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”
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
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.
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
on September 28, 2004 is just the type
of quasi-judicial determination shielded by the immunity principles of
Arteaga v State of New York
. 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
Let judgment be entered accordingly.