New York State Court of Claims

New York State Court of Claims

NELSON V. THE STATE OF NEW YORK, #2002-031-027, Claim No. 105061, Motion No. M-64338


Arteaga immunities apply to statements made in the context of involuntary protective custody proceeding. Additionally, as truth is an absolute defense to defamation action, the claim must be 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:
HON. ELIOT SPITZER, NY State Attorney General
BY: GREGORY P. MILLER, ESQ.Assistant Attorney General
Third-party defendant's attorney:

Signature date:
July 25, 2002

Official citation:

Appellate results:

See also (multicaptioned case)


The following papers, numbered 1 to 5, were read on motion by Defendant for an order dismissing the Claim:
  1. Notice of Motion, dated November 21, 2001;
  2. Affidavit of Gregory P. Miller, Esq., sworn to November 21, 2001, with attached exhibits;
3; abOpposing Affidavit of Edward Nelson, sworn to December 4, 2001, with attached exhibits;
  1. March 25, 2002 correspondence of Patricia Nelson, with attached exhibits;
  2. Filed documents: Claim.
This is Defendant's motion to dismiss the claim of Edward Nelson against the State of New York. In his underlying claim, Mr. Nelson, an inmate confined at all relevant times to Collins Correctional Facility, asserts that he was defamed during the course of a proceeding to place him in involuntary protective custody ("IPC"). IPC is a form of administrative segregation authorized by 7 NYCRR §330.2. According to Claimant, the IPC recommendation was libelous in that it contained a false statement concerning Claimant's assistance to Defendant as an informant. He asserts that this document was published to other inmates in the facility. On February 19, 2002, I advised the parties that I intended to treat Defendant's motion as one for summary judgment and gave each an opportunity to make additional submissions in this regard. For the reasons that follow, I find that the Defendant's motion should be granted and the Claim in this matter dismissed.

Claimant does not dispute that, on July 10, 2001, he assisted Defendant in an investigation that involved searching for and recovering computer files that another inmate had deleted. Claimant maintains that he was coerced into assisting Defendant in this search, but he is vague about how and by whom. He merely states that either the correction officer, or another inmate with whom he was working coerced him into assisting with the investigation. At any rate, after providing this assistance, Claimant had second thoughts about his involvement and, on July 11, 2001, filed a grievance concerning the matter.

The act of filing the grievance was apparently an attempt on Claimant's part to avoid being labeled an informant by demonstrating that his assistance to Defendant was not voluntary. However, Correction Sergeant Lawrence Kiener believed that by filing the grievance, Claimant actually drew attention to the matter and placed himself in greater danger. On July 16, 2001, Sergeant Kiener drafted the IPC recommendation, based on the fact that he believed other inmates were aware that Claimant had assisted in the investigation. This recommendation triggered the IPC proceedings to determine whether or not Claimant was in danger and should be segregated from the general population. Claimant alleges the statements contained in this IPC recommendation were defamatory.

Claimant does not specifically indicate what words in the recommendation he considers defamatory, nor how the words were published to other inmates in the facility. He surmises that certain inmates, who function as clerks and handle sensitive paperwork as part of processing IPC files, leaked this information to the general population. However, Defendant correctly points out that Claimant filed his grievance concerning the same events before the IPC recommendation was written and that it is just as likely that the information was leaked, if at all, by the inmate clerks that handle the grievance paperwork.

Apparently, at a July 23, 2001 hearing on the matter, Claimant was able to demonstrate that he was not in danger and it was determined that IPC was not necessary. Claimant asserts that because he "won" the hearing and was not placed in IPC, this demonstrates that the recommendation was false and defamatory.

I find that the allegedly injurious statement, that Claimant acted as an informant on behalf of Defendant, was not false. Though this may not have been information that Claimant wished to become common knowledge within the facility, Claimant himself admits that he did assist Defendant (however grudgingly) in searching the computer files of another inmate. It is axiomatic that truth is an absolute defense to a defamation action (see, Han v State of New York, 186 AD2d 536). As evidenced by Claimant's own submissions, the allegedly defamatory statements were true. For this reason, the claim must be dismissed.

Additionally, though not addressed by the parties, I find that, as the actions taken by the officers and agents of Defendant related to the IPC process, Defendant is protected by the immunities defined in Arteaga v State of New York ( 72 NY2d 212). In Arteaga, the Court of Appeals held that Defendant is absolutely immune from lawsuits relating to the actions of employees of the Department of Correctional Services in preparing and filing misbehavior reports, confining inmates, and making dispositions following Superintendent's hearings (72 NY2d at 219).

The regulations promulgated by the Department of Correctional Services set forth the circumstances under which an inmate may be placed in involuntary protective custody (7 NYCRR §330.2). As when an inmate is segregated for disciplinary reasons, when an inmate is placed in involuntary protective custody, a hearing must be conducted within 14 days to determine the need for protective custody admission (7 NYCRR §330.3[b][1]). Though Arteaga involved disciplinary segregation and not administrative segregation, they are so alike in nature that the same immunities apply to both. Vogel v State of New York (187 Misc 2d 186), involved an analysis of the Arteaga immunities as they applied to administrative segregation proceedings. In Vogel, a parole officer claimed that she was defamed in the context of an administrative segregation proceeding that involved her fiancé. In his well-reasoned decision in that case, Judge Patti determined that administrative segregation proceedings are the type of quasi-judicial proceeding described by the Arteaga Court and, therefore, the State enjoys immunity from suits relating to both the recommendation for administrative segregation and the disposition of the hearing. This immunity extends to allegedly defamatory statements made in the course of such a quasi-judicial proceeding (see, Herzfeld & Stern v Beck, 175 AD2d 689, 691, appeal dismissed 79 NY2d 914; Wiener v Weintraub, 22 NY2d 330, 331-332). For this reason, the allegedly defamatory IPC recommendation, as part of this administrative segregation procedure, may not be the basis of a defamation cause of action.

Based on the foregoing, it is;

ORDERED, Defendant's motion to dismiss the claim in this matter is granted. The Clerk is directed to close the file.

July 25, 2002
Rochester, New York

Judge of the Court of Claims