New York State Court of Claims

New York State Court of Claims

RAMOS v. THE STATE OF NEW YORK, #2002-015-302, Claim No. 105502, Motion Nos. M-65630, CM-65730


Claimant failed to support motion seeking summary judgment with evidentiary proof in admissible form and mere assertion of wrongful conduct violative of 7 NYCRR § 254.2 on the part of hearing officer as disciplinary hearing in failing to provide an interpreter does not warrant grant of judgment. Decision of hearing officer to provide interpreter is quasi judicial determination cloaked with absolute immunity supporting defendant's motion for summary judgment.

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:
David Ramos, Pro Se
Defendant's attorney:
Honorable Eliot Spitzer, Attorney General
By: Michele M. Walls, EsquireAssistant Attorney General
Third-party defendant's attorney:

Signature date:
November 8, 2002
Saratoga Springs

Official citation:

Appellate results:

See also (multicaptioned case)


Claimant's motion for summary judgment pursuant to CPLR 3212 seeking an order determining the defendant's liability for the negligent denial of an interpreter at a superintendent's hearing as required by 7 NYCRR § 254.2 is denied. The defendant's cross-motion for summary judgment seeking an order dismissing the claim for failure to state a cause of action is granted. The amended claim was filed March 4, 2002 following an administrative reversal of a previous determination finding claimant guilty of violating certain institutional rules of conduct (7 NYCRR § 270.2) including assault (100.10); manufacture or possession of a weapon (113.10); fighting (100.13); failure to obey a direct order (106.10); and engaging in violent conduct (104.11). Claimant was found guilty of the charges after a Tier III hearing held on June 23, 2000 and sanctioned with 365 days of confinement to the special housing unit (SHU) and the loss of all privileges. The hearing determination was affirmed on September 5, 2000. Claimant thereafter requested reconsideration of the administrative appeal with the assistance of Prisoners' Legal Services of New York (David H. Savidge). His request for reconsideration was granted and the Hearing Officer's determination was administratively reversed on February 8, 2001. Claimant served a notice of intention to file a claim on April 30, 2001; filed and served the initial claim on January 22, 2002 and filed and served an amended claim on March 4, 2002. The claim seeks $61,500 in damages for wrongful confinement, pain and suffering, mental anguish and negligence. Issue was joined by service of a verified answer to the amended claim on March 19, 2002. Claimant asserts a cause of action based upon the alleged negligence of the Hearing Officer in failing to provide claimant with an interpreter at the June 23, 2000 superintendent's hearing in alleged violation of 7 NYCRR 254.2 which states:
A non-English speaking inmate who cannot read and understand English must be given a translated notice of the charges and statements of evidence relied upon and reasons for actions taken, and provided with a translator who shall be present at the hearing....
The rules applicable to the determination of a motion for summary judgment were clearly stated by the Court of Appeals in Alvarez v Prospect Hosp., 68 NY2d 320, 324:
As we have stated frequently, the proponent of a summary judgment motion must make a prima facie showing of entitlement to judgment as a matter of law, tendering sufficient evidence to demonstrate the absence of any material issues of fact (Winegrad v New York Univ. Med. Center, 64 NY2d 851, 853; Zuckerman v City of New York, 49 NY2d 557, 562; Sillman v Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corp., 3 NY2d 395, 404). Failure to make such prima facie showing requires a denial of the motion, regardless of the sufficiency of the opposing papers (Winegrad v New York Univ. Med. Center, supra, at p 853). Once this showing has been made, however, the burden shifts to the party opposing the motion for summary judgment to produce evidentiary proof in admissible form sufficient to establish the existence of material issues of fact which require a trial of the action (Zuckerman v City of New York, supra, at p 562).
The proponent of a summary judgment motion may only meet its initial burden through the submission of evidentiary proof in admissible form (see, Rifenburgh v Wilczek, 294 AD2d 653).

On the instant motion claimant alleges, without specificity, that the "[h]earing officer was negligent in his handling of claimants [sic] hearing in that he failed to provide the defendant [sic] with an interpreter as required by 7 NYCRR § 254.2 . . . " It is clear that claimant has not supported this contention or his motion by evidentiary proof in admissible form and the mere assertion of wrongful conduct (i.e., violation of 7 NYCRR § 254.2) by the Hearing Officer at the Tier III hearing does not demonstrate an entitlement to judgment as a matter of law even where the Hearing Officer's determination was later administratively reversed (see, Varela v State of New York, 283 AD2d 841). Accordingly, claimant's motion for summary judgment is denied.

As noted above, the defendant cross-moved for summary judgment seeking dismissal of the claim on the ground that it fails to state a cause of action under the holding of the Court of Appeals in Arteaga v State of New York, 72 NY2d 212.

In the instant matter the claimant asserts that the Hearing Officer violated departmental regulations by denying him the services of an interpreter at his Tier III hearing in contravention of the directive contained in 7 NYCRR § 254.2. While the language of the cited regulation may at first appear to be declaratory, it seems clear to this Court that its implementation by an individual Hearing Officer requires the exercise of discretion of a quasi-judicial nature and thus the defendant is accorded absolute immunity requiring dismissal of the claim.

In Arteaga v State of New York, 72 NY2d 212, the Court of Appeals held that correction officers involved in the inmate disciplinary process are provided absolute immunity for actions taken which are quasi-judicial in nature and both within their authority and in compliance with governing rules and regulations. An analogous circumstance to the issue presented here was addressed by the Appellate Division, Third Department, in Holloway v State of New York, 285 AD2d 765. In that case the Court affirmed dismissal of the claim on a motion for summary judgment where it was alleged that correction officers failed to permit the claimant to observe a frisk of his cell in violation of a department directive which required that an inmate be permitted to observe such a frisk unless the inmate presents a danger to the safety and security of the facility. The Court found that in determining whether to permit the claimant to observe the frisk the correction officers were required to exercise their discretion in determining whether he posed a threat to the safety and security of the facility, a situation in which the exercise of judgment may produce different acceptable results. Under such circumstances the State was afforded absolute immunity since "while the correction officers who frisked claimant's cell may have abused their discretion by not allowing him to observe the frisk, thereby providing the basis for this Court's judgment annulling the disciplinary determination, the correction officers conducting the frisk were nevertheless exercising a discretionary authority for which the State has absolute immunity" (Holloway v State of New York, 285 AD2d 765, supra, at 766).

7 NYCRR § 254.2 requires in relevant part that a non-English speaking inmate who is unable to read and understand English be provided a translator at a superintendent's hearing. In implementing the regulatory directive a Hearing Officer is required, in the first instance, to determine whether a particular inmate requires an interpreter or is "sufficiently fluent in English to understand and knowledgeably participate in the hearing" (Robles, Matter of, v Coombe, 238 AD2d 628, 629). The extent to which an inmate is non-English speaking and unable to read and understand English is a determination requiring the exercise of discretion based upon the facts of a particular case and will necessarily vary according to each individual. As such, the exercise of judgment and discretion is inherent in the regulation and, while an abuse of discretion may be addressed in an alternative forum, the State is afforded absolute immunity in a claim for money damages in this Court and the claim must be dismissed (see, Borras, Matter of, v Scully, 149 AD2d 508; Minieri v State of New York, 204 AD2d 982).

November 8, 2002
Saratoga Springs, New York

Judge of the Court of Claims

The Court considered the following papers:
  1. Notice of motion dated August 1, 2002;
  2. Affidavit of David Ramos sworn to August 1, 2002;
  3. Notice of cross-motion dated August 28, 2002;
  4. Affirmation of Michele M. Walls dated August 27, 2002 with exhibits;
  5. Affidavit of David Ramos sworn to September 5, 2002.