New York State Court of Claims

New York State Court of Claims

ROBINSON v. THE STATE OF NEW YORK, #2006-030-548, Claim No. 112047, Motion No. M-71467


Case Information

1 1.The caption has been amended to reflect the only proper defendant.
Claimant short name:
Footnote (claimant name) :

Footnote (defendant name) :
The caption has been amended to reflect the only proper defendant.
Third-party claimant(s):

Third-party defendant(s):

Claim number(s):
Motion number(s):
Cross-motion number(s):

Claimant’s attorney:
Defendant’s attorney:
Third-party defendant’s attorney:

Signature date:
June 19, 2006
White Plains

Official citation:

Appellate results:

See also (multicaptioned case)


The following papers number 1 to 7 were read and considered on Defendant’s motion to

dismiss the claim herein for a failure to state a cause of action pursuant to Civil Practice Law and

Rules §3211(a)(7):

1,2 Notice of Motion; Affirmation by Mary B. Kavaney, Assistant Attorney General and attached exhibit

3-6 Two (2) Handwritten Notes signed Mary Robinson; Order to Show Cause; State of New York - Department of Correctional Services Temporary Release Notice of Appeal Decision

  1. Filed Papers: Claim
In this Pre-Answer motion to dismiss, Defendant argues that the Claimant does not particularize what negligent acts or omissions by the State’s agent, the New York State Department of Correctional Services (DOCS), caused Claimant injury. Defendant argues that Claimant “only makes vague references to a ‘great deal of deprivation’ and that her movement destination was changed by DOCS.” [Affirmation by Mary B. Kavaney, Assistant Attorney General, ¶5]. Additionally, no money damages are requested or specified in the claim. [ibid. ¶6].[2]

Mary Robinson alleges in Claim Number 112047 that Defendant’s agents at Albion Correctional Facility or Beacon Correctional Facility - it is not clear from the context - failed to provide her with a mental evaluation and/or failed to render a decision on a disciplinary proceeding and/or improperly denied her participation in a temporary release program. There also appears to be an allegation that these delays and/or denials were part of a conspiracy. She alleges an accrual date of December 13, 2005 which appears to be when she arrived at Albion. She states:
“On December 13-05 I arrived at Albion. Supposedly the move was for a mental evaluation. On October 24, -05 I signed for a Tier III disciplinary violation I was drafted out on October 25 so a disposition was never rendered on that violation which would have took my work-release program. I was brought back here to pay the penalty for the disposition that was never rendered. While at Albion on Jan 10th 2006 I was placed on the call-out for TRC it was cancelled, the cancellation was just a delay in order for denial to occur which proves it was conspired. While here I was placed in population moved to four different housing units 40 days with no money and then finally assigned as a messhall worker. I felt a great deal of deprivation because instead of going forward I went backwards. I strongly feel that my movement destination was changed by D.O.C. I had many threats at Beacon that I would be sent back to Albion to pay for disposition never rendered.” [Claim No. 112047, ¶2].
In the papers Ms. Robinson furnished in response to Defendant’s motion, Claimant includes a document entitled “Temporary Release Notice of Appeal Decision” in memorandum form, directed to the “TRC Chairperson, Albion . . .” from “J. Bonacci, Temp. Release Reviewer, TRP” concerning Mary Robinson, and dated December 21, 2005. The memorandum indicates that it is a facility appeal, and states “after reviewing all factors in this case, both positive and negative, the decision has been made to affirm the TRC Decision in this case.” It further provides in a “comments” section: “Per Facility, OMH contraindications to temporary release participation. You may resubmit with OMH approval. The inmate may reapply for presumptive work release on 12/22/2005.”

Handwritten notes submitted in opposition to Defendant’s motion explain that Claimant is alleging that when she was moved - presumably from Beacon to Albion - she was not classified properly, and was placed in general population rather than under mental health observation. If she had been placed in mental health observation, she states she
“would have been observed and evaluated and all of the incidents that they staged wouldn’t mean nothing to me and couldn’t hold me back from going forward. They did not follow NYSDOC guidelines formality or procedures for a mental health evaluation or programming the timeliness was not correct.”

In the other handwritten note submitted in response to Defendant’s motion, Claimant writes:
“As far as failure to state a cause of action, not fully understanding what that means, caused me to be wrongfully classified cause me improper programs they violated my constitutional rights, and neglected to give me my work-release program, and I would like for the courts to hear the whole story.”

In a motion to dismiss a claim for failure to state a cause of action the movant is held to have conceded the truth of every fact alleged by the Claimant in the Claim for purposes of the motion. Civil Practice Law and Rules §3211(a)(7). Determination of the motion, generally, does not rest upon resolution of the ultimate facts, but rather on whether those facts asserted make out a claim. See Stukuls v State of New York, 42 NY2d 272, 275 (1977); cf. Rovello v Orofino Realty Co., Inc., 40 NY2d 633 (1976).

Looking at the claim itself, it is unclear what specific omissions or acts by Defendant’s agents have allegedly caused Claimant calculable injury, and it is also unclear how the Claim may be heard in the Court of Claims, given its limited jurisdiction.

Court of Claims Act § 11(b) requires a claim to "state the time when and place where such claim arose, the nature of same, and the items of damage or injuries claimed to have been sustained and the total sum claimed." These provisions must be “construed in light of their purpose, i.e. to provide the State with timely notice of the relevant facts and circumstances, thus affording the opportunity for a prompt investigation aimed at ascertaining the state's potential liability.” Hamilton v State of New York, supra. The allegations set forth in this claim are simply not coherent enough to allow such investigation under this rubric.

Moreover, it is axiomatic that the Court of Claims is a Court of limited jurisdiction, that may only exercise jurisdiction in cases or controversies for money damages in which the State or - certain statutorily prescribed entities - is a party. Court of Claims Act §9. It does not render declaratory judgments, for example, except under very limited circumstances not present here. Court of Claims Act §9 (9-a).

Correction Law §855(9) provides:
“Participation in a temporary release program shall be a privilege. Nothing contained in this article may be construed to confer upon any inmate the right to participate, or to continue to participate, in a temporary release program. The superintendent of the institution may at any time, and upon recommendation of the temporary release committee or of the commissioner or of the chairman of the state board of parole or his designee shall, revoke any inmate’s privilege to participate in a program of temporary release in accordance with regulations promulgated by the commissioner.”[3]

Thus, if what claimant is seeking is money damages allegedly resulting from denial of her participation in a temporary release program, the State is afforded absolute immunity for the quasi-judicial decisions made concerning participation in or release from such programs. Santangelo v State of New York, 101 AD2d 20 (4th Dept 1984); Sanders v State of New York, UID#2005-015-516, Claim No. 104073 (June 14, 2005, Collins, J.). Indeed, even when an inmate described his cause of action as one for constitutional tort premised upon the denial of his application to participate in a temporary release program, his claim was dismissed upon Defendant’s motion because the principle of absolute immunity applied. Scott v State of New York, 10 Misc 3d 1073(A) (Ct Cl 2005).

Although determinations by these temporary release committees are subject to “judicial review (People ex rel. Adler v Beaver, 12 AD3d 1136 [4th Dept 2004]; Matter of Caban v New York State Dept. of Correctional Servs., 308 AD2d 661 [3d Dept 2003]; Matter of Young v Temporary Release Comm. of Albion Correctional Facility, 122 AD2d 606 [4th Dept 1986]), the State is immune from liability in a claim for money damages premised upon such determinations.” Sanders v State of New York, supra.

Accordingly, Defendant’s motion to dismiss [M-71467] for failure to state a cause of action is hereby granted, and Claim Number 112047 is hereby dismissed in all respects.

June 19, 2006
White Plains, New York

Judge of the Court of Claims

[2]. Notably, although Claimant has not set forth “a total sum claimed” pursuant to Court of Claims Act §11(b), it appears settled - or at least arguable - that such an omission is not of jurisdictional dimension. See Hamilton v State of New York, UID#2005-036-105, Claim No. 109876, Motion Nos. M-70511, CM-70607 (December 30, 2005, Schweitzer, J.); see also Lepkowski v State of New York, 1 NY3d 201 (2003); Peart v State of New York, UID#2005-014-529, Claim No. 110870, M-70359 (December 23, 2005, Nadel, J.); Legall v State of New York, 10 Misc3d 800 (Ct Cl 2005); but cf Kolnacki v State of New York, 10 Misc3d 781 (Ct Cl 2005); Matter of Estate of Anwar ex rel. Nasir v State of New York, 9 Misc 3d 1127(A)(Ct Cl 2005).
[3]. See 7 NYCRR Part 1900; see also People ex rel. Feliciano v Waters, 99 AD2d 850 (2d Dept 1984) (“. . . [P]etitioner’s loss of his eligibility to participate in the work release program was not a violation of any cognizable legal right. Participation in a temporary release program is a privilege (Correction Law, §855, subd 9) geared towards facilitating an inmate’s transition back into society.”