New York State Court of Claims

New York State Court of Claims

CLARKE v. THE STATE OF NEW YORK, #2005-033-156, Claim No. None, Motion No. M-70542


Synopsis



Case Information

UID:
2005-033-156
Claimant(s):
ONEIL CLARKE
Claimant short name:
CLARKE
Footnote (claimant name) :

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

Third-party claimant(s):

Third-party defendant(s):

Claim number(s):
None
Motion number(s):
M-70542
Cross-motion number(s):

Judge:
James J. Lack
Claimant’s attorney:
Oneil Clarke, Pro Se
Defendant’s attorney:
Eliot Spitzer, New York State Attorney GeneralBy: Todd A. Schall, Assistant Attorney General
Third-party defendant’s attorney:

Signature date:
December 19, 2005
City:
Hauppauge
Comments:

Official citation:

Appellate results:

See also (multicaptioned case)



Decision

This is a motion for permission to file a late claim[1] for damages by Oneil Clarke (hereinafter “movant”) as the result of alleged violations of his civil rights. The violations occurred as the result of a multitude of arrests by Nassau County Police; prosecutions by the Nassau County District Attorney’s Office; and sentences by the Nassau County Criminal Courts. Movant alleges this occurred on several dates in 2004 and 2005.


Prior to addressing movant’s application to file a late claim, this Court finds it necessary to examine the jurisdiction of this matter. In his motion papers, movant clearly states that the basis of his causes of action are due to actions of the Nassau County Police Department, the Nassau County District Attorney’s Office and a County Court Judge of Nassau County. Nassau County is an independent governmental entity. Employees of the Nassau County Police Department and the Nassau County District Attorney’s Office are employees of Nassau County. The State of New York is not responsible for the employees of such independent governmental entities (Fisher v State of New York, 10 NY2d 60). This Court does not have jurisdiction over these entities.

The unnamed county court judge of Nassau County is an employee of the Office of Court Administration, a New York State agency. The Court will consider movant’s application to file a late claim only as to this individual.

In order to determine whether to grant a timely made application for permission to file a late claim, the Court must consider, among any other relevant factors, the six statutory factors set forth in Court of Claims Act §10(6):

(1) whether the delay in filing the claim was excusable;

(2) whether the State had notice of the essential facts constituting the claim;

(3) whether the State had an opportunity to investigate the circumstances underlying the claim;

(4) whether the failure to file or serve a timely claim or serve a timely notice of intention resulted in substantial prejudice to the State;

(5) whether movant has another available remedy; and

(6) whether the claim appears to be meritorious.


The Court in the exercise of its discretion balances these factors, and, as a general rule, the presence or absence of any one factor is not dispositive (Bay Terrace Coop. Section IV v New York State Employees’ Retirement System Policemen’s and Firemen’s Retirement System, 55 NY2d 979).

Movant’s delay in timely filing and serving a claim or timely serving a notice of intention are attributable to ignorance. The ignorance of the law is not a reasonable excuse (see Sevillia v State of New York, 91 AD2d 792).

The second, third and fourth factors (notice of the essential facts constituting the claim; an opportunity to investigate the circumstances underlying the claim; and whether the delay resulted in substantial prejudice to the State) are related. The Court will consider these factors together.

The only connection the unnamed county court judge had with movant, according to his supporting papers, is movant appeared before the judge on criminal charges. Movant pled guilty to charges before the judge, tried to withdraw his plea (which was denied) and was sentenced to jail by the judge. Movant makes no allegation that the judge would know of any wrongdoing by the Nassau County Police Department or the District Attorney’s Office. Without having knowledge of these facts, defendant has had no opportunity to investigate. The Court finds defendant would be substantially prejudiced.

Movant has an alternate remedy. Movant could sue the other entities in State Supreme Court or in Federal Court for violations of his constitutional rights.

While the presence or absence of any one of the six factors is not dispositive (see Bay Terrace Coop. Section IV v New York State Employees’ Retirement System Policemen’s and Firemen’s Retirement System, 55 NY2d 979), the most critical factor always is the apparent merit of the proposed claim. The movant need only establish that the proposed claim is not patently groundless, frivolous or legally defective and there is reasonable cause to believe that a valid cause of action exists (Matter of Santana v New York State Thruway Auth., 92 Misc 2d 1). If a movant cannot meet this low threshold and the claim is patently without merit it would be meaningless and futile for the Court to grant the application even if all the other factors in Court of Claims Act §10(6) weighed in favor of the movant’s request.

Movant makes no allegations against the unnamed county court judge other than contact with the judge while he is acting in his judicial capacity. There is no allegation which goes beyond judicial immunity (Tarter v State of New York, 68 NY2d 511). The Court finds no appearance of merit to the proposed claim.

In conclusion, the majority of factors, including merit, do not favor movant. Therefore, movant’s application to file a late claim is denied.


December 19, 2005
Hauppauge, New York

HON. JAMES J. LACK
Judge of the Court of Claims




[1].The following papers have been read and considered on movant’s motion: Motion for Permission to File a Late Claim with annexed Exhibits sworn to July 22, 2005 and filed August 5, 2005; Affirmation in Opposition of Todd A. Schall, Esq. with annexed Exhibits A-C dated September 8, 2005 and filed September 12, 2005.