New York State Court of Claims

New York State Court of Claims

MCKINLEY v. THE STATE OF NEW YORK, #2003-031-048, Claim No. 107323, Motion No. M-66542


Claim states a valid cause of action for illegal confinement. Defendant's motion to dismiss denied.

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: HEATHER R. RUBINSTEIN, ESQ.Assistant Attorney General
Third-party defendant's attorney:

Signature date:
July 8, 2003

Official citation:

Appellate results:

See also (multicaptioned case)


The following papers, numbered 1 to 4, were read on motion by Defendant for an order dismissing the claim:
1. Notice of Motion, filed March 14, 2003;
2. Affirmation of Heather R. Rubinstein, Esq., dated March 12, 2003 with attached exhibit;
3. Claimant's Affidavit (denominated Affirmation), sworn to March 27, 2003;
4. Filed Papers: Claim. This is Defendant's motion filed in lieu of an answer, seeking dismissal of the claim. The claim, filed on February 13, 2003, alleges that Claimant was illegally confined following a Tier III disciplinary hearing. That hearing, which concerned Claimant's alleged violation of Rule 102.10 (threats), was conducted at Auburn Correctional Facility on December 19, 2002. Claimant alleges in his claim that his subsequent confinement was illegal because he was denied due process during the disciplinary hearing. Specifically, he states that the hearing officer was not fair and impartial, and that he was improperly denied the right to call witnesses.

In support of its motion, Defendant asserts 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 alleged improprieties at the hearing is in an administrative appeal of the hearing determination or an Article 78 proceeding in Supreme Court. Defendant further asserts that Claimant has failed to specify the alleged due process violations and, therefore, has not adequately set forth a valid cause of action against the State. Finally, Defendant maintains that the claim is premature, arguing that, because Claimant was still confined at the time he filed his claim, the claim had not yet accrued.

Defendant correctly points out that the State enjoys absolute immunity from claims for monetary damages relating to disciplinary hearings when the rules and regulations that govern such hearings are followed (Arteaga v State of New York, 72 NY2d 212). However, Claimant's allegations are that the hearing was not conducted in accordance with applicable rules and regulations. If Defendant did violate its own rules and regulations in conducting the hearing, or otherwise acted outside the sphere of privileged actions, this immunity is lost (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 (NY Ct Cl 1986). The question then is whether or not Claimant has set forth facts sufficient to support his contention that the hearing was conducted in violation of his due process rights.

Claimant alleges that he was improperly denied the right to call witnesses at his disciplinary hearing. 7 NYCRR 254.5 governs the right of inmates to call witnesses at disciplinary hearings. The violation of such a regulation can form the basis of a valid claim against the State for denial of due process rights (see Craft v State of New York, Ct Cl, October 31, 2001 [Claim No. 102949], Mignano, J., UID #2001-029-113). Therefore, this allegation, if true, is enough to support a cause of action against Defendant. Additionally, Claimant has alleged that the hearing officer was not fair and impartial. Though he does not specify how, I find that the allegation is specific enough at this juncture, especially in light of the fact that Claimant is prosecuting this matter pro se, and as such his pleadings should be liberally construed.

Similarly, I find Defendant's contention that a claim has not yet accrued to be without merit. While it is true that, for statute of limitation purposes, a claim for illegal confinement is determined to have accrued on the date of release, it does not follow that a claim may not be filed until a person illegally confined is released. If this were true, Defendant could avoid all suits for illegal confinement merely by refusing to release the person illegally confined.

For the reasons set forth above, I find that the claim in this matter sets forth a valid cause of action against the State. Accordingly, Defendant's motion for dismissal of the claim is denied.

July 8, 2003
Rochester, New York

Judge of the Court of Claims