New York State Court of Claims

New York State Court of Claims

DAVIDSON v. THE STATE OF NEW YORK, #2004-015-414, Claim No. 108063, Motion No. M-68449


Synopsis


Court granted State's motion to dismiss claims seeking damages for Parole Board's denial of parole applications. State is immune for Parole Board's discretionary determinations.

Case Information

UID:
2004-015-414
Claimant(s):
CHESTER DAVIDSON
Claimant short name:
DAVIDSON
Footnote (claimant name) :

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

Third-party claimant(s):

Third-party defendant(s):

Claim number(s):
108063
Motion number(s):
M-68449
Cross-motion number(s):

Judge:
FRANCIS T. COLLINS
Claimant's attorney:
Chester Davidson, Pro SeNo Appearance
Defendant's attorney:
Honorable Eliot Spitzer, Attorney General
By: Stephen J. Maher, EsquireAssistant Attorney General
Third-party defendant's attorney:

Signature date:
July 15, 2004
City:
Saratoga Springs
Comments:

Official citation:

Appellate results:

See also (multicaptioned case)



Decision

Defendant's motion to dismiss the claim on the ground that the State is immune from liability with regard to discretionary determinations of the New York State Board of Parole (Parole Board) is granted. That portion of the motion seeking dismissal on the further ground that the claim is barred by collateral estoppel and res judicata is denied as academic. The claim seeks to recover damages arising in February 1998, December 1999 and December 2001 when the Parole Board denied applications for parole filed by the claimant. The claim asserts numerous and varied violations of the New York State Constitution and the Constitution of the United States as well as various unspecified statutes, by-laws [sic], rules and regulations all of which pertain to the Parole Board's determinations to deny claimant's application for parole release.

The defendant moved to dismiss the claim on several grounds, including that the State is absolutely immune from liability for decisions of the Parole Board respecting parole applications. Claimant did not oppose the motion.

It is well settled that discretionary determinations of the Parole Board are entitled to absolute immunity and cannot serve as a basis for tort liability against the State (see Tarter v State of New York, 68 NY2d 511, 518-519; Semkus v State of New York, 272 AD2d 74, lv denied 95 NY2d 761). Moreover, to the extent claimant seeks to determine the legality of the Parole Board's action in denying him parole such a challenge may be mounted solely within the context of an article 78 proceeding commenced in Supreme Court (see Lublin v State of New York, 135 Misc 2d 419, affd 135 AD2d 1115, lv denied 71 NY2d 802). Here it appears from defendant's Exhibit B that claimant has brought a prior unsuccessful proceeding seeking such relief in Supreme Court. Any review of that determination would be addressed by the Supreme Court, Appellate Division and not in the context of an action for money damages in the Court of Claims.

A review of the instant claim fails to disclose any cognizable constitutional tort claim under the New York State Constitution as recognized by the Court of Appeals in Brown v State of New York, 89 NY2d 172. In this regard it is noted that the courts of this State are properly reluctant to recognize a constitutional tort under the New York State Constitution where the claimant has or had an alternative remedy available to redress the purported wrong (see Martinez v City of Schenectady, 97 NY2d 78; Bullard v State of New York, 307 AD2d 676; Lyles v State of New York, 2 AD3d 694). Claimant admittedly had available a distinct and effective statutory remedy to challenge the legality of the Parole Board's decision in the form of an article 78 proceeding in Supreme Court. The fact that he did not succeed in convincing the Supreme Court he was improperly denied parole in December 2001, or on either of his first two attempts, is of no moment for purposes of the instant matter. The availability of that proceeding afforded claimant an adequate alternative remedy to vindicate his rights under the State Constitution and it is therefore unnecessary and inappropriate to imply a constitutional tort cause of action for money damages under the present circumstances (see Bullard v State of New York, supra; see also Remley v State of New York, 174 Misc 2d 523).

Finally, this Court has no jurisdiction to hear and determine a claim arising from an alleged violation of the United States Constitution (see Brown v State of New York, supra, at 184; Ferrer v State of New York, 172 Misc 2d 1; Zagarella v State of New York, 149 AD2d 503; Gittens v State of New York, 132 Misc 2d 399). Nor is the State a "person" amenable to suit under 42 USC § 1983 (Ferrick v State of New York, 198 AD2d 822; Matter of Thomas v New York Temporary State Comm. On Regulations of Lobbying, 83 AD2d 723; affd 56 NY2d 656).

The defendant's motion to dismiss the claim on the basis that the State is immune from liability is granted. Dismissal renders the further grounds for dismissal asserted by the defendant on its motion academic.


July 15, 2004
Saratoga Springs, New York

HON. FRANCIS T. COLLINS
Judge of the Court of Claims


The Court considered the following papers:
  1. Notice of motion dated May 6, 2004;
  2. Affirmation of Stephen J. Maher dated May 6, 2004 with exhibits.