New York State Court of Claims

New York State Court of Claims

BUTLER v. THE STATE OF NEW YORK, #2002-011-106, Claim No. 103066


Synopsis


Claimant is awarded judgment based upon allegations of confinement to the SHU.

Case Information

UID:
2002-011-106
Claimant(s):
GARY LAWRENCE BUTLER, 88 A 1194
Claimant short name:
BUTLER
Footnote (claimant name) :

Defendant(s):
THE STATE OF NEW YORK
Footnote (defendant name) :

Third-party claimant(s):

Third-party defendant(s):

Claim number(s):
103066
Motion number(s):

Cross-motion number(s):

Judge:
THOMAS J. McNAMARA
Claimant's attorney:
Gary Lawrence Butler, Pro Se
Defendant's attorney:
Honorable Eliot Spitzer, Attorney General
By: Michael W. Friedman, Esq.,Assistant Attorney General
Third-party defendant's attorney:

Signature date:
June 12, 2002
City:
Saratoga Springs
Comments:

Official citation:

Appellate results:

See also (multicaptioned case)



Decision
The claim is based on allegations that claimant was confined to the Special Housing Unit at Great Meadow Correctional Facility for seven days and then transferred to Clinton Correctional Facility and placed in long term keeplock for three days all without justification.

According to Claimant, on June 21, 2000 his cell at Great Meadow Correctional Facility was searched and he was found to be in possession of a television belonging to another inmate. An inmate misbehavior report was written and following a disciplinary hearing a penalty of seven days keeplock was imposed. Claimant was to be released from keeplock on June 28, 2000. However, on that day he was moved to the Special Housing Unit where he remained until July 4, 2000 when he was transferred to Clinton Correctional Facility. Upon arriving at Clinton he was placed in long term keeplock but was released three days later to general population.

Sergeant Lawrence Feola testified that he had claimant placed in the Special Housing Unit pending a determination as to whether claimant should be placed in protective custody. According to Sergeant Feola, the initial decision to send an inmate to protective custody is a discretionary determination made by correctional personnel.

In carrying out their duties relating to security and discipline, the actions of correction employees are quasi-judicial in nature and are cloaked with absolute immunity so long as the actions are not taken beyond their authority or in violation of the governing rules and regulations (
Arteaga v State of New York, 72 NY2d 212, 220).
A copy of the report made by Sergeant Feola in which he recommended that claimant be placed in involuntary protective custody was put into evidence. In the report Sergeant Feola notes that recently there had been fights in the block where claimant was housed. The Sergeant wrote that the fights might be related to unauthorized exchanges of property made as payment for drugs or other nefarious activity. Because claimant had been found to be in possession of a television belonging to another inmate, the Sergeant felt that claimant's safety could be in jeopardy. Consequently, he recommended protective custody.

The regulations governing confinement of inmates provide that an officer may confine an inmate where there are reasonable grounds to believe that there is an immediate threat to the safety, security or order of the facility or an immediate danger to other persons or to property (7 NYCRR §251-1.6). The regulations also provide that when an inmate is placed in involuntary protective custody a hearing must be held within 14 days to determine the need for protective custody detention (7 NYCRR §330.3[b]).

The regulations, therefore, support Sergeant Feola's assertion that he has the discretionary authority to place claimant in protective custody. However, in instances where an inmate is placed in a Special Housing Unit, as claimant was, the regulations require that the employee making the determination to do so report that fact, in writing, to the superintendent, as soon as possible, but in any event before going off duty (7 NYCRR §251-1.6[e][1]). The report by Sergeant Feola requesting involuntary protective custody for claimant was not written until July 2, 2000 and there is no proof that the superintendent was otherwise advised that claimant had been confined. Thus, claimant's confinement in the Special Housing Unit from June 28, 2000 through July 4, 2000 was done in violation of the governing regulations.

Claimant is awarded $40.00 for his seven day confinement.

ORDERED that to the extent Claimant has paid a filing fee, it may be recovered pursuant to Court of Claims Act section 11-a(2), and it is
ORDERED that judgment be entered accordingly.

June 12, 2002
Saratoga Springs, New York

HON. THOMAS J. MCNAMARA
Judge of the Court of Claims