New York State Court of Claims

New York State Court of Claims

JOHNSON v. THE STATE OF NEW YORK, #2002-016-007, Claim No. 103207


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):

Alan C. Marin
Claimant's attorney:
Carson Johnson
Defendant's attorney:
Eliot Spitzer, Attorney GeneralBy: Mary Kavaney, AAG
Third-party defendant's attorney:

Signature date:
January 23, 2002
New York

Official citation:

Appellate results:

See also (multicaptioned case)

This is the claim of Carson Johnson in which he asserts, among other things, that he was retaliated against at Otisville Correctional Facility by being required to see a psychiatrist, by being transferred between correctional facilities and by being housed in the Special Housing Unit ("SHU") for a disciplinary charge which was ultimately reversed. The claim was tried at Mid-Orange Correctional Facility, where claimant appeared on his own behalf. For its part, defendant called no witnesses.

Johnson testified that on September 22, 1998, as he was leaving the mess hall at Otisville Correctional Facility, a correction officer made a derogatory comment to him. According to Johnson, thereafter, "the harassment just continued." He maintained that a teacher somehow became involved, contending that she wrote the word "Pagan" under his name on a document.

Claimant recalled that he was sent to see a psychiatrist on March 16, 1999, who told him that staff members had requested he be seen. Johnson asserted that this was in retaliation for his complaining about the derogatory comment made by the correction officer. He said the psychiatrist initially told him there was nothing wrong with him, but on March 24, 1999, called him back and told him that staff members had requested he be transferred to a psychiatric facility. On April 6, 1999, Johnson was transferred to Fishkill Correctional Facility where he testified he saw a psychiatrist just once. He asserts that the Fishkill transfer was thus retaliatory. He initially said he thought it was racially motivated, but later, asked why he was being harassed, said "I don't have any idea. . . . Maybe they just dislike me."

Johnson testified that once he was at Fishkill, he continued to be harassed and on August 3, 1999, was taken to the Special Housing Unit after he was accused of making threats, a charge he denies. Documentation annexed to Johnson's claim (Exhibit 1) indicates that a disciplinary hearing was held from August 9-11, 1999, at which claimant was found guilty, that he thereafter appealed the finding, and that it was reversed on September 30, 1999. It is unclear when claimant was released from the SHU. At one point in his testimony -- and in his claim -- he asserted that he was held in the SHU for 71 days,
i.e., until October 13, 1999. At another point he testified that, "[y]ou know, on September 30th I was held several days after that. I don't know how long . . ." Claimant submitted no documentation to indicate when he was released.
* * *
With regard to Johnson's SHU stay, "[c]orrections personnel are entitled to absolute immunity for those ‘discretionary decisions in furtherance of general policies and purposes where the exercise of reasoned judgment can produce different acceptable results.'"
Minieri v State of New York, 204 AD2d 982, 613 NYS2d 510, 511 (4th Dept 1994), citing Arteaga v State of New York, 72 NY2d 212, 532 NYS2d 57 (1988). It should also be noted that "[d]isciplinary proceedings in correctional facilities that are conducted consistent with the applicable rules and regulations are covered with a blanket of immunity . . . The fact that claimant was ultimately found not guilty of the charge does not give rise to a viable claim." Brown v State of New York, Ct Cl filed 10/27/98, Bell, J. (unreported, claim nos. 94875 and 94876). No evidence was introduced to suggest that defendant violated any rules or regulations with regard to claimant's disciplinary hearing or appeal. Nor did Johnson show that defendant violated any applicable rules and regulations with regard to his release from the SHU after his guilty finding was reversed. As set forth above, it was unclear when he was released.
As to Johnson's transfer between facilities, such decision "lies within the discretion of the Commissioner of Corrections . . ."
Gregg v Scully, 108 AD2d 748, 749, 485 NYS2d 94, 96 (2d Dept 1985), lv denied 65 NY2d 601, 491 NYS2d 1026 (1985). See also Taylor v Kennedy, 159 AD2d 827, 553 NYS2d 62, 63 (3d Dept 1990) ("Nor does [an inmate] have a right to serve his sentence in any particular facility . . ."). Finally, as to Johnson's claims of generalized retaliation, such were too undeveloped to warrant any finding of liability.
For the foregoing reasons, claim no. 103207 is

January 23, 2002
New York, New York

Judge of the Court of Claims