Victor Kilpatrick ("Claimant") filed Claim No. 99622 on January 11, 1999,
against the State of New York, alleging that he was illegally confined to
keeplock between April 10 and September 21, 1998. I conducted a trial on
September 19, 2001, at Wende Correctional Facility.
Claimant commenced his case by reading his Affidavit in Support of Claim which
had been appended to his claim and filed with the Court. What follows is a
paraphrasing of that document. Items in quotations are direct quotes from the
Defendant's agents confined Claimant on April 10, 1998, following a Tier III
Superintendent's Hearing for violating "Inmate Standard of Behavior Rule #
113.12, ‘use of a controlled substance'." On April 24, 1998, Correction
Lieutenant Walter conducted a hearing and found Claimant guilty of violating
Rule #113.12. Claimant was sentenced to 180 days of cell confinement, term to
commence April 10, 1998, and end on October 7, 1998.
Claimant then filed an appeal to the Commissioner of the Department of
Correctional Services. He based his appeal on four grounds:
The Commissioner's Office notified Claimant on June 19, 1998, that the hearing
officer's decision was affirmed. Claimant then filed an Article 78 petition in
New York State Supreme Court, Erie County, on August 9, 1998. The matter was
returnable on September 24, 1998.
Then, on September 21, 1998, Claimant received a second notice from the
Commissioner's Office "advising him that on the 21
st day of September 1998, the April 24th 1998 Tier III Superintendent's hearing
determination had again been reviewed and reversed." Claimant was released that
same day and the Article 78 petition was later dismissed as
Claimant alleges Defendant illegally confined him because Defendant's agents
failed to follow proper procedure when they administered the urinalysis test.
Claimant's Exhibit 4 entitled "Request for Urinalysis Test," is the NYS
Department of Correctional Services form related to Claimant's test. Claimant
testified that he was not properly notified of the reason for having to take the
test because the form was not completely filled out by Defendant's agents.
At the trial, Lt. Walter disagreed with Claimant's assertion and explained that
Claimant's Exhibit 4 did state the reason Claimant was ordered to submit to the
test. Line 7 of the form states "(circle one: Suspicion Routine Random)"
as the reasons the test is to be administered. Lt. Walter dismissed this
particular challenge during the hearing because, even though the reason was not
circled on Claimant's Exhibit 4, there was a handwritten note to the immediate
right of the word "random" that states "prior," indicating to Lt. Walter that
Claimant had a prior positive result during random testing.
Further, Lt. Walter understood that the circumstances leading to the request,
as noted on Claimant's Exhibit 4, referenced "IDTS" or "Inmate Drug Testing
System." He testified that this meant that Claimant was being tested according
to the procedures generated by computer in Albany directing correction staff to
perform a random test or to follow up with a particular inmate because of a
prior positive result.
Exhibit 4 provides sufficient notice to Claimant regarding the reasons for the
Lt. Walters testified that he had conducted other hearings, prior to Claimant's
hearing, involving the same or similar urinalysis tests and in which the inmates
alleged false positive results as a defense. He stated that, as a result of
these prior experiences, the company that manufactured the test was contacted
and asked to produce documentation regarding what, if anything, could produce a
false positive result. The Assistant Attorney General offered a series of
correspondence, Defendant's Exhibits B, D, and G, from Syva Company and Dade
Behring, the alleged manufacturers of the urinalysis tests. While they were not
offered for the truth of the matter asserted, that is, that no over-the-counter
medications could produce a false positive for the urinalysis test administered
by the facility, they did go to Lt. Walter's state of mind and his reason for
rejecting Claimant's defense at the hearing. I note that none of these exhibits
refer to the specific test administered to Claimant, the Syva EMIT ETS Test.
It was Lt. Walters' understanding that Dade Behring, the company that authored
Defendant's Exhibit B, was somehow related to the Syva Company, the maker of the
urinalysis tests and author of Exhibit D. On the same issue, the Assistant
Attorney General offered Defendant's Exhibit D, a letter from the Syva Company
to the Wende Correctional Facility, dated September 28, 1989, regarding the Syva
EMIT ST Test. Defendant's Exhibit D was the basis for Lt. Walter's belief that
the medication Naproxen would not cause a false positive result in the
urinalysis test even though Exhibit D pertained to a testing system that was not
used in 1998 nor was it used on the
Regarding Claimant's allegation that he was denied the right to call witnesses
at the Superintendent's hearing, Claimant admitted at trial that Lt. Walter
allowed him to call the requested witnesses. In fact, Dr. Punzal testified on
Claimant's behalf regarding the fact that Claimant was prescribed the
medications Ibuprofen and Naproxen.
Regarding Claimant's allegation that he was erroneously charged with violating
a rule that had been revoked, Claimant offered Exhibits 3 and 4. Claimant's
Exhibit 3 is a copy of the cover of the NYS Department of Correctional Services
"Standards of Inmate Behavior, All Institutions." The cover page indicates it
was revised in February 1998. Page 19 of that manual is also copied and
indicates the omission of section 113.12 - the section Claimant was charged with
in April 1998. Claimant testified that he did not actually receive a copy of
the manual until some time after Lt. Walter completed the hearing and rendered
Lt. Walter testified that Rule 113.12 was in effect at the time of Claimant's
hearing because, although the rules may have been revised in February 1998, the
revised rules were not effective until the New York State Legislature adopted
them in June 1998. Lt. Walter then went on to state that the facility's
computer, which generates the documents for conducting the disciplinary
hearings, would not have accepted the data or scheduled the hearing if that
particular rule did not exist at that time.
Claimant's argument is premised in some part upon the fact that his Tier III
disposition was reversed and expunged administratively just before his article
78 proceeding was to be heard. He believes that this implicitly demonstrates
that Defendant knew all along that it had acted improperly and in violation of
Claimant's rights. However, even if the Article 78 application had been heard,
and Claimant been successful in that proceeding, he would still have to
demonstrate that the disciplinary hearing was conducted in violation of the
relevant rules before he could recover on this claim for monetary compensation.
He has failed to make such a demonstration.
The actions of prison personnel involving inmate disciplinary matters are
generally quasi-judicial and, unless they exceed the scope of their authority or
violate applicable rules, are afforded absolute immunity (
Arteaga v State of New York
, 72 NY2d 212; Davis v State of New
, 262 AD2d 887, lv denied 93 NY2d 819). The fact that the disposition
from a disciplinary hearing is later reversed does not necessarily remove the
matter from the blanket of immunity (Arteaga v State of New York
Bonacorsa v State of New York
, Ct Cl, May 31, 1994 [Claim No. 86522],
Bell, J.). From the facts presented, it would appear that the correction
officers took appropriate disciplinary measures and acted within the scope of
their discretionary functions in conducting the hearing and in imposing
penalties upon Claimant. There is no indication that Defendant violated any of
its own rules and regulations in conducting the hearing, or otherwise acted
outside the sphere of privileged actions. (Arteaga v State of New York
supra., Holloway v State of New York
, 2001 WL 777553 (3d Dept. 2001);
c.f.: Gittens v State of New York
, 132 Misc.2d 399 (N.Y. Ct. Claims
1986)). Accordingly, their determinations are entitled to immunity.
For the reasons stated above, Defendant's motion to dismiss
the claim is granted. The Chief Clerk of the Court of Claims is directed to
enter judgment accordingly.