New York State Court of Claims

New York State Court of Claims

SOLIS v. THE STATE OF NEW YORK, #2002-030-056, Claim No. 104793


Synopsis


Pro Se inmate. Claimant awarded $200.00 damages for four day unprivileged wrongful confinement

Case Information

UID:
2002-030-056
Claimant(s):
OSVALDO SOLIS
Claimant short name:
SOLIS
Footnote (claimant name) :

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

Third-party claimant(s):

Third-party defendant(s):

Claim number(s):
104793
Motion number(s):

Cross-motion number(s):

Judge:
THOMAS H. SCUCCIMARRA
Claimant's attorney:
OSVALDO SOLIS, PRO SE
Defendant's attorney:
HON. ELIOT SPITZER, NEW YORK STATE ATTORNEY GENERALBY: ELYSE ANGELICO, ASSISTANT ATTORNEY GENERAL
Third-party defendant's attorney:

Signature date:
July 29, 2002
City:
White Plains
Comments:

Official citation:

Appellate results:

See also (multicaptioned case)

.
Decision
Osvaldo Solis, the Claimant herein, alleges in Claim Number 104793 that he was wrongfully confined to keeplock while he was an inmate at Sing Sing Correctional Facility (hereafter Sing Sing). Trial of the matter was held at Sing Sing on July 2, 2002.

Claimant testified that on April 13, 2001 at about 3:15 p.m. he was "...confronted by Sergeant Michael Daye at this correctional facility"[1]
about an incident that had occurred earlier that day on U Block. Claimant recalled that the day had proceeded normally. He had gone to his morning assignment at "custodial maintenance school", and proceeded to the mess hall for "chow." At the "go-round" after lunch, when the correction officers asked the inmates what the balance of their activities for the day were, claimant announced that he had to make a phone call to his family. At about 1:15 PM, "movement control" announced it was "time for yard," so Claimant went to the yard to make his phone call. He observed "something going on in U Gallery" at the time, but took no real notice of it, and "stood in the yard, talking to his people" for some time. He returned to his cell, and had just "gotten comfortable", when the officer running the unit advised Claimant that he was keeplocked pending an investigation. When Claimant asked why, he was told "you'll find out."
Claimant said he "stood in his cell, with no idea of what was going on", until 6:30 or 7:00 p.m. At that time, correction officers came and took him to the infirmary, to have medical personnel "check for bruises or lacerations" in connection with "an incident that happened on U Block."

When he arrived at the infirmary, rather than proceed directly to a physical examination, he was brought to an office where police officers "from the community" interrogated him. It was then that Claimant learned he had been identified by an inmate victim as one of the people who had assaulted the victim that morning on U Block. Claimant told the police officer that he had been at the custodial maintenance school, that the instructor could be called to verify the fact and that a log book had been signed at both admittance and departure from the program. Claimant said he "couldn't be David Copperfield and be in two places at one time."

After the interview was finished, Claimant was escorted for the physical examination. He stripped down as ordered, and no bruises were found. Claimant said: "all the time I have been assaulted without me doing nothing just because somebody points a finger. I tried to talk to the people assaulting me, but the only thing they said is that you're being investigated for an incident that happened." Claimant testified that he "stayed calm"; he "did no arm lifting...[he] abided by everything they told...[him] to do." Claimant was perturbed that "all he [Sergeant Daye] had to do was pick up a phone, call...[claimant's] instructor, and it would be all done." Instead, Claimant avers, he remained keeplocked until April 24, 2001.

An Inmate Misbehavior Report concerning the identification of Claimant as one of three assailants in the U Block incident was filed by Sergeant Daye on April 14, 2001, and is noted as having been served on Claimant on April 15, 2001. [Exhibit "C" to Claimant's Exhibit "1"]. A Tier 3 disciplinary hearing was commenced and concluded on April 24, 2001, and resulted in a finding of not guilty on the three charges lodged in the Inmate Misbehavior Report. [Exhibit "D" to Claimant's Exhibit "1"]. The vocational instructor apparently testified at the hearing, and confirmed that Claimant was present at the program "...all morning on...[April 13, 2001] and produced documentation to substantiate that fact. Also, the officer go around sheet for B block U gallery clearly showed this inmate ‘signed out' to vocational...." [
Id]. When the charges were dismissed at the hearing of April 24, 2001, Claimant was immediately released from keeplock.
No other witnesses testified.

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 NY2d 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 Cl1986).
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 NY2d 451,456 (1975).
From the facts presented it would appear that correction officers departed from the bounds of New York State Department of Correctional Services rules and regulations. The misbehavior report served upon Claimant, triggered the requirements of a Tier 3 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 "as soon as is reasonably practicable" but no later than seven (7) days after the confinement, unless delay in its commencement is "authorized" by "the commissioner or his designee." [7 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." [7 NYCRR § 251-5.1(b)].
In this case, the hearing was held eleven (11) days after the initial confinement, and within nine (9) days of service of the misbehavior report. The initial confinement for investigation purposes was a discretionary determination authorized by regulation [
See, Generally, 7 NYCRR § 251-1.6 (a)], and predicated upon the identification of Claimant as one of three assailants participating in a violent assault. While the Court agrees with Claimant that the investigating correction officer might have expedited matters with a "simple phone call" to the vocational instructor, it is nonetheless noted that in this case an outside police agency was also conducting an investigation, and that the investigation of two other accused individuals was ongoing as well. The exercise of discretion here in the interest of the facility's security is precisely what is protected under Arteaga v State of New York, supra, and its progeny.
There is no indication, however, that the four (4) day delay in commencement of the hearing was authorized by the Commissioner or his designee as required.
See, 7 NYCRR § 251-5.1(a). Thus, although Claimant was released on a finding of "not guilty" as a result of the hearing process, he was wrongfully confined for an unprivileged period of four (4) days since the hearing was not commenced in a timely fashion under the applicable regulation.
Accordingly, Claimant is hereby awarded a total of $200.00 ($50.00 per day) for this deprivation.

It is ordered that to the extent Claimant has paid a filing fee, it may be recoverable pursuant to Court of Claims Act § 11-a(2).

Let judgment be entered accordingly.

July 29, 2002
White Plains, New York

HON. THOMAS H. SCUCCIMARRA
Judge of the Court of Claims




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