New York State Court of Claims

New York State Court of Claims

SEALEY v. THE STATE OF NEW YORK, #2001-030-512, Claim No. 97855


Inmate's claim alleging excessive wrongful confinement, denial of recreation, sustained.

Damages $85.00

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:
Defendant's attorney:
HON. ELIOT SPITZER Attorney General of the State of New York By: Deborah Scalise, Assistant Attorney General
Third-party defendant's attorney:

Signature date:
October 4, 2001
White Plains

Official citation:

Appellate results:

See also (multicaptioned case)

Jalah Sealey, the Claimant herein, alleges in Claim number 97855 that he was wrongfully confined at Sing Sing Correctional Facility (hereafter Sing Sing) for a period of 20 days. The trial of the matter was held at Sing Sing on August 7, 2001.

The Claimant relied upon the factual allegations and attachments contained in his claim, as well as his own testimony at trial. He testified that he had been transported to Sing Sing on November 27, 1997 from Adirondack Correctional Facility (hereafter Adirondack), "a medium security facility," [1]
[See, 7 NYCRR § 100.6], for the purpose of a deposition in an unrelated case. He was housed in HBC 4 company, cell 212 in the Special Housing Unit (hereafter SHU). He asserted he had neither sought protective custody, nor was he under any disciplinary punishment.
After his deposition was taken on December 2, 1997, Claimant remained at Sing Sing in the same cell until December 17, 1997. Claimant testified he was let out of his cell only for the deposition, and to take a shower. Although he was required to have 1 hour of daily exercise per departmental regulations, he was "denied rec." [
See, 7 NYCRR § 304.3].
His verbal complaints were met with the answer that he was on "hold over" status, but no one did anything about getting him out. He wrote to the Magistrate who had had him transported there for the deposition, and to the head clerk (in Sing Sing) on December 15, 1997. The Clerk wrote back saying he would be returning to Adirondack "this week". [Claim No. 97855, Attachment, Letter from Claimant to head clerk with response dated December 15, 1997]. He was returned to Adirondack on December 17, 1997.

Varudhese George, a Correction Sergeant at Sing Sing familiar with policies and procedures, also testified. In 1997 he had been working the "medium security part of the prison called Tappan." Although he did not know the Claimant, he was able to testify generally about procedures for inmates entering the prison for the purpose of a deposition.

Sergeant George testified that an inmate coming in from another facility as a "detention admission" - the status this Claimant would have - would generally be placed in HB 5 building: a part of Tappan. If no space were available, the facility would be within its rights to place the inmate in "any part of the prison, including SHU, according to Directive 4933." No copy of the directive referred to was furnished to the court. Initially, any inmate first coming in to Sing Sing would be "placed on keeplock status, anywhere in the jail," for a minimum period of 3 days, while the authorities did a security check to ascertain whether he had, for example, any enemies in the facility. While placed in that status, the inmate is essentially not allowed out of his cell. After that, he would be entitled to a minimum of 1 hour of recreation while in SHU.

The quasi-judicial acts of correction employees taken in furtherance of authorized disciplinary measures are entitled to absolute immunity.
Arteaga v State of New York, 72 NY2d 212, 219-220 (1988). Based upon Claimant's credible - and uncontradicted - testimony, it would appear that the correction officers took essentially no action throughout the period of his incarceration at Sing Sing. There were no disciplinary proceedings pending and, on this record, it is impossible to ascertain if defendant's employees acted within the scope of their discretionary functions in keeping this claimant in SHU without any hearing or even any articulable rationale. The witness called by the state did not know the particulars of this Claimant's situation, and by his testimony buttressed the Claimant's position that Claimant was deprived of the recreation required for the period asserted. This is inconsistent with defendant's own rules and regulations. Arteaga, supra.,Gittens v State of New York, 132 Misc.2d 399 (N.Y. Ct. Claims 1986); c.f.: Holloway v State of New York, ___AD2d___ , 728 NYS2d 567 (3d Dept. 2001).
To establish a
prima facie case of wrongful confinement, a "species" of the tort of false imprisonment, [Gittens, supra., at 407], a claimant must show "...(1) the defendant intended to confine him, (2) the...[claimant] was conscious of the confinement, (3) the...[claimant] did not consent to the confinement and (4) the confinement was not otherwise privileged...." Broughton v State of New York, 37 NY2d 451,456 (1975). In this case the claimant has established, without contradiction, all four elements.
Defendant's regulations require that inmates be permitted exercise outside of their cells for at least 1 hour per day. 7 NYCRR 304.3. This Claimant was denied that opportunity for his entire 20 day stay at Sing Sing. According to Sergeant George's testimony, the facility's policies require that an inmate remain in keeplock status for the first 3 days of his stay. Accordingly, the Claimant was deprived of the opportunity for recreation for a period 17 days. He is hereby awarded a total of $85.00 ($5.00 per day) for this deprivation.
Graham v State of New York, Claim No. 91653 (unreported decision, filed November 15, 1999, Patti, J.).
Defendant's motion to dismiss, reserved on at the time of trial, is hereby denied.

Let Judgment be entered accordingly.

October 4, 2001
White Plains, New York

Judge of the Court of Claims

[1]All quotations are to trial notes or audio tapes unless otherwise indicated.