New York State Court of Claims

New York State Court of Claims

McKINLEY v. THE STATE OF NEW YORK, #2006-031-510, Claim No. 108657


Case Information

Claimant short name:
Footnote (claimant name) :

Footnote (defendant name) :

Third-party claimant(s):

Third-party defendant(s):

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

Cross-motion number(s):

Claimant’s attorney:
Defendant’s attorney:
New York State Attorney General
BY: HEATHER R. RUBINSTEIN, ESQ.Assistant Attorney General
Third-party defendant’s attorney:

Signature date:
April 25, 2006

Official citation:

Appellate results:

See also (multicaptioned case)

Sincere McKinley (“Claimant”) filed claim number 108657 on December 15, 2003 alleging he was illegally confined for 80 days following a Tier III disciplinary hearing. I conducted a trial at Auburn Correctional Facility (“Auburn”) on September 13, 2005.
A Tier III hearing was initiated at Auburn on September 25, 2003. At that time, Claimant stated on the record that he received ineffective assistance from the correction officer chosen to help him prepare his defense (Exh. A [Transcript, p.3]). According to the documents provided by Defendant, Claimant exercised his right to select an assistant, choosing three possible candidates on September 20, 2003 from the list established by Defendant (Exh. A). Defendant selected Claimant’s first choice and that correction officer initially met with Claimant on September 21, 2003 at 9:41 a.m. The Assistant Form in Exhibit A indicates that Claimant refused assistance and refused to sign the form. I note that the initial visit was done while Claimant was in the hospital and that the form is void of any instruction, direction or indentification of a potential witness.
At the hearing, Claimant stated he wrote down instructions for the assistant. No such list is in evidence and Claimant could not articulate the nature of his requests at the hearing, although at trial, he stated he asked the officer to interview some witnesses. The hearing officer made a determination to have Claimant “re-assisted” and adjourned the disciplinary hearing until September 29, 2003. In a “To/From Memo,” the same officer approached Claimant and offered to help with his hearing and, again, Claimant refused the assistance (Exh. A). On the record, during the continuation of the hearing, Claimant stated that an officer did come to see him a second time but was there to assist him with four other “tickets,” not the ticket that was the subject of the hearing at issue in this trial.
The hearing officer placed on the record his own instructions to the officer to “go back and assist (Claimant), do whatever it took . . .” (Exh. A, p. 12). After a verbal exchange on the record between the hearing officer and Claimant, described at the trial by the hearing officer as a “shouting match,” the hearing officer concluded that Claimant voluntarily waived his right to assistance. After Claimant continued to argue the point, the hearing officer had Claimant removed from the hearing room. Following Claimant’s removal from the hearing, he was found guilty.
The actions of prison personnel involving inmate disciplinary matters are generally quasi-judicial and, unless they exceed the scope of their authority or violate applicable rules, are afforded absolute immunity (Arteaga v State of New York, 72 NY2d 212; Davis v State of New York, 262 AD2d 887, lv denied 93 NY2d 819).
It was Claimant’s burden in this matter to demonstrate that he was denied due process at the hearing; that the disciplinary hearing was conducted in violation of the relevant rules before he could recover on this claim for monetary compensation. He has failed.
Claimant’s position that the hearing officer was not fair or impartial was not supported by the evidence. The hearing officer heard Claimant’s request for assistance and, even though he was aware that Claimant had refused assistance, adjourned the hearing to allow Claimant more time to avail himself of the process. Faced with the officer’s statement that his services were again refused, the hearing officer had no other choice but to assume that Claimant had waived his right to assistance.
As far as Claimant’s assertion that he was denied the opportunity to call witnesses on his behalf, I find no credible evidence that he requested any witnesses pursuant to the rules and regulations in conducting the hearing.
There is no indication the Defendant violated any of its own rules and regulations in conducting the hearing or otherwise acted outside the sphere of privileged actions (Arteaga v State of New York, supra; Holloway v State of New York, 285 AD2d 765; cf. Gittens v State of New York, 132 Misc 2d 399 [Ct Cl 1986]). Accordingly, the hearing officer’s determination and rulings are entitled to immunity.
The claim is dismissed. Let judgment be entered accordingly.

April 25, 2006
Rochester, New York

Judge of the Court of Claims