Claimant, Robert Sims, an inmate appearing pro se, alleges that prison
officials improperly refused to stay the imposition of a penalty (e.g. a 14-day
restricted diet) during his appeal of an adverse Tier III disposition. A trial
was held in this matter on August 30, 2005 at the Elmira Correctional Facility
The underlying facts in this case were essentially undisputed at trial.
Claimant's testimony was focused primarily upon the fact that his Tier III
disposition was reversed and expunged in an article 78 proceeding. (Cl's Ex 1).
By way of background, claimant testified that on January 7, 2000 while he was
incarcerated at Elmira he received an inmate misbehavior report for an incident
the details of which are not pertinent here. A Tier III hearing was conducted
on January 18, 2000 during which claimant was denied the right to call
witnesses. The hearing officer found claimant guilty at the conclusion of the
hearing and imposed a penalty of a 14-day restricted diet, with a two-day break
after seven days.
Claimant filed an administrative appeal of his hearing disposition on January
24, 2000 and on that same date made a written request to the superintendent to
stay the imposition of his penalty pending said appeal. The superintendent
denied claimant's request for a stay pending appeal on that same day. On
January 26, 2000, claimant began serving his fourteen-day restricted diet
penalty and served the same to completion. Claimant testified that as a result
of the restricted diet he suffered from constipation, cramps, milk allergy, loss
of sleep, bone pain, and headaches.
Claimant filed this claim on February 17, 2000 and the State filed a verified
answer on March 27, 2000.
Claimant also filed a special proceeding pursuant to Article 78 in Supreme
Court challenging the underlying disciplinary action. On August 23, 2000, the
Hon. Samuel J. Castellino issued a Decision and Judgment granting the petition
and finding that the January 18, 2000 Tier III hearing disposition should be
annulled and further directing "[t]he respondents...to expunge all references to
the Tier III proceeding from the petitioner's departmental and institutional
files and to restore any good behavior allowance lost." (Cl's Ex 1, p 4). More
specifically, Judge Castellino determined that the hearing officer violated
petitioner's right to call witnesses under 7 NYCRR 254.5 (a) and (c). (Cl's Ex
1, p 2).
On its case, the State did not refute the underlying sequence of events, but
rather offered the testimony of ChengYin, M.D. the clinical physician at Elmira.
Dr. Yin testified that this inmate was reviewed by the medical staff prior to
the imposition of the restricted diet and received medical clearance.
Additionally, the witness testified that claimant was visited by a nurse every
day while he was on the restricted diet and made no complaints. Finally,
although Dr. Yin testified that this restricted diet should not be used for more
than a month, there are no adverse medical consequences associated with its
consumption for only fourteen days.
Regarding claimant's theory of liability the court notes in the first instance
that this claim was filed almost six months before Judge Castellino's Decision
and Judgment and, arguably, this claim could not have been filed based upon the
outcome of claimant's Article 78 proceeding. Rather, claimant's arguments
appear to be based on his contention that the superintendent improperly rejected
his request for a stay of the penalty imposed pending appeal. The State
admitted as part of discovery that the superintendent may reduce a penalty but
declined to do so in this case pursuant to 7 NYCRR 254.9. (State's Response to
Claimant's First Request for Admissions, ¶ 2). The court finds that
claimant offered no proof at trial demonstrating that the superintendent
improperly exercised his discretion in denying claimant's request for a stay of
his penalty pending appeal.
The fact that claimant's disciplinary hearing was later reversed some six
months later is a separate issue. To the extent that this claim may be
construed as seeking damages for pain and suffering resulting from the
imposition of the penalty (e.g. the restricted diet) when the underlying
disciplinary hearing was ultimately reversed it must be denied as well. It is
well-settled that the State is entitled to absolute immunity from claims for
monetary damages relating to disciplinary hearings when the rules and
regulations that govern such hearings are followed. (
Arteaga v State of New York
, 72 NY2d 212). Moreover, even if the
underlying disciplinary charges are later reversed administratively or via a
successful proceeding pursuant to CPLR Article 78, as here, absolute immunity is
not lost as long as the disciplinary proceedings were conducted consistent with
the procedures provided in the relevant rules of the Department of Correctional
, 72 NY2d 212; Davis v State of New York
AD2d 887, lv denied
93 NY2d 819). That having been said, however, if the
State did violate its own rules and regulations in conducting the hearing, or
otherwise acted outside the sphere of privileged actions, immunity is lost with
the exception of certain situations not relevant here. (Arteaga
, 72 NY2d
212). Additionally, in certain circumstances, reversal of the disciplinary
determination and expungement of all references to the matter from an inmate's
record are a sufficient remedy. (Edmonson v State of New York
, 132 Misc
2d 452, 456).
Here, claimant alleges that he was improperly denied the right to call
witnesses and to be present at his disciplinary hearing pursuant to 7 NYCRR
254.5. Clearly, the violation of said regulation is a proper basis for a valid
claim against the State. (
Craft v State of New York
, Ct Cl, October 31, 2001, Mignano, J., Claim
No. 102949 [UID No. 2001-029-113]).
in view of Judge Castellino's Decision and Judgment there can be no genuine
dispute but that the State violated its own rules and regulations in conducting
this hearing by failing to allow claimant an opportunity to call witnesses and
to be present during the hearing.
That having been said, claimant failed to sufficiently establish from competent
medical evidence that the ailments from which he suffered were caused by this
restricted diet. Quite simply, the court did not find claimant's testimony
credible. The State offered the testimony of the facility physician who
sufficiently refuted the allegation that claimant's ailments, if any, were
caused by said dietary restrictions. Consequently, the court finds that
claimant failed to establish that he suffered any actual damage from the
Consequently, based upon the foregoing, Claim No. 101974 is DISMISSED.
Any and all motions on which the Court may have previously reserved or which
were not previously determined, are hereby denied.
LET JUDGMENT BE ENTERED ACCORDINGLY.