New York State Court of Claims

New York State Court of Claims
NORASTEH v. STATE OF NEW YORK, #2005-016-042, Claim No. 107989

Since there was probable cause to arrest claimant for disorderly conduct in Manhattan Small Claims Court, his claim of false arrest was dismissed. AFFIRMED 2007 N.Y. Slip Op. 08114; 1st Dept; 10/30/07
Case Information
Claimant short name:
Footnote (claimant name) :



1The caption has been amended sua sponte to reflect that the State of New York is the only proper defendant.
Footnote (defendant name) :

Third-party claimant(s):

Third-party defendant(s):

Claim number(s):
Motion number(s):

Cross-motion number(s):

Alan C. Marin
Claimant’s attorney:
Payman Norasteh, Pro Se
Defendant’s attorney:
Eliot Spitzer, Attorney GeneralBy: Gail P. Pierce-Siponen, AAG
Third-party defendant’s attorney:

Signature date:
June 9, 2005
New York

Official citation:

Appellate results:
AFFIRMED 2007 N.Y. Slip Op. 08114; 1st Dept; 10/30/07
See also (multicaptioned case)

This is the decision following the trial of the claim of Payman Norasteh for false arrest in Civil Court, New York County at 111 Centre Street. On the afternoon of November 21, 2001, while Mr. Norasteh was waiting on line in the Small Claims Court Part, which is located on the building’s third floor, a disturbance arose over positions on the line.
In addition to claimant, taking the stand at trial were Alan Handler, Esq., also on line, and Court Officer Eugene Saunders who was called to the scene. Admitted into evidence were: the Unified Court System’s Unusual Occurrence Report, the Complaint/Information alleging Disorderly Conduct and the Certificate of Disposition, documenting the dismissal of the one charge against claimant. (Cl exh 1).
This portion of the Decision sets out what this trier of fact has concluded from the testimonial and documentary evidence to be the credible narrative of the events.
At about 3:30 p.m., the line to reach the Clerk’s office for filing papers in Small Claims Court was moving slowly. The Clerk’s area opened out to a hallway through a set of double doors, although only one door was open then. Inside the two doors, the line “snaked around,” according to Mr. Handler, a lawyer who was there to file some papers.
Handler was back near the doors, but still inside; claimant was on line just outside the doors. Two individuals were between Handler and Norasteh, and there were others on line behind Mr. Norasteh. A woman, who we did not hear from at trial, had taken a seat on a bench outside the double doors to fill out some papers. Her name was redacted in the Unusual Occurrence Report (cl exh 1, p.1), and she shall be referred to here as Ms. X. At some point - - claimant thought he had been waiting for about 15 or 20 minutes - - the woman attempted to insert herself into the line immediately in front of Norasteh.
Norasteh had not seen her on line before. When X came over, she said she had been on line, was sitting because of knee problems, and “demanded that she go in front of me.” Norasteh reacted with,“why don’t you just keep sitting there,” a comment perceived as sarcastic, and there was an exchange of curses. Ms. X indicated that that had been her position on line, and claimant responded that this was not acceptable. Norasteh conceded that some jockeying for position ensued:
So, then I told her no and then she, she practically moved herself in between me and the person in front of me . . . I didn’t like that and I said “You know, this is ridiculous,” and I moved myself between her and the person in front of her.

Under the circumstances, in such fairly tight quarters, physical contact is inevitable. Handler described what was going on as “some jostling,” and he heard Ms. X say “something like, ‘Ow,’ ” and a man between him and Norasteh exclaim, “Watch it, you stepped on her foot,” although Handler himself did not see it. A number of persons in the area maintained that Mr. Norasteh had pushed Ms. X. Claimant testified that “there were people who were . . . saying that I pushed this woman,” a characterization he vehemently disputed.
The Unusual Occurrence Report (id., p.1) filled out by Lt. Fred Marcucci, provides: “. . . several witnesses informed me that Norasteh had pushed [Ms. X] on line . . .” At trial, claimant admitted that something happened, but whether such constituted “pushing,” as such, depended upon the definition of the word; a few people behind Norasteh who saw him move between X and the person just ahead of her “had an interpretation . . . [that] that . . . constituted pushing . . . I never pushed her as far as the way I define pushing. . .”
Nor was this confrontation over in a few seconds. On the day of the incident, Officer Saunders was stationed at the magnetometer by the entrance to 111 Center Street, which means that after he was alerted, the officer had to go from the first to the third floor and when he arrived, there was still “a disturbance,” as Saunders described it. Norasteh testified at trial that, “I do not regret being loud if necessary.” Handler’s testimony focused on claimant’s agitation; Saunders recalled it as more than one person being agitated. Ms. X told Saunders that claimant would not let her “re-enter” the line.
Officer Saunders had responded to the scene with Officer Bassett. Further proof that the disturbance did not end quickly was that these two officers could not becalm the situation. They requested the assistance of Lt. Fred Marcucci.
Norasteh stayed angry. He refused to answer some questions at his deposition; at trial this exchange occurred:
Q. Did anyone ever state that there had been any pushing on the line?
A. You know what? . . . I’m not gonna answer that . . . I am just so upset about the fact that these people lied that . . . I’ve been upset for several weeks.
Section 240.20 of the Penal Law provides, in part, that a “person is guilty of disorderly conduct when, with intent to cause public inconvenience, annoyance or alarm, or recklessly creating a risk thereof” he or she does any of seven proscribed activities, including: engaging “in fighting or in violent, tumultuous or threatening behavior”; making “unreasonable noise”; or “obstruct[ing] vehicular or pedestrian traffic . . . ”

Disorderly conduct is an offense that focuses on the public dimension: “[t]he clear aim was to reserve the disorderly conduct statute for situations that carried beyond the concern of individual disputants to a point where they had become a potential or immediate public problem.” People v Munafo, 50 NY2d 326, 331, 428 NYS2d 924, 926 (1980). What occurred here was a disturbance that disrupted the normal operation of a unit of the Unified Court System; in fact, the Clerk of the Court believed it necessary to request assistance from security personnel. Given more than one eyewitness, the claimant’s demeanor, and that part of the disturbance took place in plain sight of at least two court officers, there was probable cause to arrest Mr. Norasteh and thus a claim for damages grounded on false arrest cannot succeed. Broughton v State of New York, 37 NY2d 451, 373 NYS2d 87 (1975); Batista v City of New York, 15 AD3d 304, 790 NYS2d 445 (1st Dept 2005). Perhaps Ms. X was not in fact originally on line, and thus claimant was right to believe she had cut into the line and usurped his position, but such does not warrant behavior that obstructs the orderly operation of a court house.
Claimant argues that all this was pretextual and that, “They arrested me simply and merely because I refused to show my ID. That’s simple as that.” But earlier, he had testified otherwise: “I’ll show you my identification if you want to see who I am,” but not if it is to be part of the Occurrence Report:
I said, “Well, your report is going to be filled with these lies.” They said, “yes, we have [to], it’s our job.” And I said, “I’m not interested in that. I’m not going to show you my ID.”
The Report was a necessary part of the security function of the officers. The other individuals who were interviewed for the Report, Ms. X and Mr. Handler, were both asked for their identification. The facts here are distinguishable from those that arise directly from a “stop and identify” statute. See Hiibel v Sixth Judicial District Court of Nevada, 542 US 177 (2004); People v Alba, 81 AD2d 345, 440 NYS2d 230 (1st Dept 1981), appeal dismissed 56 NY2d 642, 450 NYS2d 787 (1982).
In view of the foregoing, the claim of Payman Norasteh (claim no. 107989) is dismissed.

June 9, 2005
New York, New York

Judge of the Court of Claims

[2] Subdivisions one, two and five, respectively, of §240.20. The Complaint/Information references only subdivision one (cl exh 1, p.2).