Claimant, Gregory Jones, an inmate appearing pro se, alleges he was wrongfully
confined in the special housing unit at Southport Correctional Facility for
nearly five months from December 20, 1998 to May 10, 1999. The trial of this
claim occurred on October 25, 2005 at Elmira Correctional Facility. The parties
requested and were granted additional time to submit post-trial memoranda.
The facts of this claim are relatively straightforward and not in dispute. On
December 27, 1998,
claimant was placed in the special housing unit and charged with a violation of
departmental rule 114.10 (smuggling) and 001.00 (Penal Law
Thereafter, a disciplinary hearing and rehearing were held regarding these
charges. The first hearing commenced on January 3, 1999 and concluded on
January 5, 1999. Claimant requested various witnesses including inspector
general investigator Loran. The hearing officer denied claimant's request for
investigator Loran stating that calling him as a witness would jeopardize
institutional safety. More specifically, the hearing officer's statement of
denial indicated "I have a confidential tape with Investigator Loran on it and
calling him to testify would jeopardize correctional goals and compromise his
position in an ongoing investigation." (St's Ex E). Claimant was found guilty
on both charges. Claimant was sentenced to 730 days in the special housing unit
and loss of various privileges. Claimant filed an administrative appeal of said
determination asserting the improper denial of a witness. On March 2, 1999,
claimant's guilty finding was reversed and a rehearing was directed because he
was denied the right to call Loran as his witness.
On March 11, 1999, the rehearing commenced and claimant requested three
inspector general investigator Loran, claimant's wife Mary Brown Jones, and
correction officer Warren. The hearing officer, William J. Hopkins, denied
claimant's request for investigator Loran due to institutional safety concerns,
but accepted Loran's testimony on a confidential tape not disclosed to claimant.
(St's Ex C). Officer Hopkins denied claimant's request to call Mrs. Jones
because of his inability to locate her. (St's Ex C). Officer Hopkins also
denied claimant's request to call correction officer Warren stating that his
testimony was not relevant to the case. (St's Ex D). On March 16, 1999, the
rehearing concluded with claimant being found guilty on the smuggling charge,
but not guilty on the Penal Law charge. Claimant was sentenced to three years
in the special housing unit, as well as the loss of various privileges.
Claimant filed an administrative appeal of said determination asserting the
improper denial of witnesses. On May 10, 1999, claimant's guilty finding was
reversed because "[t]he hearing officer inappropriately denied officer Warren as
witness due to his being on vacation." (Claimant's post-trial submission,
Disciplinary measures imposed consistent with the governing rules and
regulations are covered by immunity, except in cases in which the State exceeded
the scope of its authority or violated the governing rules and regulations.
Arteaga v State of New York
, 72 NY2d 212). The fact that disciplinary
charges are ultimately dismissed or reversed does not give rise to a cognizable
cause of action where there is no evidence defendant acted inconsistently with
its own rules and regulations. (Gittens v State of New York
, 132 Misc 2d
, 72 NY2d 212). An inmate's due process right to call
witnesses in his favor at disciplinary hearings is governed by 7 NYCRR Part
254.5. 7 NYCRR Part 254.5 (a) establishes certain legitimate grounds for the
denial of witness requests such as institutional safety concerns or that the
proposed testimony is not material to the matter being
With respect to claimant's original hearing, the court finds that the hearing
officer denied claimant the right to call investigator Loran due to safety
concerns which was a proper basis under 7 NYCRR Part 254.5 (a). (St's Ex
At the rehearing, claimant was denied the right to call three witnesses, namely
correction officer Warren, inspector general investigator Loran; and his wife
Mary Brown Jones.
At issue here is the denial of correction officer Warren as a witness. The
reversal of claimant's guilty finding was because: "[t]he hearing officer
inappropriately denied officer Warren as witness due to his being on vacation."
(Claimant's post-trial submission, Exhibit L). The denial of witness Warren
because he was on vacation was not based upon one of the approved grounds under
7 NYCRR 254.5. As such, because prison officials failed to comply with the
governing rules related to conduct of the disciplinary hearing, the State is not
entitled to the protection of absolute immunity recognized in
That having been said, however, "[a]lthough establishing that defendant did not
follow its own rule removes immunity from the case, it does not result in
absolute liability of defendant [citation omitted]. Claimant still must prove
the merits of his claim [citation omitted]." (
Moreno v State of New York
, Ct Cl, April 5, 2001, Bell, J., Claim No.
100335 [UID No. 2001-007-551]).
In order to
establish a prima facie case for wrongful confinement, a claimant must
demonstrate: (1) the State intended to confine him; (2) claimant was conscious
of the confinement; (3) he did not consent to the confinement; and (4) the
confinement was not otherwise privileged. (Broughton v State of New
, 37 NY2d 451, 456, cert denied sub nom. Schanbarger v Kellogg
423 US 929). Here, claimant offered no credible proof that he did not commit
the underlying offense with which he was charged. (Moreno
, Ct Cl, April
5, 2001, Bell, J., Claim No. 100335 [UID No. 2001-007-551]). Thus, without
more, the court cannot satisfy itself that claimant was wrongfully
For the foregoing reasons, Claim No. 101435 should be and is hereby
Any and all motions on which the court may have previously reserved or which
were not previously determined, are hereby denied.
The clerk of the court is directed to enter judgment accordingly.