New York State Court of Claims

New York State Court of Claims

ARGENTIERI v. THE STATE OF NEW YORK, #2003-031-027, Claim No. 107020, Motion No. M-66462


Claimant's disciplinary hearing was conducted in accordance with rules and regulations. Claimant's confinement following such hearing was therefore not improper. Defendant's motion for summary judgment granted.

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:
New York State Attorney General
BY: RICHARD B. FRIEDFERTIG, ESQ.Assistant Attorney General
Third-party defendant's attorney:

Signature date:
May 13, 2003

Official citation:

Appellate results:

See also (multicaptioned case)


The following papers, numbered 1 to 3, were read on motion by Defendant for summary judgment and dismissal of the claim:
1) Defendant's Notice of Motion, filed February 25, 2003;
2) Affidavit of Richard B. Friedfertig, Esq., sworn to February 24, 2003, with atttached exhibits;
3) Claimant's unsworn Reply, filed March 19, 2003.
Upon the foregoing papers, Defendant's motion is granted . This is Defendant's motion for summary judgment. In his underlying claim filed on December 2, 2002, Claimant Michael Argentieri alleges that, among other things, while an inmate at Gowanda Correctional Facility, he was improperly confined to the Special Housing Unit ("SHU") for 90 days following a December 5, 2001 disciplinary hearing. Specifically, on November 28, 2001, two correction officers and a sergeant witnessed Claimant making threats during a telephone conversation, a portion of which was taped. Correction Officer B. Bieniek gave Claimant an Inmate Misbehavior Report which charged him with violations of rule 102.10 (threats). This misbehavior report was endorsed by Sergeant Serena and Correction Officer Kishbaugh.

At the Tier III hearing, commenced on December 3 and concluded on December 5, 2001, Claimant alleges that he attempted to call two witnesses, including the correction officer against whom he was accused of making threats. Defendant asserts, and the hearing records and related documents reflect, that these witnesses were denied on the basis that they had not been present at the time, and were not witnesses to, the conversation in which the alleged threats were made. Claimant does not dispute this fact, but argues that the witnesses were necessary for him to prove his other contentions at the hearing: that the misbehavior report was bogus and that he was the victim of retaliation on the part of the correction officers. Claimant also asserts that the hearing officer improperly prevented him from questioning witnesses directly (Claimant was required to pose questions to the hearing officer who, in turn, questioned the witnesses) and that he was denied the right to pursue certain lines of questioning.

Claimant, who was found guilty at the conclusion of the hearing, concedes that he was advised in writing as to the reasons why his requested witnesses were denied, but maintains that this denial violated his due process rights to a fair hearing.

Defendant seeks summary judgment, asserting that the actions of the hearing officer are entitled to immunity and that the Court of Claims does not have jurisdiction over such matters. Defendant argues that the appropriate venue for Claimant to address the improprieties alleged to have occurred at the hearing is in an administrative appeal of the hearing determination or an Article 78 proceeding in Supreme Court. Indeed, Defendant also demonstrated that Claimant has unsuccessfully attempted to do just that. His hearing determination was administratively affirmed on appeal by Donald Selsky, Director of the Department of Correctional Services' Inmate Disciplinary Program on January 30, 2002. Further, in Claimant's subsequent Article 78 proceeding, the Appellate Division Fourth Department unanimously confirmed the determination and dismissed Claimant's application on November 15, 2002.

The actions of prison personnel involving inmate disciplinary matters are generally 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).

It was Claimant's burden in this matter to demonstrate that he was denied due process at the hearing: that the disciplinary hearing was conducted in violation of the relevant rules before he could recover on this claim for monetary compensation. He has failed. There is no indication that Defendant violated any of its own rules and regulations in conducting the hearing, or otherwise acted outside the sphere of privileged actions (Arteaga v State of New York, 72 NY2d 212, supra; Holloway v State of New York, 285 AD2d 765; cf. Gittens v State of New York, 132 Misc 2d 399 [Ct Cl 1986]).

After a thorough review of the documents before me, I find that the hearing officer relied upon the Department of Correctional Services' rule regarding witnesses: that only witnesses with material testimony and that did not jeopardize institutional safety or correctional goals need be called (7 NYCRR 254.5(a)). It was reasonable for the hearing officer to deny the Claimant's requested witnesses as it appeared that these witnesses did not have direct knowledge of the incident at issue. Inasmuch as the hearing officer exercised his discretion within the parameters of the applicable rule governing witnesses at Tier III hearings, his actions are blanketed by immunity (Moreno v State of New York, Ct Cl, April 5, 2001, Bell, J., UID # 2001-007-551).[1]

Similarly, the hearing officer's refusal to let Claimant pursue certain lines of questioning at the hearing were discretionary evidentiary rulings also blanketed by immunity (Minieri v State of New York, 204 AD2d 982). Moreover, it was not improper to direct Claimant to pose his questions first to the hearing officer, rather than questioning the witnesses directly (see Tumminia v Kuhlmann, 139 Misc 2d 394; 83 NY Jur 2d, Penal and Correctional Institutions § 96). Finally, to the extent that Claimant's argument that the basis for the Inmate Misbehavior Report and the resulting hearing was, in and of itself defective, has merit, his remedy was with the Supreme Court in an Article 78 proceeding (Moreno v State of New York, Ct Cl, April 5, 2001, Bell, J., UID # 2001-007-551, supra.)

Based upon the foregoing it is:

ORDERED, that Defendant's motion for summary judgment is granted The Clerk is directed to close the file.

May 13, 2003
Rochester, New York

Judge of the Court of Claims

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