New York State Court of Claims

New York State Court of Claims

DURE v. THE STATE OF NEW YORK, #2002-031-504, Claim No. 98804


Claimant's confinement pending resolution of his disciplinary hearing was not improper. Claim is 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:
Attorney General for the State of New York
Assistant Attorney General andJESSICA BAKER, law intern
Third-party defendant's attorney:

Signature date:
September 26, 2002

Official citation:

Appellate results:

See also (multicaptioned case)

Philippe Dure filed claim number 98804 against the State of New York on August 13, 1998. Claimant contends that the State wrongfully confined him in keeplock in Wende Correctional Facility for a term of 39 days. The alleged illegal confinement relates to the manner in which Defendant conducted Claimant's disciplinary hearing concerning a June 23, 1998 Inmate Misbehavior Report ("IMR"). Claimant asserts that the hearing was not completed in a timely manner, in violation of the time requirements of 7 NYCRR § 251-5.1. On October 31, 2001, the Hon. Philip J. Patti denied the State's motion for summary judgment, finding a disputed issue of material fact: whether Claimant requested adjournment of his hearing on more than one occasion. I held a trial in this matter on May 7, 2002, at Wende Correctional Facility.

Claimant testified that he was confined for 39 days, commencing on June 23, 1998, and that his hearing began on June 29, 1998. Claimant stated that, from July 8, 1998 through July 27, 1998, Defendant's agents kept requesting extensions of time to complete the hearing but, because the "Adjustment Committee" dismissed the Inmate Misbehavior Report before July 8, 1998, he should have been released. On cross-examination, Claimant further testified that he was never brought before the hearing officer when the extensions were requested. However, he was aware of the extensions because he received copies of the confirming notifications from Albany.

The State called Patrick Connolly. Mr. Connolly is a Food Service Administrator at Wende. He also is a hearing officer for Tier III disciplinary hearings and has been conducting such hearings for over 10 years. The Superintendent appointed him to conduct Claimant's hearing regarding the incident that occurred on June 23, 1998. The testimony at trial showed that the hearing commenced on June 29, 1998, at which time Claimant requested an adjournment so that he could receive assistance in his preparation for the hearing. An extension from the Commissioner's Office was requested and received for this purpose and the hearing was adjourned to July 6, 1998.

On July 6, 1998, an extension was again requested and received as Mr. Connolly was ill. On July 7, 1998, Mr. Connolly was unable to talk due to his illness and so he requested an extension until July 8, 1998. This extension, too, was granted. On July 8, 1998, the hearing was reconvened and, at this time, Claimant requested as a witness the officer that wrote the IMR, but she was on vacation. Therefore, at Claimant's request, an extension of time until July 20, 1998 was obtained.

Unfortunately, Mr. Connolly was unable to contact the witness by this time and requested and received yet another extension to July 22, 1998. The hearing reconvened on July 22, 1998, at which time it was determined that the Correction Officer that wrote the IMR would not be available until July 27, 1998. Once again, an extension was requested and granted. However, between July 27, 1998 and July 29, 1998, the hearing could not proceed as the facility was in "lockdown" for security reasons. This meant that all inmates had to be confined to their cells during this period. The Commissioner's Office was contacted regarding this event and again granted an extension.

On July 27, 1998, despite the fact that the Commissioner's Office had granted an extension, Mr. Connolly, concerned by the number of extensions that had been granted thus far, asked for a superior to review the file. The Captain's Office reviewed the file and determined that the disciplinary action should be dismissed rather than request any further extensions. Mr. Connolly testified that the charges were dismissed based on this procedural issue without reaching the merits of the case. Claimant admits that he was released from keeplock at this time.

Generally, the actions of prison personnel involving inmate disciplinary matters are quasi-judicial and, unless they exceed the scope of their authority or violate applicable rules, are afforded absolute immunity (
Arteaga v State of New York, 72 NY2d 212; Davis v State of New York, 262 AD2d 887, lv denied 93 NY2d 819).
When an inmate is confined during his disciplinary hearing, 7 NYCRR §251-5.1(b) provides in relevant part that such hearing "must be completed within 14 days following the writing of the misbehavior report unless otherwise authorized by the commissioner or his designee."

Mr. Connolly testified that inmates are not always present when extensions are requested, for example when the hearing officer is ill, or when the hearing can not otherwise be convened (facility lockdown), but the inmate is always notified in writing of the extension. Otherwise, an inmate may request an extension during the course of the hearing and that request is taken to the Captain's Office and a determination is made as to whether or not to grant the request.

Defendant's Exhibit B is a chronological record of the various extensions granted and a summary of the reasons why they were requested. It appears that between July 8, 1998 and July 27, 1998, the time period Claimant alleges Defendant improperly obtained extensions, most of the extensions were requests related to the unavailability of the hearing officer and/or witnesses. The evidence indicates that Claimant was actually present on July 8, 1998 and he requested the testimony of a specific witness. He was not present again until July 22, 1998, when he again requested the testimony of that same witness. Nothing presented by Claimant or testified to by the State indicates that this particular process was defective. The fact that the process was so long and drawn out appeared unusual and, in fact, ultimately caused the facility to dismiss the charges against Claimant.

Contrary to Claimant's assertions, at no time during the process did Defendant's time within which to conclude the hearing or obtain an extension expire. I find that the hearing was both commenced and concluded in a timely manner. As the requirements of 7 NYCRR § 251-5.1 (b) were met, the immunities described in
Arteaga protect the hearing process, and the State may not be held liable in damages for the confinement of Claimant during the pendency of his disciplinary hearing.
Regarding Claimant's assertion that he believed that the "Adjustment Committee" had dismissed the case prior to July 8, 1998, I look to Exhibit D, which indicates that as of July 6, 1998, Claimant was working on his case with his appointed assistant. I give no weight to the argument that this case was dismissed by the "Adjustment Committee."

Based upon the foregoing it is:

ORDERED, that the claim is dismissed. Let judgment be entered accordingly.

September 26, 2002
Rochester, New York

Judge of the Court of Claims