New York State Court of Claims

New York State Court of Claims

PATTERSON v. THE STATE OF NEW YORK, #2006-016-004, Claim No. 106007


Synopsis


Claimant was awarded damages for one day excessive confinement in keeplock status

Case Information

UID:
2006-016-004
Claimant(s):
BERNARD PATTERSON
Claimant short name:
PATTERSON
Footnote (claimant name) :

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

Third-party claimant(s):

Third-party defendant(s):

Claim number(s):
106007
Motion number(s):

Cross-motion number(s):

Judge:
Alan C. Marin
Claimant's attorney:
Bernard Patterson, Pro se
Defendant's attorney:
Eliot Spitzer, Attorney GeneralBy: Joseph F. Romani, Esq., AAG
Third-party defendant's attorney:

Signature date:
March 7, 2006
City:
New York
Comments:

Official citation:

Appellate results:

See also (multicaptioned case)

.
Decision
This decision follows the trial of the claim of Bernard Patterson, which was held at Sullivan Correctional Facility. Mr. Patterson's claim is for "wrongful excessive confinement." Specifically, he alleges that he was placed in keeplock status at Sullivan on February 23, 2002, after which he was "given a disciplinary disposition of sixty days keeplock." He further alleges that the sixty day period ran on April 24, 2002, but that he was not released until four days later, on April 28, 2002.

Claimant testified that he was placed in keeplock confinement on February 23, 2002, and thereafter, at a disciplinary hearing, was found guilty and given a penalty of sixty days keeplock time. According to Patterson, on the day he was supposed to be released,
i.e., April 24, 2002, he was told that he would not be released because time that he had spent in the Mental Hygiene Unit did not count toward his keeplock time. Claimant explained that after he was placed in keeplock status on February 23rd, another disciplinary incident occurred, after which he was taken to the Mental Hygiene Unit that same day. Claimant was unclear as to when he was released from the Mental Hygiene Unit, variously indicating that he was confined there for anywhere from two to five days; defendant's exhibit B indicates that he was released from such unit on February 27, 2002.
What can be gleaned from the documentary evidence submitted by the parties is that on February 23, 2002, an Inmate Misbehavior Report was prepared with respect to an incident involving Patterson that occurred at "approximately 8:15 p.m." Such report states that claimant threatened two correction officers who were doing a search of his dormitory, and that he was then escorted to "ISOL #2 and placed on keeplock status." See claimant's exhibit 1. A second misbehavior report was prepared 40 minutes later, at "approximately 8:55 p.m.," in which it was stated that claimant had broken a light bulb and cut his own right arm. According to such report, claimant "was removed from ISO5" and taken to the Mental Hygiene Unit. See defendant's exhibit A.

A hearing on both misbehavior reports was commenced on March 5, 2002 and completed on March 20, 2002 (see the hearing disposition contained in claimant's exhibit 2). Patterson pled guilty to the charge of self inflicted bodily harm and was found guilty of all other charges. Among the penalties imposed was 60 days of keeplock status, which the disposition indicates had a start date of February 27, 2002 and a release date of April 27, 2002.
* * *
In addition to alleging that he was untimely released from keeplock status, claimant maintained at trial that his disciplinary hearing was untimely because its commencement on March 5, 2002 did not occur within seven days of February 23, 2002 and the completion on March 20, 2002 did not occur within 14 days of February 23, 2002.

In that regard, 7 NYCRR §251-5.1 provides in relevant part that:
(a) Where an inmate is confined pending a disciplinary hearing or superintendent's hearing, the hearing must be commenced as soon as is reasonably practicable following the inmate's initial confinement pending said disciplinary hearing or superintendent's hearing, but, in no event may it be commenced beyond seven days of said confinement without authorization of the commissioner or his designee.
(b) The disciplinary hearing or superintendent's hearing must be completed within 14 days following the writing of the misbehavior report unless otherwise authorized by the commissioner or his designee. Where a delay is authorized, the record of the hearing should reflect the reasons for any delay or adjournment, and an inmate should ordinarily be made aware of these reasons unless to do so would jeopardize institutional safety or correctional goals.

Defendant called Senior Counselor Paul Essex, who testified that claimant's hearing did not start until March 5
th because claimant had been in the Mental Hygiene Unit. Mr. Essex explained that hearings are not usually held when an inmate is under the care of such unit, and the disciplinary process continues only when an inmate is released from such unit. Essex also testified that there were several extensions of the hearing's completion after its commencement on March 5th because of the unavailability of the hearing officer and witnesses.
As to such continuances, defendant's exhibit B includes several "Disciplinary Hearing Extension Request(s)." The first of these, which is dated February 24, 2002, requests an extension for the commencement of the hearing because claimant was "under observation" in the Mental Hygiene Unit. Such request was granted and it was directed that the hearing was to commence within 7 days of claimant's release from the Mental Hygiene Unit, and to be completed within 14 days of such release. After the hearing was commenced on March 5, 2002, a request for an extension of the completion date to March 18
th was requested, on the ground that the hearing officer, who was waiting for witnesses, was on vacation, and expected to return on March 18th. Such request was granted with the direction that the hearing be completed by March 18th. A final request for an adjournment was made on the ground that a witness was not available until March 20th, and such request was granted with the direction that the hearing be completed by March 20th.
* * *
Assuming that claimant's time in the Mental Hygiene Unit can be construed as being "confined" pursuant to 7 NYCRR §251-5.1, the commencement of his disciplinary hearing on March 5, 2002 was timely since, as set forth above, defendant obtained an extension regarding same.[1]
Similarly, the hearing was timely concluded since extensions for its completion were obtained.
With regard to the length of claimant's confinement, as set forth above, he was placed in keeplock status on February 23, 2002 at 8:15 p.m., and 40 minutes later, following another disciplinary incident, was taken out of keeplock and to the Mental Hygiene Unit, where he stayed until February 27, 2002. As to when he was released from keeplock, Patterson's claim alleges that he was released on April 28, 2002, and although he did not testify at trial as to when he was released, defendant's exhibit B indicates that he was released on such date.[2]
Claimant thus spent time in keeplock status on February 23, 2002, and then during the 60-day period from February 27, 2002 to April 28, 2002, for a total of 61 days, or one day more than his 60-day sentence.
For the foregoing reasons, I find that claimant Bernard Patterson is entitled to $15 for his one day excessive confinement. It is further ordered that to the extent he has paid a filing fee, it may be recovered pursuant to Court of Claim Act §11-a(2). The Clerk of the Court is directed to enter judgment accordingly.



March 7, 2006
New York, New York

HON. ALAN C. MARIN
Judge of the Court of Claims




  1. [1]If Patterson's time in the Mental Hygiene Unit is not construed as confinement under §251-5.1, the March 5, 2002 hearing was timely since it occurred within seven days of his February 27, 2002 release from such unit, i.e., his return to keeplock status.
  2. [2]Claimant's exhibit 2 indicates a release date of April 27, 2002, but defendant's exhibit B contains the same document with the "27th" changed by handwritten notation to the "28th."