New York State Court of Claims

New York State Court of Claims

MINER v. THE STATE OF NEW YORK, #2007-030-039, Claim No. 110252


Synopsis


Pro se inmate’s claim alleging wrongful confinement dismissed after trial. The disposition entered after a timely concluded Tier III disciplinary hearing is just the type of quasi-judicial determination shielded by the immunity principles of Arteaga. Immunity principles apply from the issuance of the misbehavior report through the appeals process. Because of the appeal process, the determination was reversed. No showing that claimant confined beyond the reversal of the final disposition, or that he lost any privileges beyond the initial period imposed. Liability will attach when ministerial matters are implicated, such as not conducting a hearing within the required time frames, or failing to timely release the inmate within the disposition period.

Case Information

UID:
2007-030-039
Claimant(s):
JEFFREY MINER
1 1.The caption has been amended to reflect the only proper defendant.
Claimant short name:
MINER
Footnote (claimant name) :

Defendant(s):
THE STATE OF NEW YORK
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):
110252
Motion number(s):

Cross-motion number(s):

Judge:
THOMAS H. SCUCCIMARRA
Claimant’s attorney:
JEFFREY MINER, PRO SE
Defendant’s attorney:
HON. ANDREW M. CUOMO, NEW YORK STATE ATTORNEY GENERAL
BY: BARRY KAUFMAN, ASSISTANT ATTORNEY GENERAL
Third-party defendant’s attorney:

Signature date:
October 1, 2007
City:
White Plains
Comments:

Official citation:

Appellate results:

See also (multicaptioned case)


Decision

Jeffrey Miner alleges in his claim that defendant’s agents at Green Haven Correctional Facility wrongfully confined him while he was an inmate. Trial of the matter was held on July 20, 2007.

Claimant testified that when he came to Green Haven from Clinton Correctional Facility, he applied to work in the Corcraft Industries program in the upholstery shop. Each shop, he explained, does something different. He worked as the “glue person”[2] in the shop, working primarily on panel systems for work stations. He would spray the material so that foam would adhere and could then be upholstered. He had been in the shop for three to four years on September 13, 2004.

That day, the inmates came into the shop, but there was no work to be done. Accordingly, “we were sitting around idly. In the process of us sitting around idly the shop officer, Officer Demarais, conducted an area search.” When claimant’s area was searched, Officer Demarais found “what appeared to be alcohol and intoxicants, or homemade wine.” Claimant testified that a box was pulled out of his area during the search, Officer Demarais brought Mr. Miner to the officer’s booth and then showed claimant the box containing a bottle with orange colored liquid. Claimant did not know what the liquid was. He was asked questions about it, but indicated he knew nothing about it. Claimant testified that the glue area was used by him and another inmate, but was accessible to everybody as it was an open area. He was asked to “sign a 103 form, which is a counseling form, based on the substance being found in . . . [his] area, which . . . [he] refused to sign.” Since this was the early part of the day, claimant assumed “that was it,” and the crew continued to hang about in the shop.

Later, he returned to “the block to prepare for recreation.” During the “go round, where you inform the officer what you are going to do for the evening” claimant told the officer that he was just going to go in the yard. Claimant then learned that he was keeplocked. That night or the next day he was issued a misbehavior report, advising that he had violated facility rules prohibiting the manufacture, possession, sale or exchange of alcoholic beverages or intoxicants. [See Exhibit 1]. It had been issued by Officer Demarais.

When claimant was served with the misbehavior report, he testified that he requested and received copies of Directive 4910 “control of search for contraband” and Directive 4932 “chapter five concerning standards of behavior and allowances in order to prepare for . . . [his] disciplinary hearing.” The hearing commenced on September 17, 2004, he said, with Assistant Deputy Director of Programs Gary Ter Bush presiding. After claimant entered his plea of not guilty, the matter was adjourned and the hearing recommenced on September 28, 2004. A disposition was entered on that date. [Exhibit 5].

When Officer Demarais testified at the hearing, claimant said, he indicated that he never saw claimant make, use, or test the substance and that the area was a wide open area, etcetera, yet the hearing officer convicted claimant. The area sergeant, also testified at claimant’s request. Two civilian witnesses testified as well. Claimant was sentenced to ninety (90) days confinement in the special housing unit [SHU], as well as loss of privileges.

Claimant wrote to the superintendent after the hearing [see Exhibit 2] who then reminded him of his right to appeal to the State Commissioner. [Exhibit 3]. The decision was reversed by the State, and claimant was released after having only been confined for 45 days of the original sentence. [Exhibit 4]. Additionally, he received partial back wages based upon the Tier III hearing reversal, at an unemployment wages rate, which he objected to in a grievance, that was then denied.

Claimant now seeks damages in the amount of $7,500.00 for 45 days confinement, loss of program wages, lawyer fees, and cruel and unusual punishment.

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 Claims 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). Significantly, 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 Correctional Services rules and regulations. The misbehavior report served upon Claimant, alleging facility rule violations, triggered the requirements of a Tier III disciplinary hearing, in accordance with 7 NYCRR §§ 254.1 et seq.; 270.2 as well as the “timeliness” provisions of 7 NYCRR §251-5.1. Any hearing must be commenced within seven (7) days of the confinement, unless delay in its commencement is “authorized” by “the commissioner or his designee.” [7 NYCRR § 251-5.1(a)]. Here, it appears that a plea was entered, the witnesses claimant sought and copies of directives he wanted were supplied. The

“. . . hearing must be completed within 14 days following the writing of the misbehavior report unless otherwise authorized by the commissioner or his designee . . . [T]he record of the hearing should reflect the reasons for any delay or adjournment, and an inmate should ordinarily be made aware of these reasons unless to do so would jeopardize institutional safety or correctional goals.” [7 NYCRR § 251-5.1(b)].

The disposition entered after a timely concluded hearing[3] on September 28, 2004 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 served only 45 days of the sentence and was released upon reversal. Whether he was compensated within the regulations for lost wages was apparently subject to a grievance that is not before this court. By the same token, issues concerning whether the initial determination was against the weight of the evidence or otherwise flawed substantively would be subject to review after exhaustion of administrative remedies in a special proceeding brought pursuant to Article 78 of the Civil Practice Law and Rules in the Supreme Court. [See Civil Practice Law and Rules §7801 et seq., Matter of Price v Phillips, 4 AD3d 364 (2d Dept 2004)].

Based on the testimony and documents submitted herein, the procedure went through its normal course. Claimant was issued a misbehavior report, he was found guilty, the appeals unit reversed that determination and he was immediately released. Immunity principles apply from the issuance of the misbehavior report through the appeals process. Liability will attach when ministerial matters are implicated, such as not conducting a hearing within the required time frames, or failing to timely release the inmate within the disposition period. The discretionary functions at issue here, however, do not render the State liable.

Claimant has failed to establish a prima facie case of wrongful confinement. Defendant’s motion to dismiss, reserved on at the time of trial, is hereby granted, and Claim Number 110252 is dismissed in its entirety.

Let judgment be entered accordingly.


October 1, 2007
White Plains, New York

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




[2].All quotations are to trial notes or audio recordings unless otherwise indicated.
[3]. See 7 NYCRR § 251-5.1 (b) requiring that a superintendent’s hearing be concluded within fourteen (14) days of the writing of the misbehavior report.