New York State Court of Claims

New York State Court of Claims

McEACHIN v. THE STATE OF NEW YORK, #2003-032-110, , Motion No. M-67292


Synopsis


Case Information

UID:
2003-032-110
Claimant(s):
GUY McEACHIN
Claimant short name:
McEACHIN
Footnote (claimant name) :

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

Third-party claimant(s):

Third-party defendant(s):

Claim number(s):

Motion number(s):
M-67292
Cross-motion number(s):

Judge:
JUDITH A. HARD
Claimant's attorney:
Guy McEachin, Pro Se
Defendant's attorney:
Hon. Eliot Spitzer, Esq., NYS Attorney General
By: Michele M. Walls, Esq., Assistant Attorney General,Of Counsel
Third-party defendant's attorney:

Signature date:
December 17, 2003
City:
Albany
Comments:

Official citation:

Appellate results:

See also (multicaptioned case)



Decision

Movant's proposed claim alleges that from March 22, 2003 to April 21, 2003, he was wrongfully confined to keeplock at Upstate Correctional Facility, despite his attempts to inform prison officials that the disciplinary sentence he was purportedly serving had been expunged from his records. According to movant, the incident giving rise to the disciplinary charge against him occurred at Five Points Correctional Facility but he was never informed of or took part in a disciplinary hearing, because shortly after the incident he was transferred to Auburn Correctional Facility. Although he protested that he had not been lawfully sentenced to keeplock, the officials at Upstate Correctional Facility did not believe him and required him to serve out the confinement. Afterwards, according to claimant, he obtained letters from officials at other facilities and, eventually, it was acknowledged that there had been no hearing and no lawful imposition of sentence. Movant alleges that he asked to have the thirty days he had already served credited toward another keeplock sentence but that request was rejected.

This motion was brought less than six months after the proposed claim arose, and a like action against a citizen would not be barred by the applicable statute of limitations (CPLR 214). In determining a motion for permission to file a late claim, the Court must consider, among
other relevant factors, the six factors set forth in subdivision 6 of section 10 of the Court of Claims Act: 1) whether the delay in filing the claim was excusable; 2) whether the State had notice of the essential facts constituting the claim; 3) whether the State had an opportunity to investigate the circumstances underlying the claim; 4) whether the claim appears to be meritorious; 5) whether the failure to file or serve a timely claim or serve a timely notice of intention resulted in substantial prejudice to the State; and 6) whether the claimant has another available remedy. The Court in the exercise of its discretion balances these factors. The presence or absence of any one factor is not dispositive (Bay Terrace Coop. Section IV v New York State Employees' Retirement Sys. Policemen's and Firemen's Retirement Sys., 55 NY2d 979 [1982]).

Movant states that he failed to timely initiate an action in this Court because he was transferred, without his relevant papers, to Rikers Island Correctional Facility, to attend court immediately after his release from keeplock. He did not return to Upstate Correctional Facility until July 21, 2003, the ninetieth day after his release, at which time he immediately took steps to have the matter investigated. A memorandum submitted with movant's responding affidavit confirms that he left Upstate Correctional Facility to go to court on May 2, 2003 and returned, as indicated, on July 21, 2003. While incarceration is not a disability per se (Plate v State of New York , 92 Misc 2d 1033, 1037-1038 [Ct Cl 1978]; Civil Rights Law §79), it is in some instances appropriate to consider whether the actual conditions of a prisoner's confinement "interfere[d] in any substantial way with his ability to effectuate his legal rights" (id). In this instance, movant has presented a plausible excuse for his delay.
Movant further asserts that the State had notice of the essential facts constituting the claim because of his several protests and the investigation that was conducted. While there is no documentation of such complaints and investigations, the disciplinary record was expunged, and therefore it must be assumed that an investigation took place. In the Court's view, the State would not suffer substantial prejudice if the requested relief were granted. In addition, it does not appear that claimant would have an available remedy against any party other than the State.
Movant has succeeded in establishing that the proposed claim is not patently groundless, frivolous, or legally defective and that there is reasonable cause to believe that a valid cause of action exists (Matter of Santana v New York State Thruway Auth., 92 Misc 2d 1 [Ct Cl 1997]). Attached to his responding affidavit, claimant has attached printouts of prison records showing the following:
  1. Reference to a December 19, 2000 incident that occurred at Five Points Correctional
Facility and resulted in a sentence of thirty days keeplock and thirty days loss of packages is contained on a printout of his disciplinary record that is dated January 23, 2001 (Exhibit B1) but is no longer present in a printout dated April 24, 2003 (Exhibit B2), and
  1. That on the day that the record indicates was the day of the hearing for that charge, December 29, 2000 (Exhibit B1), movant was being transferred from Five Points Correctional Facility to Auburn Correctional Facility (Exhibit C).
While these documents are not sufficient to prove movant's case, they provide ample proof that the proposed claim is not groundless, frivolous, or legally defective on its face.
Taking into account the six statutorily prescribed factors, the Court finds them to weigh in favor of granting claimant's motion for permission to file a late claim. Claimant is therefore directed to file and serve a claim identical to the proposed claim submitted in support of this motion; and to do so in conformity with the requirements of Court of Claims Act §§10, 11 and 11-a within sixty (60) days after this order is filed.




December 17, 2003
Albany, New York

HON. JUDITH A. HARD
Judge of the Court of Claims



The following papers were read on movant's motion for permission to file an untimely claim.
1. Notice of Motion and Supporting Affidavit of Guy McEachin, pro se, with annexed proposed claim and exhibit

2. Affirmation in Opposition of Michelle M. Walls, Esq., AAG

3. Reply Affidavit of Guy McEachin, pro se, with annexed exhibits

Filed papers: None