 NY2d 781). Accordingly, this Court has no jurisdiction over the amended claim which disputes decisions of various supreme court justices.

For the reasons stated above, each of the motions to dismiss are granted and the Claim and Amended Claim are hereby dismissed in their entirety.





September 6, 2001
Albany, New York

HON. RICHARD E. SISE
Judge of the Court of Claims




[1] The Martoccis' submission is timely filed only with regard to motion M-63856, although in it they request that the Court of Claims not dismiss their case.
[2] In deciding this motion, the Court will read the Claim and Amended Claim together, as the Martoccis only included their allegations against the justices in the Amended Claim.
  1. [3]Defendant DeMare has not moved against the Claim or filed an answer. However, the Court, ex mero motu, addresses the jurisdiction issue with regard to DeMare as well (see, Matter of Fry v Village of Tarrytown, 89 NY2d 714, 718; Concourse Nursing Home v State of New York, [Ct Cl Collins, J.], Claim No. 101181, Motion No. M-60960 March 28, 2000).
  2. [4] Even if these individuals were State employees or agents, the Court of Claims does not acquire jurisdiction over individuals. The only proper defendant is the State of New York or certain other public entities (see, i.e. footnote 3, infra).
[5] The Legislature subsequently amended Public Authorities Law § 2622 in 1994 to confer exclusive jurisdiction upon the Court of Claims for claims against the authority to recover damages ... for personal injury arising out of the operation by the authority of any participating Olympic facility owned by the State or of the Gore Mountain Ski Center (L 1994, ch 169, § 93 [codified as subd [4] of Public Authorities Law § 2622]).
[6] The Town of Saugerties has neither appeared nor answered the motion. However, the Court, ex mero motu, dismisses the Claim as against the Town for the same reasons applicable to Ulster County (see also, footnote 1, supra).
[7] As a matter of course, this Court routinely, sua sponte, amends captions to reflect the State of New York, or other appropriate entity, as the only proper party defendant.