New York State Court of Claims

New York State Court of Claims

CLAUDIO v. THE STATE OF NEW YORK, #2004-032-103, Claim No. 104545, Motion No. M-68866


Synopsis


Following discovery, the State's motion to dismiss an inmate claim is granted on the ground that the State's actions in conducting a prison disciplinary hearing were entitled to absolute immunity and there is no allegation or showing that a ministerial rule or regulation was violated.


Case Information

UID:
2004-032-103
Claimant(s):
ANGEL CLAUDIO
Claimant short name:
CLAUDIO
Footnote (claimant name) :

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

Third-party claimant(s):

Third-party defendant(s):

Claim number(s):
104545
Motion number(s):
M-68866
Cross-motion number(s):

Judge:
JUDITH A. HARD
Claimant's attorney:
Angel Claudio, Pro Se
Defendant's attorney:
Hon. Eliot Spitzer, NYS Attorney General
By: James L. Gelormini, Assistant Attorney General,Of Counsel
Third-party defendant's attorney:

Signature date:
November 22, 2004
City:
Albany
Comments:

Official citation:

Appellate results:

See also (multicaptioned case)



Decision

This is a motion for summary judgment dismissing a claim for wrongful confinement. Claimant alleges that he was unlawfully confined to a Special Housing Unit (SHU) after a Tier 3 disciplinary hearing involving an alleged attack on a correction officer. Claimant argues that the manner in which the hearing was conducted violated his due process rights because he was denied meaningful employee assistance, denied medical reports of the correction officer, and deprived of certain civilian witnesses and because the hearing officer allegedly had no authority to conduct the hearing (claim, ¶ 24).

The State has now moved for summary judgment dismissing the claim, asserting that the actions of the Department of Correctional Services relating to disciplining claimant were quasi-judicial and, thus, are entitled to absolute immunity pursuant to Arteaga v State of New York (72 NY2d 212). In its memorandum of law, defendant refutes at least the thirteen separately discernable allegations of violations of the claim (see, claim, ¶ 24; 7 NYCRR parts 250-254). By way of example, the State notes, and the supporting exhibits support, that claimant received a meaningful chance to choose an employee assistant for his hearing pursuant to 7 NYCRR § 251-4.1 and, in fact, his initial hearing was adjourned shortly after it commenced in order for him to receive his first choice, a civilian employee (Gelormini affirmation, Exhibit 2, p. 2–3; Exhibit 1, p. 4-7; Exhibit 3, p. 2). Claimant also asserted that he was not permitted by the hearing officer to introduce all of the evidence he sought to produce. In response to this allegation, the State argues that the material he sought to introduce appears to be irrelevant to the subject of the hearing. This appears to be accurate. In any event, a hearing officer's determination regarding relevancy is the quintessential type of discretionary, quasi-judicial action that Arteaga (supra) immunizes (see, e.g. Minieri v State of New York, 204 AD2d 982 [noting that hearing officer's refusal to view a tape was a discretionary decision afforded absolute immunity]).

After examination of the remainder of the State's submissions and a thorough review of the transcripts of claimant's disciplinary hearing, it is evident that the defendant has met its initial burden of establishing that it is entitled to a directed judgment in its favor as a matter of law (see Gilbert Frank Corp. v Federal Ins. Co., 70 NY2d 966, 967). The Court can discern no actions on the part of the hearing officer or any other event that could be construed as transgressing the relevant departmental rules and regulations (see 7 NYCRR parts 250-254). Absent some evidence that these regulations were violated and a ministerial duty was breached, the Court cannot vitiate the absolute immunity otherwise afforded the Department of Correctional Services in the area of inmate discipline (see Arteaga v State of New York, supra; Varela v State of New York, 283 AD2d 841; Ramirez v State of New York, 171 Misc 2d 677 [allegations that correction officers conspired and had improper motives for disciplinary charges did not state a viable cause of action, as acts involving exercise of discretion and quasi-judicial power were subject to absolute immunity]).

Claimant has not responded to the State's motion, and the bare allegations of his claim are insufficient to raise any issue of material fact (see Zuckerman v City of New York, 49 NY2d 557, 562). Claimant has wholly failed otherwise to rebut the State's prima facie showing of entitlement to judgment as a matter of law.

Accordingly, defendant's motion is granted, and Claim No. 104545 is hereby dismissed.


November 22, 2004
Albany, New York

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


The following papers were read on defendant's motion for summary judgment:

1. Notice of Motion and Supporting Affirmation of James L. Gelormini, Esq., AAG, with annexed Exhibits 1-3 and Memorandum of Law;

2. Affidavit in Opposition (none received);

3. Claim; Answer; filed discovery documents.