New York State Court of Claims

New York State Court of Claims

HAYNES v. THE STATE OF NEW YORK, #2003-031-053, Claim No. 106765, Motion Nos. M-66439, M-66537


Claim fails to state a cause of action against the State. Events listed in claim fail to identify State actor and are barred by statute of limitations. Defendant's motion for dismissal of the claim is granted. Claimants' motion for poor person status is denied as moot.

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):
M-66439, M-66537
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:
July 28, 2003

Official citation:

Appellate results:

See also (multicaptioned case)


The following papers, numbered 1 to 8, were read on motion by Defendant for dismissal of the claim and on motion by Claimants for permission to proceed as poor persons:
  1. Notice of Motion (M-66439), filed February 24, 2003;
2) Affidavit of Brenda Haynes, sworn to February 14, 2003;
3) Affidavit of Emerson Haynes, sworn to February 14, 2003
  1. "Affirmation" In Opposition of Assistant Erie County Attorney Frederick G. Attea, dated March 3, 2003;
5) Notice of Motion (M-66537), filed March 17, 2003;
6) Affidavit of Richard B. Friedfertig, Esq., sworn to March 14, 2003, with attached exhibits;
7) Joint Reply Affidavit of Brenda and Emerson Haynes, sworn to March 24, 2003, with attached exhibits;
8) Filed Papers: Claim and Answer. Upon the foregoing papers, Defendant's motion is granted. Claimants' motion is denied as moot.

Claimants, Brenda and Emerson Haynes, commenced this action against the State of New York, alleging that their civil rights were violated in various proceedings which related to their loss of custody of their children. Apparently, Claimants have been involved in several actions in several courts relating to these same matters. Although their claim is, at various times, vague, rambling and unintelligible, it appears that, in March and April of 1998, Claimants were arrested and custody of their children was taken from them through appropriate proceedings in Family and Supreme Court. Claimants have litigated the loss of custody of their children in Article 78 proceedings as well as in Federal Court.

With their claim, Claimants apparently attempt to allege that the events that led to the loss of custody of their children, as well as the judicial process utilized to obtain the removal of the children from their custody, were the result of a widespread conspiracy and violations of their constitutional rights. Claimants seek to have this Court award $100,000,000.00 in damages, injunctive relief, declaratory judgment to clear them of any wrongdoing, and punitive damages in the amount of $10,000,000.00.

With its motion, Defendant seeks dismissal of the claim on several grounds. First, that the claim fails to set forth a valid cause of action against the State. Second, that the claim fails to identify any actionable conduct on the part of a State agent or employee. Third, that the claim fails to specify the dates and the nature of the various alleged actions which form the basis of the claim. Fourth, that to the extent the claim alleges a cognizable action for constitutional violations, this Court does not have jurisdiction over such matters. And fifth, as the events that have been identified in the claim all occurred in 1998, that any cognizable action that could be gleaned from the claim is barred by the statute of limitations.

The Court of Claims is a court of limited jurisdiction with power to hear claims only against the State and certain public authorities (Court of Claims Act § 9). This Court does not have jurisdiction over and may not entertain a claim against either the individuals or county agencies identified in the claim (see Whitmore v State of New York, 55 AD2d 745, 746, lv denied 42 NY2d 810; Jones v State of New York, 69 Misc 2d 1034).

To a large extent, Claimants appear to allege that they are unhappy with the results they have received in the various other courts in which these matters have been litigated. They apparently allege that the various judges presiding over those matters were involved in a conspiracy against them. However, the actions of these individuals are protected by judicial immunity (Harley v State of New York, 186 AD2d 324). This doctrine has been solidly established for years and its goal is "not to benefit the Judge, but to protect the public on whose benefit the Judge acts; that benefit is to secure a Judge's ability to act independently without fear of personal consequences" (Alvarez v Snyder, 264 AD2d 27, 34 citing Pierson v Ray, 386 US 547 at 554). In order to overcome the presumptive application of this doctrine, Claimants must set forth specifically how the actions of the judges involved in their custody proceedings were performed in the clear absence of jurisdiction (Harley v State of New York, 186 AD2d 324, supra). The claim is devoid of any indication as to how the courts that determined the claimants' custody rights did so without jurisdiction.

Further, although Claimants also allege that the various individuals identified conspired to violate their constitutional rights, such claims are conclusory, and Claimants have failed to allege any factual support or specifics of any kind relating to these allegations. Be that as it may, a cause of action under the Federal Constitution is not cognizable in this Court (see Ferrer v State of New York, 172 Misc 2d 1, 5; Gill v State of New York, Ct Cl, January 10, 2001, Mignano, J., UID #2001-029-042).

Finally, as Defendant correctly points out, all of the events that were identified in the claim occurred in 1998. The claim in this matter was filed approximately four years later on October 9, 2002. Under Court of Claims Act §10(3-b), a claim based upon the intentional tort of a State officer, such as is alleged here, must be filed within ninety days. It is a fundamental principle of practice in the Court of Claims that the filing and service requirements contained in Court of Claims Act §§ 10 and 11 are jurisdictional in nature and must be strictly construed (Finnerty v New York State Thruway Auth., 75 NY2d 721, 722; Commack Self-Serv. Kosher Meats v State of New York, 270 AD2d 687). As such, the Claim must be dismissed as untimely.

Based upon the foregoing, it is:

ORDERED, that Defendant's motion to dismiss the claim is granted. The Claimants' motion for permission to proceed as poor persons is denied as moot. The Clerk is directed to close the file.

July 28, 2003
Rochester, New York

Judge of the Court of Claims