New York State Court of Claims

New York State Court of Claims

MCKINLEY v. THE STATE OF NEW YORK, #2003-030-014, Claim No. 105470


Synopsis


Pro se inmate's Claim of wrongful confinement dismissed. Quasi-judicial determinating of correctional employees immunized under principles of Arteaga v State of New York 72 NY2d 212 (1988).

Case Information

UID:
2003-030-014
Claimant(s):
SINCERE MCKINLEY
Claimant short name:
MCKINLEY
Footnote (claimant name) :

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

Third-party claimant(s):

Third-party defendant(s):

Claim number(s):
105470
Motion number(s):

Cross-motion number(s):

Judge:
THOMAS H. SCUCCIMARRA
Claimant's attorney:
SINCERE MCKINLEY, 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:
April 4, 2003
City:
White Plains
Comments:

Official citation:

Appellate results:

See also (multicaptioned case)



Decision
Sincere McKinley, the Claimant herein, alleges in Claim Number 105470 that defendant's agents wrongfully confined him while he was incarcerated at Sing Sing Correctional Facility (hereafter Sing Sing). Trial of the matter was held at Sing Sing on March 7, 2003.

Claimant testified to essentially the same facts asserted in his Claim. [
See, Court's Exhibit "1"]. He stated that on November 15, 2001 he returned to Sing Sing after a trial in the Court of Claims at Shawangunk Correctional Facility (hereafter Shawangunk), only to learn that he was on keeplock status pending a disciplinary hearing based upon an alleged incident occurring on November 14, 2001 at Shawangunk. The misbehavior report charges violations of prison disciplinary rules concerning creating a disturbance and violation of a direct order. [See, Claimant's Exhibit "1"]. Claimant alleges that a copy of the misbehavior report was served on him on November 20, 2001, when he was brought down for a hearing on the matter, and the hearing was then adjourned to the next day. The New York State Department of Correctional Services (hereafter DOCS) internal computer printout confirms that he told the hearing officer he had not been served with the "ticket"[1] , and that the matter was adjourned. [Ibid]. The extension request is shown on the printout. On November 21, 2001, Claimant was again brought down for the hearing, but it was not completed on that date. Instead, the hearing was continued to November 30, 2001, at which point Claimant was found guilty of both charges, and sentenced to thirty (30) days keeplock and loss of all privileges, commencing November 14, 2001 and ending December 15, 2001. [Ibid].
Claimant asserts that on November 30, 2001 rather than being called to the hearing he was left "in the bull pen waiting" and was never called. After waiting all day, he was sent back to "the block", receiving a disposition form the next day showing the sentence noted. He said that correction officers "tried to make it look like I refused to attend the hearing, so they said your request for witnesses is denied, because you didn't name any of them, and their testimony was immaterial since they weren't witnesses to the incident."

On cross-examination, Claimant indicated he had never seen a memorandum documenting his refusal to attend the hearing that was proffered by the State and accepted in evidence. [
See, State's Exhibit "A"]. He maintained he was not called to the hearing. The memorandum, signed by two correction officers, indicates that on November 30, 2001 Claimant refused to attend the hearing although able to do so, and, additionally, refused to sign the refusal form.
Claimant reiterated that it was the failure of "due process" that he was raising in this Claim, and that was "the only issue before the Court." He could not recall whether he had commenced an Article 78 proceeding relative to the disciplinary finding at issue.

A review of Claimant's entire Exhibit "1" shows that an administrative appeal was apparently filed by Claimant on December 1, 2001, but there was no indication either in Claimant's testimony or in the evidence admitted that the appeal was ever resolved. Indeed, Claimant indicates in his written Claim that he never received a response. Additionally, there is no indication that Claimant remained in keeplock after the expiration of the disciplinary period imposed.

No other witnesses testified and no other evidence was submitted.

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 (Ct Cl 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 NY2d 451,456 (1975), cert den sub nom. Schanbarger v Kellogg, 423 US 929 (1975).
From the limited facts presented it would appear that correction officers acted narrowly within the bounds of New York State Department of Correctional Services rules and regulations. The misbehavior report served upon Claimant, alleging violations of the rule "Disturbance 104.13", [ 7 NYCRR §270.2 (B) (5)], and the rule "Direct Order 106.10" [7 NYCRR §270.2 (B) (7)] triggered the requirements of a Tier 2 disciplinary hearing, in accordance with 7 NYCRR § 253.1
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, based upon the evidence submitted, the hearing was commenced seven (7) days after the initial confinement, and within one (1) day of service of the misbehavior report. The two delays of the hearing appear authorized. [
See, Claimant's Exhibit "1"]. The first was based on the failure to serve Claimant with a misbehavior report, and the second was based on the Claimant's request for witnesses. [See, Ibid]. As to the Claimant's contention that he was never afforded the opportunity to appear at the hearing on November 30, 2001, without more than his bare allegations that he did not refuse to attend the hearing, the Court cannot credit this testimony based on its inherently self-serving nature and the administrative record showing that such refusal occurred. [See, State's Exhibit "A"].
Defendant made a motion to dismiss initially based upon the premise that this Court lacked jurisdiction to hear the claim since Claimant was asking the Court to review the administrative proceeding. Defendant asserted that the type of challenge asserted to the administrative determination could only be determined in a special proceeding brought pursuant to Article 78 of the Civil Practice Law and Rules [
See, generally, §7801 et seq of the Civil Practice Law and Rules.]
While this Court would not have jurisdiction to determine, for example, whether the Claimant's conviction of the charges was supported by substantial evidence, it does have jurisdiction to consider whether Defendant's agents complied with their own rules and regulations, and afforded Claimant the protections provided by the regulatory scheme. It also may evaluate whether the hearing process was somehow tainted.
See, e.g., Craft v State of New York, 189 Misc 2d 661, 664 (Ct Cl 2001).[2] Thus, Defendant's motion to dismiss on this ground is denied.
Defendant's motion to dismiss for failure to establish a
prima facie case, however, upon which decision was reserved at trial, is hereby granted. As stated above, Claimant has not established that the decisions concerning his confinement should not be afforded the immunity protections of Arteaga v State of New York, supra, given the narrow compliance with DOCS regulations. Claim number 105470 is hereby dismissed in its entirety.
Let Judgment be entered accordingly.

April 4, 2003
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.
[2] Use of evidence obtained through unauthorized search of Claimant's mail at disciplinary hearing tainted Claimant's hearing. The hearing officer's determination was reversed because of the use of tainted evidence. "The claim thus addresses not just the violation of claimant's regulatory rights regarding the opening of her mail, but also the impingement of her due process rights at the hearing when the tainted evidence was admitted...(citation omitted), directly resulting in wrongful confinement of claimant." No absolute immunity would protect such actions.