New York State Court of Claims

New York State Court of Claims

JACKSON v. THE STATE OF NEW YORK, #2006-015-087, Claim No. 110751, Motion No. M-71161


Synopsis


Court dismissed claim seeking money damages filed after unsuccessful administrative appeal and article 78 proceeding challenging results of disciplinary hearing as barred by absolute immunity.

Case Information

UID:
2006-015-087
Claimant(s):
DARYL JACKSON
Claimant short name:
JACKSON
Footnote (claimant name) :

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

Third-party claimant(s):

Third-party defendant(s):

Claim number(s):
110751
Motion number(s):
M-71161
Cross-motion number(s):

Judge:
FRANCIS T. COLLINS
Claimant’s attorney:
Daryl Jackson, Pro Se
Defendant’s attorney:
Honorable Eliot Spitzer, Attorney General
By: Kevan J. Acton, EsquireAssistant Attorney General
Third-party defendant’s attorney:

Signature date:
April 27, 2006
City:
Saratoga Springs
Comments:

Official citation:

Appellate results:

See also (multicaptioned case)



Decision

Claimant's motion for an order striking the defendant's answer and for summary judgment is denied and the claim is dismissed by the court sua sponte as barred by the doctrine of absolute immunity. The claim alleges that on February 7, 2004 claimant was assaulted by another inmate in the general population yard at Great Meadow Correctional Facility (Comstock, New York). In the aftermath of the assault claimant was charged both with striking a correction officer and attempting to strike an officer. The claim seeks damages for various irregularities which occurred during claimant's Tier III hearing on the charges including allegations that a correction officer offered false testimony, witnesses did not appear and that claimant was denied meaningful assistance during the hearing.

After he was found guilty at the conclusion of the hearing and was sentenced to 180 days in the SHU and 6 months loss of good time claimant contacted the facility's superintendent to request a new hearing. His request was denied and claimant appealed to Mr. Donald Selsky, Director of the DOCS[1] Special Housing/Inmate Disciplinary Program. Mr. Selsky's response is related in an undated memorandum addressed to the claimant which reads as follows: "On behalf of the Commissioner, please be advised that your Superintendent's Hearing of February 25, 2004, has been reviewed and administratively reversed on September 20, 2004" (Exhibit A)[2]. In a separate memo to Attica Correctional Facility Superintendent James T. Conway dated September 20, 2004, Director Selsky noted that the hearing reversal occurred "due to incomplete record caused by tape equipment malfunction" (Exhibit C).

In addition to his administrative appeal claimant commenced an article 78 proceeding in Supreme Court, Albany County (Index # 3146-04). That proceeding was dismissed by letter decision and order of Hon. Vincent G. Bradley, J.S.C. dated October 26, 2004 which noted the administrative reversal of claimant's conviction and that claimant had been "granted . . . all the relief to which he is entitled".

Being dissatisfied with both the result of his administrative appeal and his article 78 proceeding, claimant commenced the instant action to recover damages for 175 days of SHU confinement along with alleged emotional distress and loss of his job and mail privilege. Claimant now moves for an order striking the defendant's answer and granting him summary judgment. Defendant opposed the motion but did not cross-move for summary judgment.

For the reasons which follow the court having searched the record and having determined that the claim is barred by the doctrine of absolute immunity grants summary judgment to the non-moving defendant pursuant to CPLR 3212 (b ) (see Abramovitz v Paragon Sporting Goods Co., 202 AD2d 206; Addison v Addison, 192 AD2d 334).

"It is well settled that actions of correctional facility employees with respect to inmate discipline matters are quasi-judicial in nature and, unless the employees exceed the scope of their authority or violate the governing statutes and regulations, the State has absolute immunity for those actions (see, Arteaga v State of New York, 72 NY2d 212, 214, 218-220)" (Holloway v State of New York, 285 AD2d 765, 766). The filing by the unnamed correction officer of the inmate misbehavior reports charging the claimant with assault and attempted assault clearly falls within "the 'formidable tasks' of maintaining order and security in correctional facilities and protecting the safety of inmates and employees" (Arteaga v State of New York, supra at 217) and no proof was offered tending to show that the hearing officer violated any rules or regulations in conducting the hearing. Absent such proof, imposition of the penalty confining the claimant to SHU and depriving him of work and mail privileges was authorized and within the scope of the full immunity accorded quasi- judicial discretionary determinations (Holloway v State of New York, supra at 766; Arteaga v State of New York, supra at 220; Davis v State of New York, 262 AD2d 887, lv denied 93 NY2d 819).

As a result, the State may not be found liable and a sua sponte grant of summary judgment is appropriate (Topal v State of New York, 263 AD2d 414).

The instant claim is, accordingly, dismissed.


April 27, 2006
Saratoga Springs, New York

HON. FRANCIS T. COLLINS
Judge of the Court of Claims


The court considered the following papers:
  1. Notice of motion dated January 3, 2006;
  2. Affidavit of Daryl Jackson sworn to January 3, 2006with exhibits;
  3. Affirmation of Kevan J. Acton dated January 23, 2006 with exhibits.

[1].New York State Department of Corrections.
[2].References are to exhibits annexed to the claim.