New York State Court of Claims

New York State Court of Claims

McALLISTER v. THE STATE OF NEW YORK, #2006-032-503, Claim No. 104106


Synopsis



Case Information

UID:
2006-032-503
Claimant(s):
CHARLES McALLISTER
Claimant short name:
McALLISTER
Footnote (claimant name) :

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

Third-party claimant(s):

Third-party defendant(s):

Claim number(s):
104106
Motion number(s):

Cross-motion number(s):

Judge:
JUDITH A. HARD
Claimant's attorney:
Charles McAllister, Pro se
Defendant's attorney:
Hon. Eliot Spitzer, NYS Attorney General
By: Frederick H. McGown, III,Assistant Attorney General, Of Counsel
Third-party defendant's attorney:

Signature date:
March 17, 2006
City:
Albany
Comments:

Official citation:

Appellate results:

See also (multicaptioned case)



Decision
FACTS
Claimant filed a claim on April 10, 2001 alleging that on January 22, 2001, while serving time in a Special Housing Unit (SHU) at Franklin Correctional Facility (Franklin) following a Tier II disposition, he was denied a religious alternative meal (RAM) pursuant to his request and in conformance with Department of Correctional Services (DOCS) directives. After a trial in this matter, the Court determines the following: Correction Officer Reardon testified that since 1996, it was not the policy to serve RAMs to inmates in SHU at Franklin (Exhibits 10 & 17). However, Exhibit 7, dated March 31, 1998, provides "Effective April 6, 1998, all inmates
on feed-up (emphasis added) will have the option of a regular meal or the alternative meal." When the defendant failed to provide claimant with the requested RAM, claimant filed an inmate grievance report (Exhibit 21) and submitted a written complaint to the Superintendent of Franklin and the appropriate appeals (Exhibits 14 & 16).
When claimant requested a RAM, he alleges that his request was denied and that he was given meals that were tainted by meat, which he did not eat, bread, cereal and milk. No juice was provided as an alternative to the milk (Exhibit 21). As a result of defendant's failure to provide enough nutritious food that claimant could eat while still abiding by Islamic law, claimant contends that he lost a significant amount of weight. He informed the Inmate Grievance Resolution Committee (hereinafter "IGRC") of his situation by writing them a letter dated January 30, 2001 (Exhibit 2) and filing an official complaint on February 5, 2001 (Exhibit 21).

On March 7, 2001, the IGRC responded that they are working on a plan to implement a RAM (Exhibit 8).
Claimant further alleges that after he filed his grievance complaints, he was subjected to various forms of retaliation, including the confiscation of items he had in storage, tampering with

his mail, polluting his food trays so that he could not eat any of the food provided, and failing to mail a subsequent grievance complaint citing the alleged retaliation. IGRC responded to claimant's grievance complaints on March 7, 2001, by assuring claimant that they were working on implementing a RAM plan (Exhibit 16). Claimant did not have access to a RAM at any time during his approximate 35 day stay at Franklin.
Defendant argues that since the claimant sought equitable relief as opposed to monetary damages, claimant should have brought a claim pursuant to a CPLR article 78 proceeding.[1]
Also, defendant maintained that the Court of Claims is a court of limited jurisdiction, and lacks subject matter jurisdiction over claims arising under the Federal Constitution, and only in limited circumstances under the New York State Constitution. Claimant maintains that monetary damages are the only relief available to him because he is no longer an inmate at Franklin, and therefore, no longer requires a court to order the facility to provide him a RAM, or to request a change in Franklin's policy on providing RAMs to prisoners in SHU, because they implemented a new policy reflecting this change after claimant left the facility. Since he seeks only money damages for constitutional torts, claimant argues that this is within the jurisdiction of the Court of Claims.
DISCUSSION
The Court of Claims is a court of limited jurisdiction, and as such, can only hear claims against the State of New York that are specifically granted in the Constitution and the Court of Claims Act (
Silverman v State of New York, 40 AD2d 225, 226 [3d Dept 1972]). The Court has
jurisdiction over constitutional torts, but only when no common law or statutory remedy is
available to address the alleged injury (Brown v State of New York, 89 NY2d 172 [1996]; Martinez v City of Schenectady, 97 NY2d 78 [2001]).
A claimant who wishes to contest the refusal of a correctional facility to provide him with a RAM has the opportunity to file a grievance with the IGRC, and if necessary, appeal an adverse ruling by filing a statutory Article 78 proceeding (
Rossi v State of New York, #2001-019-542). Although claimant began to follow DOCS grievance procedures for appealing the denial of a RAM by sending grievance complaints to the IGRC, he did not complete the process by
filing an Article 78 proceeding. If claimant was dissatisfied with the resolution of his grievance
by the IGRC regarding his constitutional issues, the filing of an Article 78 proceeding was his remedy, not filing a constitutional tort action for damages in this Court.
Regarding claimant's grievance of retaliatory acts, it is axiomatic that claimant bears the burden of establishing his claims by a preponderance of the credible evidence (
see ZiGuang v State of New York, 263 AD2d 745, 746 [3d Dept 1999]). Claimant was the only witness in his case and the Court found his testimony very vague and unsubstantial. Further, his memoranda linking the denial of RAMs to the retaliatory acts (Exhibit 15) was equally underwhelming.[2] He failed to prove by a preponderance of the credible evidence that retaliatory acts occurred against him due to his complaints about RAMs.
Based on the foregoing, the claim is dismissed. All motions not heretofore decided are deemed denied.

Let judgment be entered accordingly.


March 17, 2006
Albany, New York

HON. JUDITH A. HARD
Judge of the Court of Claims




[1]Claimant did demand in his claim $436,000 in monetary damages.
[2]DOCS responded that its investigation into the denial of law books showed no evidence that there had been any wrongdoing by staff regarding this matter (Exhibit 19).