New York State Court of Claims

New York State Court of Claims

LAPOLT v. THE STATE OF NEW YORK, #2002-031-041, Claim No. 101493, Motion Nos. M-65172, CM-65178, CM-65218


State is not liable for negligence of County Sheriff's Department in calculating Jail Time Served in commitment papers. 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):
CM-65178, CM-65218
Claimant's attorney:
Defendant's attorney:
New York State Attorney General
BY; WILLIAM D. LONERGAN, ESQ.Assistant Attorney General
Third-party defendant's attorney:

Signature date:
September 16, 2002

Official citation:

Appellate results:

See also (multicaptioned case)


The following papers, numbered 1 to 16, were read on motion by Defendant for summary judgment and cross-motions from Claimant to strike certain affirmative defenses and permit amendment of the claim:
1) Notice of motion for summary judgment, filed May 9, 2002;
2) Affidavit of William D. Lonergan, Esq., sworn to May 8, 2002;
3) Affidavit of Kay Ross-Dobbertin, sworn to April 29, 2002, with attached exhibits;
4) Affidavit of Patrick Gibbons, sworn to May 2, 2002, with attached exhibits;
5) Defendant's memorandum of law, dated May 9, 2002;
6) Notice of motion to strike affirmative defenses, filed May 10, 2002;
7) Affidavit of Melvin T. Higgins, Esq., sworn to May 7, 2002, with attached exhibits;
8) Affidavit of Diane M. Neal, sworn to May 7, 2002;
9) Unsworn Affirmation of William D. Lonergan, Esq., dated May 16, 2002, with attached exhibits;
10) Notice of cross-motion to amend notice of intention, filed May 17, 2002;
11) Affidavit of Melvin T. Higgins, Esq., sworn to May 15, 2002, with attached exhibits;
12) Reply Affidavit of Melvin T. Higgins, Esq., sworn to May 20, 2002;
13) Correspondence from William D. Lonergan, Esq., dated May 31, 2002;
14) Reply Affidavit of William D. Lonergan, Esq., sworn to May 31, 2002;
15) Sur-Reply affidavit of Melvin T. Higgins, Esq., sworn to July 8, 2002, with attached exhibits;
16) Sur-Reply affidavit of William D. Lonergan, Esq., sworn to July 11, 2002, with attached exhibits. This is Defendant's motion for summary judgment and Claimant's cross-motions to dismiss certain affirmative defenses and for permission to amend his notice of intention to file a claim to correct the date that the claim allegedly accrued. In his underlying claim, William LaPolt seeks to recover damages for 76 days that he was allegedly illegally confined by the New York State Department of Correctional Services ("DOCS"). Though this matter has been marred by bickering between counsel, there are certain facts upon which both parties agree.

On October 17, 1994, Claimant was sentenced to prison for one to three years for Driving While Intoxicated ("DWI"). He was conditionally released to Parole supervision on June 24, 1996. On November 23, 1996, two important events occurred; Claimant was again arrested for DWI and, based upon the same underlying facts, a parole warrant was issued for the violation of the terms of his parole relating to his previous DWI offense. Between November 23, 1996, and June 9, 1997, Claimant was held in the custody of the Dutchess County Sheriff's Department. It appears that he was held during this time both on the Parole warrant and on the new DWI charges. On May 13, 1997, Claimant was convicted on the new DWI charge and sentenced to one to three years for this offense. On June 9, 1997, Claimant was received by the Department of Correctional Services from the Dutchess County Sheriff's Department.

The problem in this matter concerns how Claimant was credited for the time he spent in the custody of the Dutchess County Sheriff's Department between November 23, 1996 and June 9, 1997. Along with Claimant, on June 9, 1997, the Dutchess County Sheriff's Department also delivered commitment papers for Claimant; a Parole Jail Time Certificate for 168 days, and a Jail Time Certificate of 27 days. This means that, according to the Sheriff's Department, 168 days of the confinement were to be credited to Claimant's parole time concerning the first DWI, while only 27 days were to be credited as time served toward his most recent conviction. Why or how the Sheriff broke the numbers down in this manner is not clear from the documents before me.

Claimant, believing that this breakdown of time between Jail Time and Parole Jail Time improperly failed to credit the appropriate amount of time toward his most recent sentence, commenced an Article 78 proceeding in Erie County Supreme Court. In that proceeding, the Honorable Joseph D. Mintz determined that there had been an error in the calculation of Jail Time Credit for the time Claimant spent in the custody of the Dutchess County Sheriff. Justice Mintz concluded that, after adjusting for the appropriate Jail Time credit, Claimant's conditional release date had already passed. By order dated January 7, 1999, Justice Mintz ordered that Claimant be released to Parole supervision. This order was appealed by Defendant who, rather than releasing Claimant to Parole supervision, continued to hold Claimant pending the appeal.

However, on Thursday, February 4, 1999, before that appeal was heard, Defendant received an amended Jail Time Certificate from the Dutchess County Sheriff's Department. This amended certificate credited Claimant with 175 days of Jail Time as opposed to the 27 days credited by the original certificate. Claimant's dates were recalculated and, according to Defendant, this new calculation indicated that Claimant would have been eligible for conditional release on December 13, 1998. Claimant was processed for release to parole supervision in what Defendant describes as an expedited manner. Claimant was released to parole supervision on Monday, February 8, 1999.

Both parties also agree that the miscalculation concerning Jail Time credit emanated from the Dutchess County Sheriff's Department and was contained in the certification provided by that office. Based upon the dates certified by the Sheriff in the original certificate, Defendant's calculations relating to the Claimant's eligibility for conditional release were accurate. Claimant maintains that Defendant should have known the original certificate was mistaken and properly calculated Claimant's jail time credit, the certification notwithstanding. Claimant also asserts that, even though the mistake was made by the Dutchess County Sheriff's Department, because the Sheriff was holding the Claimant pursuant to the parole violation warrant, the Sheriff was acting as an agent for the State and the State is liable for the Sheriff's negligence.

Though there were many submissions from each party arguing their respective positions concerning this matter, the legal issues presented are neither new nor complex. Correction Law § 600-a mandates that when an inmate is delivered to State custody from custody in a county jail, it is the duty of the county sheriff to certify the amount of jail time to which the inmate is entitled. As Defendant correctly points out, if this certification is valid on its face, DOCS has neither the duty, nor the authority to question or alter the certification it receives from the sheriff, but rather is bound by its provisions. The Appellate Division Third Department addressed this very issue in Middleton v State of New York (54 AD2d 450, aff'd 43 NY2d 678). That Court stated:
Pursuant to section 600-a of the Correction Law, it was the duty of the Westchester County Sheriff, upon claimant's commitment to the custody of the Department of Correctional Services, to certify the amount of jail time credit to which claimant was entitled . . . That it was later judicially determined that the Sheriff's certification of 72 days' credit was erroneous and that claimant was entitled to a credit of 526 days and, thus, had been incarcerated beyond his appropriate release date (People ex rel. Middleton v Zelker, supra) does not serve to impose liability upon the State here because it was acting under a warrant of commitment valid on its face (cf. Nastasi v State of New York, 275 App Div 524, affd 300 NY 473) and cannot be held responsible for any possible dereliction of duty on the part of the Sheriff or other local officers or employees (cf. Cohen v State of New York, 25 AD2d 339, affd 22 NY2d 728). Moreover, it is now well settled that prison officials are conclusively bound by the contents of commitment papers accompanying a prisoner and that they cannot add to or detract therefrom (Matter of Charos v New York State Dept. of Correctional Servs., 53 AD2d 654; People ex rel. Coates v Martin, 8 AD2d 688; People ex rel. Jackson v Weaver, 279 App Div 88).

54 AD2d 450, at 451-452; see also People ex rel. Henderson v Casscles, 66 Misc 2d 492 (warden can determine duration of sentence only from commitment papers and is not bound to know or inquire as to what transpired prior to receipt of prisoner); Jarrett v Coughlin, 136 Misc 2d 981 (DOCS was bound by jail time certified by local commission of correction and could neither add to nor subtract from time certified by locality).

Despite the admirable efforts of his attorney, Claimant has failed to demonstrate that Defendant was somehow responsible for the error contained in the commitment papers received from the Dutchess County Sheriff's Department, or that the Defendant is somehow liable for the Sheriff's negligence through some application of the law of agency (see, Whitmore v State of New York, 55 AD2d 745, 746, lv denied 42 NY2d 810). Any potential action relating to the miscalculation of Claimant's Jail Time credit rests with the Dutchess County Sheriff's Department. I find that Defendant's efforts, resulting in Claimant's release to parole supervision within four days of receipt of the amended certificate, were reasonable and in fact expeditious. Claimant's claim against the State of New York must be dismissed. For the reasons set forth above, it is hereby:

ORDERED, that Defendant's motion for summary judgment seeking dismissal of the claim is granted. Claimant's cross-motions to dismiss certain affirmative defenses contained in Defendant's answer and for permission to amend his notice of intention to file a claim are denied as moot. The Clerk is directed to close the file.

September 16, 2002
Rochester, New York

Judge of the Court of Claims