New York State Court of Claims

New York State Court of Claims

BROWN v. THE STATE OF NEW YORK, #2007-030-021, Claim No. 110251


Synopsis


Claimant, an inmate proceeding pro se, has failed to establish a prima facie case of wrongful confinement and claim is dismissed. No showing that Claimant was kept confined beyond the reversal of the final disposition, or that he lost any privileges beyond the initial period imposed. No misfeasance on the part of DOCS is established. A determination that he could not have visitation because he had not participated in a parenting program he missed during his period of confinement, made by a Court in a proceeding unrelated to this one, does not create a duty whose breach is compensable in damages, and is entitled to judicial immunity. Judicial immunity bars any action against Judges of the State for their judicial acts, and the State is not liable for a judicial officer’s alleged errors.

Case Information

UID:
2007-030-021
Claimant(s):
EDWARD BROWN
Claimant short name:
BROWN
Footnote (claimant name) :

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

Third-party claimant(s):

Third-party defendant(s):

Claim number(s):
110251
Motion number(s):

Cross-motion number(s):

Judge:
THOMAS H. SCUCCIMARRA
Claimant’s attorney:
EDWARD BROWN, PRO SE
Defendant’s attorney:
HON. ANDREW M. CUOMO, NEW YORK STATE ATTORNEY GENERAL
BY: J. GARDNER RYAN, ASSISTANT ATTORNEY GENERAL
Third-party defendant’s attorney:

Signature date:
June 18, 2007
City:
White Plains
Comments:

Official citation:

Appellate results:

See also (multicaptioned case)



Decision

Edward Brown alleges in his claim that defendant’s agents wrongfully confined him while he was an inmate at Green Haven Correctional Facility (hereafter Green Haven) in 2004. Trial of the matter was held on April 27, 2007. Claimant testified that “on September 9, 2004”[1] he received a misbehavior report from Officer Santelli. The charges resulted from his alleged failure to respond to a direct order given to return to his housing block when a “red dot” alarm signaling a security reason for such return sounded.

He said that due to the issuance of the misbehavior report and his subsequent confinement, he was unable to attend mandated parenting classes required by the Family Court in order for him to gain visitation with his daughter. After a disciplinary hearing, he was “given six (6) months keeplock, two (2) months deferred for one hundred eighty (180) days.”

On November 27, 2004, Brown said, “Albany reversed the ticket.” At that point, he had already “done the time.” Once released, he was placed on the waiting list for the parenting program, but there was no room. As long as he was not in the program, he could not obtain visitation with his daughter.

In terms of damages, he said he was seeking same for the “60 days [he] was keeplocked, for being removed from the program and for back pay for the program.”

On cross-examination, Mr. Brown confirmed that he was found guilty of all the charges after a hearing, and also confirmed that he had been confined in pre-hearing detention, and then confined after the disposition. Most significantly, he confirmed that he was released in accordance with the disposition time frame, and that by the time the decision was reversed on appeal, the keeplock time had ended, as had all confinement.

No other witnesses testified and no other evidence was submitted.

To establish a prima facie case of wrongful confinement, a “species” of the tort of false imprisonment, [Gittens v State of New York, 132 Misc 2d 399, 407 (Ct Cl 1986)], a claimant must show “. . . (1) the defendant intended to confine him, (2) the . . . [claimant] was conscious of the confinement, (3) the . . . [claimant] did not consent to the confinement and (4) the confinement was not otherwise privileged . . .” Broughton v State of New York, 37 NY2d 451, 456 (1975), cert denied sub nom. Schanbarger v Kellogg, 423 US 929 (1975).

The quasi-judicial acts of correction employees taken in furtherance of authorized disciplinary measures are entitled to absolute immunity. Arteaga v State of New York, 72 NY2d 212, 219-220 (1988). If officers act inconsistently with their own rules and regulations, or otherwise act outside the sphere of privileged actions, liability may attach. The fact that charges are ultimately dismissed does not give rise to a cognizable cause of action when there is no evidence defendant acted inconsistently with its own rules and regulations. Arteaga v State of New York, supra; Holloway v State of New York, 285 AD2d 765 (3d Dept 2001); cf. Gittens v State of New York, supra.

From the facts presented it would appear that correction officers acted within the bounds of New York State Department of Correction rules and regulations. From the written claim, it can be discerned that the misbehavior report was properly served upon Claimant - alleging facility rule violations - and that a disciplinary hearing concerning the charges was timely commenced and concluded within seven (7) days of confinement. See generally 7 NYCRR § 251-3; 251-5.

The disposition entered after a timely concluded hearing is just the type of quasi-judicial determination shielded by the immunity principles of Arteaga v State of New York, supra. Because of the appeal process, the determination was reversed. There has been no showing that Claimant was kept confined beyond the reversal of the final disposition, or that he lost any privileges beyond the initial period imposed, indeed, he had already been released at the time the appeal was decided according to his testimony. While it is unfortunate that claimant may have lost the opportunity to visit with his daughter, no alleged misfeasance on the part of DOCS is established.

A determination that he could not have visitation made by a Court in a proceeding unrelated to this one, does not create a duty whose breach is compensable in damages, and is entitled to judicial immunity. Judicial immunity bars any action against Judges of the State for their judicial acts, and the State is not liable for a judicial officer’s alleged errors. Unless the judicial acts were performed without any jurisdiction over the subject matter, judicial immunity applies. Sassower v Finnerty, 96 AD2d 585, 586 (2d Dept 1983)[2], lv dismissed 61 NY2d 756 (1984); See also Murray v Brancato, 290 NY 52 (1943).

Based on the trial testimony and documentary evidence herein, Claimant has failed to establish a prima facie case of wrongful confinement.

Claim Number 110251 is hereby dismissed in its entirety.

Let judgment be entered accordingly.


June 18, 2007
White Plains, New York

HON. THOMAS H. SCUCCIMARRA
Judge of the Court of Claims




[1]. All quotations are to trial notes or audio recordings unless otherwise indicated. Notably, it is likely that the claimant misspoke the date, since the written claim and attendant disciplinary hearing documentation indicate that the original misbehavior report was written on September 2, 2004.
[2].“Judicial immunity extends to all Judges and encompasses all judicial acts, even if such acts are in excess of their jurisdiction and are alleged to have been done maliciously or corruptly . . . (citations omitted). There is a distinction between acts performed in excess of jurisdiction and acts performed in the clear absence of any jurisdiction over the subject matter. The former is privileged, the latter is not (Murray v Brancato, supra) . . . The acts complained of in the amended complaint were performed by the . . . [respondent Surrogates] while in the exercise of their judicial rolls. Although said acts may have been in excess of their jurisdiction [based on knowledge acquired outside the evidence before them], they were not performed in the complete absence of jurisdiction . . .” Sassover v Finnerty, supra, at 586-587.