New York State Court of Claims

New York State Court of Claims

AMES v. THE STATE OF NEW YORK, #2002-030-006, Claim No. 101536


Inmate claimant credibly testified that wrongfully confined for seven (7) days. Awarded

damages of $75.00 per day

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:
Third-party defendant's attorney:

Signature date:
February 14, 2002
White Plains

Official citation:

Appellate results:

See also (multicaptioned case)

Douglas Ames, the Claimant herein, alleges he was wrongfully confined to keeplock while he was incarcerated at Sing Sing Correctional Facility (hereafter Sing Sing). Trial of the matter was held at Sing Sing on December 20, 2001.

Claimant testified that on October 22, 1999, at approximately 11:00 am he was returning from his assigned program in the Law library facility when he was " informed that ...[he] had been keeplocked - meaning confined to...[his] cell - for punitive reasons....[He] knew he hadn't done anything..."[1]
, yet he was kept keeplocked in his cell for seven (7) days without ever being told why he was being punished, although he asked repeatedly. On October 28, 1999, in the evening, "another officer came and let...[him] out."
Claimant filed a facility grievance the next day, requesting an investigation. The response of the Inmate Grievance Resolution Committee (hereafter IGRC) indicates that he was keeplocked for the seven (7) day period, and no adequate explanation for the status was provided by any staff member or supervisor and, indeed, no misbehavior report was ever written. [Claimant's Exhibit "2"]. The IGRC notes that there are no records to expunge, and that " far as...[grievant's] request for pay goes, the directive only allows an inmate to receive idle pay for confined time."
The Superintendent's Response confirms the IGRC, and accepts the grievance, indicating that the "staff have been dealt with administratively...[and that] grievant has already been paid." [Claimant's Exhibit "1"].

Claimant testified that he lost all privileges while keeplocked, and was allowed only one (1) hour of recreation per day. Otherwise, he spent twenty-three (23) hours per day in his cell. He missed regular recreation, "...movies, the yard, the gym and even religious services." He suffered humiliation and harassment from fellow inmates, and was uncertain how this treatment would affect his ability to get to the "honor block" for which he had been striving.

No other witnesses testified.

Counsel for the Defendant noted for the Court that New York State Department of Correctional Services (hereafter DOCS) Directive No. 4932 allows the director to confine an inmate for investigative purposes for no longer than seventy two (72) hours. Claimant argued that he was confined for no apparent reason, and that the "72 hour rule" would not apply here since there was no ongoing investigation involving...[him]."

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 NY 2d 212, 219-220 (1988). From the uncontradicted facts presented it would appear that the correction officers took inappropriate disciplinary measures outside the scope of their discretionary functions in imposing an arbitrary penalty for this claimant. See, generally, 7 NYCRR Part 251. There is every indication that the defendant acted inconsistently with its own rules and regulations, giving rise to a cognizable cause of action. Arteaga v State of New York, supra; Holloway v State of New York, 285 AD2d 765 (3d Dept. 2001); c.f.: Gittens v State of New York, 132 Misc 2d 399 (NY Ct. Claims 1986). Accordingly, these arbitrary determinations are not entitled to immunity.
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 NY 2d 451,456 (1975). In this case the claimant has established, without contradiction, all four elements. There has been no indication that any period of this confinement is somehow privileged. No evidence of an ongoing investigation involving the Claimant - implicating the so-called 72 hour rule - was presented.
In terms of damages, unlike some other cases involving wrongful confinement, where, for example, the confinement results from a miscalculation of time to be served, or some misbehavior on an inmate's part first triggers the detention, here there was simply an arbitrary determination to lock this claimant up, making the misconduct all the more egregious.

Accordingly, the Claimant was wrongfully confined for seven (7) days. He is hereby awarded a total of $525.00 ($75.00 per day) for this deprivation, and that to the extent claimant has paid a filing fee it may be recoverable pursuant to Court of Claims Act § 11-a (2).
Let judgement be entered accordingly.

February 14, 2002
White Plains, New York

Judge of the Court of Claims

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