New York State Court of Claims

New York State Court of Claims

SMITH v. THE STATE OF NEW YORK, #2002-030-007, Claim No. 101961


Motion to dismiss pro-se inmate's claim of wrongful confinement for failure to make a prima facie case granted, and claim dismissed

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)

Steve Smith, the Claimant herein, alleges he was wrongfully confined 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 December 23, 1999 he was "confined to...[his] cell by officer Hernandez for a ticket...saying that...[Claimant] was circulating some documents saying that [he] was going to take over the jail....Officer Hernandez locked...[him] up, and then they sent...[him] to the SHU housing area....about 3 to 4 o'clock in the afternoon they sent...[him] to the box."[1]

On December 24, 1999, he was served with a "ticket" alleging that he was circulating some papers containing a threat of violence. The inmate misbehavior report - the ticket - indicates in pertinent part that "information gathered in an ongoing investigation. Confidential sources have identified this inmate as circulating a document detrimental to the...
(illegible) of the facility and conduct with the threat of violence." [Claimant's Exhibit "2"]. The report is signed by Correction Officer Luther, and endorsed by Correction Officer Hernandez, and indicates that the incident occurred at "1:30 pm +-". A search of Claimant's cell found no contraband of the kind described. [Claimant's Exhibit "1"]. Claimant testified that his original confinement in his cell occurred "...before 1:30...I was already confined in my cell when it says the incident occurred."
On December 27, 1999 Claimant was moved to Downstate Correctional Facility SHU. Requests by the authorities for an extension of time within which to conduct a hearing, based upon that transfer, were granted. [Claimant's Exhibit "4"]. On January 3, 2000 the disciplinary hearing was commenced. It was concluded on January 4, 2000, when the charges were dismissed, and the Claimant was released back into general population. Claimant asserted at trial that the charges were dismissed because Officer Hernandez was known for falsifying reports, and had been found to have violated the rules in other instances. He stated that he was not given a reason why the charges were dismissed, but that he suspected the foregoing.

No other documents, including any facility documentation of the charge and its dismissal, were submitted nor did any other witnesses testify.

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). If officers act inconsistently with their own rules and regulations, or otherwise act outside the sphere of privileged actions, liability may attach. The fact that charges are ultimately dismissed does not give rise to a cognizable cause of action when there is no evidence defendant acted inconsistently with its own rules and regulations. 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).
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).
From the limited facts presented it would appear that correction officers acted narrowly within the bounds of New York State Department of Corrections rules and regulations. The misbehavior report served upon Claimant, alleging violation of "Rule 104.11 Conduct with the threat of violence", [ 7 NYCRR §270.2-B-5], triggered the requirements of a Tier III disciplinary hearing, in accordance with 7 NYCRR § 254.1
et seq; as well as the "timeliness" provisions of 7 NYCRR §251-5.1. Any hearing must be commenced within seven (7) days of the confinement, unless delay in its commencement is "authorized" by "the commissioner or his designee." [22 NYCRR /§ 251-5.1(a)]. Similarly, the "...hearing must be completed within 14 days following the writing of the misbehavior report unless otherwise authorized by the commissioner or his designee.......[T]he record of the hearing should reflect the reasons for any delay or adjournment, and an inmate should ordinarily be made aware of these reasons unless to do so would jeopardize institutional safety or correctional goal." [22 NYCRR § 251-5.1(b)].
In this case, the hearing was held eleven (11) days after the initial confinement, and within ten (10) days of service of the misbehavior report. The delay of the hearing was authorized because of the transfer, and the request for an extension based upon that transfer. He was released as a result of the hearing process. Although the Claimant appeared to be a credible witness, without more than his bare allegations that the initial misbehavior report was a fabrication, he has not met the threshold of establishing his claim of wrongful confinement.

Accordingly, defendant's motions to dismiss for failure to establish a
prima facie case, upon which decision was reserved at trial, is hereby granted, and Claim number 101961 is hereby dismissed in its entirety.
Let Judgment 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.