New York State Court of Claims

New York State Court of Claims

McKINLEY v. THE STATE OF NEW YORK, #2006-031-514, Claim No. 107323


Synopsis


Claimant’s disciplinary hearing was conducted in accordance with applicable rules and regulations. Claim for illegal confinement is dismissed

Case Information

UID:
2006-031-514
Claimant(s):
SINCERE McKINLEY
Claimant short name:
McKINLEY
Footnote (claimant name) :

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

Third-party claimant(s):

Third-party defendant(s):

Claim number(s):
107323
Motion number(s):

Cross-motion number(s):

Judge:
RENÉE FORGENSI MINARIK
Claimant’s attorney:
SINCERE McKINLEY, PRO SE
Defendant’s attorney:
HON. ELIOT SPITZER
New York State Attorney General
BY: HEATHER R. RUBINSTEIN, ESQ.Assistant Attorney General
Third-party defendant’s attorney:

Signature date:
May 11, 2006
City:
Rochester
Comments:

Official citation:

Appellate results:

See also (multicaptioned case)

.
Decision
Sincere McKinley (“Claimant”) filed claim number 107323 on February 13, 2003 alleging he was illegally confined for 53 days following a Tier III disciplinary hearing. I conducted a trial at Auburn Correctional Facility (“Auburn”) on September 13, 2005.
The Tier III hearing at issue was conducted at Auburn and concerned Claimant’s alleged violation of rule 102.10 (threats). The hearing, which generated a 127-page transcript, began on December 2, 2002 and concluded on December 19, 2002. A certified copy of the transcript was admitted into evidence as Exhibit C.
According to Claimant, the Hearing Officer, Joseph Wolczyk, was biased against him and improperly refused to permit Claimant to call all of his intended witnesses at the hearing. Specifically, Claimant testified that he had requested “various” inmate witnesses from a different facility. Although he admits that some of the requested witnesses testified, he believes that agents of Defendant fraudulently filled out forms indicating that the remaining inmates had refused to testify. Further, Claimant testified that Hearing Officer Wolczyk was biased against him because he “was acting in a prosecutorial fashion and not letting his witnesses fully answer questions.” Finally, he alleges that Hearing Officer Wolczyk improperly removed Claimant from the hearing and continued without him.
Defendant called Hearing Officer Joseph Wolczyk to testify on Defendant’s behalf. Mr. Wolczyk testified that he did in fact have Claimant removed from the hearing for disruptive behavior. The hearing transcript (Exhibit C) indicates that Claimant was removed at the very end of the hearing when the disposition was being read. Claimant was warned numerous times about his disruptive behavior and yet continued. I find that the removal of Claimant from the hearing was warranted.
With regard to Claimant’s requested witnesses, Mr. Wolczyk testified that he denied Claimant’s request to have high level executives from the Department of Correctional Services testify. Specifically, Claimant requested Commissioner Goord, Executive Commissioner Patterson, Commissioner LeClair and Inspector General Rory. Each of these requested witnesses was properly denied as having no firsthand knowledge of the incident at issue in the hearing.
Similarly, Mr. Wolczyk denied Claimant’s request to have Superintendent Burge, Deputy Superintendent Nelson and Captain Rourke testify at the hearing. These individuals were also properly denied as having no firsthand knowledge of the incident. According to Hearing Officer Wolczyk, these were the only witnesses that were refused.
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. There is no indication that 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, 72 NY2d 212, supra; Holloway v State of New York, 285 AD2d 765; cf. Gittens v State of New York, 132 Misc 2d 399 [Ct Cl 1986]).
Claimant’s position that the hearing officer was not fair or impartial was not supported by the evidence. In fact, after a review of the 127-page transcript of the hearing, I find that the hearing officer exercised tremendous restraint and patience in the face of Claimant’s continuous interruptions and disruptive behavior. 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 was improperly denied any requested witness.
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, 72 NY2d 212, supra; Holloway v State of New York, 285 AD2d 765, supra). Accordingly, the hearing officer’s determination and rulings are entitled to immunity.
Any motions in this matter on which the Court may have previously reserved or which were not previously determined, are hereby denied.
The claim is dismissed. Let judgment be entered accordingly.

May 11, 2006
Rochester, New York

HON. RENÉE FORGENSI MINARIK
Judge of the Court of Claims