New York State Court of Claims

New York State Court of Claims

ROSSI v. THE STATE OF NEW YORK, #2004-030-561, Claim No. 106687, Motion No. M-68435


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:
Third-party defendant's attorney:

Signature date:
August 9, 2004
White Plains

Official citation:

Appellate results:

See also (multicaptioned case)


The following papers, numbered 1 to 6, were read and considered on Claimant's motion

to compel the production of documents pursuant to Civil Practice Law and Rules §3124:

1,2 Notice of Motion; Affidavit in Support by Randolph Rossi, Claimant and attached exhibits

  1. Affirmation in Opposition by Dewey Lee, Assistant Attorney General, with attachments
  1. Affidavit in Response by Randolph Rossi, Claimant, with attachments
5,6 Filed Papers: Claim, Answer

After carefully reviewing the papers submitted and the applicable law the motion is disposed of as follows:

In his Claim, Claimant alleges that he was wrongfully confined in a special housing unit (SHU) while he was an inmate at Green Haven Correctional Facility (hereafter Green Haven) commencing on or about December 24, 1999. It is unclear from the claim when he was released, but it appears Claimant pursued administrative remedies, ultimately resulting in the reversal and expungement of the finding of guilt on May 11, 2001. Prior to that administrative determination Claimant had commenced a special proceeding, pursuant to Article 78 of the Civil Practice Law and Rules, challenging the superintendent's initial modification of the penalty imposed to nine (9) months SHU confinement - with six (6) months suspended - and loss of good time. Claimant asserts he lost all privileges for a period of 109 days. He maintains that had he not filed the Article 78 proceeding, the superintendent would not have reversed and expunged his decision.

In its Answer, the Defendant indicates it lacks information sufficient to form a belief with respect to the allegations contained in paragraphs 3 through 6 of the Claim, and denies the allegations contained in paragraph 7 through 16, in conformance with the general pleading requirements of Civil Practice Law and Rules §3018(a). By way of defenses, Defendant asserts Claimant's own culpable conduct, including contributory negligence and assumption of risk as required, and claim preclusion and issue preclusion.

To establish a prima facie case of wrongful confinement, a "species" of the tort of false imprisonment, [Gittens v State of New York, 132 Misc 2d 399, 407 (Ct Cl 1986)], a claimant must show ". . . (1) the defendant intended to confine him, (2) the . . . [claimant] was conscious of the confinement, (3) the . . . [claimant] did not consent to the confinement and (4) the confinement was not otherwise privileged . . . " Broughton v State of New York, 37 NY2d 451, 456 (1975). Generally, in the prison setting, a claim of wrongful confinement brought in the Court of Claims is very limited. Liability is essentially established under only two circumstances: (1) if the inmate is confined beyond the term provided for in the disciplinary disposition; (2) the disciplinary disposition itself is flawed because of a failure to follow regulations.

Thus, the quasi-judicial acts of correctional employees taken in furtherance of authorized disciplinary measures are entitled to absolute immunity. Arteaga v State of New York, 72 NY2d 212, 219-220 (1988). If officers act inconsistently with their own rules and regulations, or otherwise act outside the sphere of privileged actions, liability may attach. The fact that charges are ultimately dismissed does not give rise to a cognizable cause of action when there is no evidence defendant acted inconsistently with its own rules and regulations. Arteaga v State of New York, supra; Holloway v State of New York, 285 AD2d 765 (3d Dept 2001); c.f. Gittens, supra.

Civil Practice Law and Rules §3101, setting forth the scope of disclosure in a civil case and applicable in the Court of Claims [See Court of Claims Act §9(9)] provides in pertinent part that "[t]here shall be full disclosure of all matter material and necessary in the prosecution or defense of an action, regardless of the burden of proof . . . "

When a party fails to respond in some fashion to a demand, the other party may make a motion to compel such as this one. Civil Practice Law and Rules §§3124, 3126. The party making the motion should append a copy of the demand at issue. Notably, disclosure demands - which are by nature documents served on another party - are required to be filed with the Chief Clerk of the Court of Claims. See 22 NYCRR §206.5(c).

Claimant here has neither filed the demand with the Clerk's Office as required, or appended the demand to his motion papers. Nonetheless, the Assistant Attorney General has responded "for the sake of expediency" indicating that the "disputed request asks for a ‘Copy of any and all confidential information generated as a result of the investigation mentioned above, that was used against claimant during the superintendent's disciplinary hearing and disposition on January 6, 2000.' " [Affirmation in Opposition by Dewey Lee, Assistant Attorney General, ¶2]. The Assistant Attorney General has appended copies of three (3) different pages, all containing considerable redaction. The first is entitled "Green Haven CIU Interview Form", and contains mostly indecipherable handwritten notes of an interview with an undisclosed inmate on November 15, 1999 that appears to mention Claimant. The second page is another "Green Haven CIU Interview Form", also completed by hand, referring to an interview with a confidential informant on December 13, 1999, and stating: "the following inmates have been identified to date as ‘Block captains for GH YZK'. . . J BLOCK ROSSI, RANDOLF . . ." The nine (9) other names listed next to blocks A through I, respectively, are redacted. The final page is entirely

handwritten in block letters, and commences with the words "these people are promoting the lockdown . . .", and appears to note the Claimant as the first name in a list of 4. The others are redacted. The Assistant Attorney General asks that this motion be denied as moot.

As noted earlier, discovery of matter that is material and necessary is liberally allowed. Here, however, it is unclear how any of this information would serve to establish the limited claim for wrongful confinement justiciable in this Court. In his Affidavit in Support of the present motion Claimant describes his claim as "two fold: the first is that claimant was targeted because he was a member of the inmate liaison committee during the facility purge in 1999, and not because he had done anything wrong. The second is that there is no rule, regulation, policy or statute that authorized the transfer of a misbehavior report from one facility to another for a superintendent's hearing. In other words, the receiving facility did not have jurisdiction to conduct a superintendent's hearing where the misbehavior report was issued from another facility." [Affidavit in Support by Randolph Rossi, Claimant, ¶7]. Clearly, the first "fold" is not justiciable in this Court[1], concerned as it is in a wrongful confinement claim only with whether the proceedings were flawed because of a failure to follow procedures,[2] and whether the time served was properly counted. That Claimant may have been "targeted" for involvement in certain groups is an internal discretionary concern of the facility, not subject to review in this Court except as it may involve a failure to follow institutional regulations. Accordingly, the documents referred to in this motion simply are irrelevant.

Claimant's motion number M-68435 to compel discovery is in all respects DENIED.

August 9, 2004
White Plains, New York

Judge of the Court of Claims

[1] No cause of action against the State of New York exists for alleged violations of an individual's rights under the United States Constitution [See Welch v State of New York, 286 AD2d 496, 498 (2d Dept 2001); Zagarella v State of New York, 149 AD2d 503 (2d Dept 1989); Davis v State of New York, 124 AD2d 420,423 (3d Dept 1986)], in that the State is not a "person" amenable to suit pursuant to 42 USC §1983.
[2] See Watts v State of New York, UID #2004-018-301, Claim Number 108335, Motion Nos. M-67783, CM-67943 (Fitzpatrick, J., April 23, 2004).