New York State Court of Claims

New York State Court of Claims

SCHLAKMAN v. THE STATE OF NEW YORK, #2007-033-253, Claim No. 113454, Motion No. M-73199


Case Information

Claimant short name:
Footnote (claimant name) :

THE STATE OF NEW YORK1 1.The Court sua sponte amends the caption to read The State of New York as the only Defendant.
Footnote (defendant name) :

Third-party claimant(s):

Third-party defendant(s):

Claim number(s):
Motion number(s):
Cross-motion number(s):

James J. Lack
Claimant’s attorney:
Geoffrey Schlakman, Pro Se
Defendant’s attorney:
Andrew M. Cuomo, Attorney GeneralBy: Lori L. Pack, Assistant Attorney General
Third-party defendant’s attorney:

Signature date:
June 13, 2007

Official citation:

Appellate results:

See also (multicaptioned case)


This claim arises due to the alleged damages to Geoffrey Schlakman (hereinafter “claimant”) caused by what claimant perceives to be the incorrect dismissal of a motion to renew in Family Court. According to claimant, he is not seeking monetary damages, rather he is seeking an order from this Court correcting the Family Court Judge.

Defendant moves to dismiss the claim pursuant to CPLR 3211 and 3212[2]. The State argues that claimant fails to state a viable cause of action and that the State is protected by absolute immunity. In addition, defendant argues that claimant’s remedy is to appeal the Family Court decision.

Summary judgment is a drastic remedy which deprives a party of its day in court and should not be granted where there is any doubt as to the existence of a material issue of fact (Moskowitz v Garlock, 23 AD2d 943; Epstein v Scally, 99 AD2d 713). The Court's function is to determine if an issue exists. In doing so, the Court must examine the proof in a light most favorable to the party opposing the motion. Summary judgment may only be granted if movant provides evidentiary proof in admissible form to demonstrate that there are no questions of fact (Winegrad v New York Univ. Med. Center, 64 NY2d 851; Wanger v Zeh, 45 Misc 2d 93, aff'd 26 AD2d 729). Once the movant has demonstrated a prima facie entitlement to summary judgment as a matter of law, the burden shifts to the opposing party to submit evidentiary proof in admissible form sufficient to create an issue of fact or demonstrate an acceptable excuse for his failure to submit such proof (Alvarez v Prospect Hosp., 68 NY2d 320). Mere conclusions, speculation or expressions of hope are insufficient to defeat the motion (Amatulli v Delhi Constr. Corp., 77 NY2d 525).

The doctrine of judicial immunity is one of the oldest concepts in our common law judicial system (see Floyd v Barker, 77 Eng. Rep. 1305 (Star Chamber 1607)). The concept was later adopted in the United States. In 1871, the Supreme Court in Bradley v Fisher, 80 US (13 Wall) 335, recognized and embraced the doctrine. In Mosher-Simons v County of Allegany, 99 NY2d 214, 219, the Court of Appeals held that “it is imperative to the nature of the judicial function that Judges be free to make decisions without fear of retribution through accusations of malicious wrongdoing" (Tarter v State of New York, 68 NY2d 511, 518 [1986]; see also Antoine v Byers & Anderson, 508 US 429, 435[1993]). Judicial immunity discourages inappropriate collateral attacks on court rulings and fosters judicial independence by protecting courts and judges from vexatious litigation. Indeed, "most judicial mistakes or wrongs are open to correction through ordinary mechanisms of review, which are largely free of the harmful side-effects inevitably associated with exposing judges to personal liability” (Forrester v White, 484 US 219, 227[1988]). Allowing members of the judiciary to exercise independent judgment, without the threat of legal reprisal, is "critical to our judicial system" (Tarter, 68 NY2d at 518). In Tucker v Outwater, 118 F3d 930, 933, the court recognized:
a two-part test for determining whether a judge is entitled to absolute immunity from damage claims. [Stump v Sparkman, 435 US 349] First, "[a] judge will not be deprived of immunity because the action he took was in error, was done maliciously, or was in excess of his authority; rather, he will be subject to liability only when he has acted in the 'clear absence of all jurisdiction.' " Id. at 356-57 (emphasis added) (quoting Bradley, 80 US at 351). Second, a judge is immune only for actions performed in his judicial capacity. Id. at 360-63...; see also Gregory v Thompson, 500 F2d 59, 62 (9th Cir 1974) (finding no immunity for assaulting litigant).

It is clear that the decisions of the Family Court Judge were done in her judicial capacity. The Court of Claims Act waives immunity of the State of New York in certain circumstances for a claimant to recover money damages (Court of Claims Act §8). The Court of Claims lacks jurisdiction over any entity other than the State of New York and certain other State Authorities. This Court has no jurisdiction over the County of Suffolk or the individual judge. The claims against the County of Suffolk and the individual judge are dismissed.

The Court now turns its attention to the relief sought by claimant. The establishment of the court system is found in Article VI of the New York State Constitution. Article VI, §7 states that the Supreme Court shall "have general original jurisdiction in law and equity and the appellate jurisdiction herein provided."
The Supreme Court in this State is a court of general original jurisdiction in law and equity (see N.Y. Const., art. VI, §7, subd. a.) and, in conformity with its all inclusive powers, the court is authorized in any action to render such judgment as is appropriate to the proofs received in conformity with the allegations of the pleadings, irrespective of the nature of the relief demanded, subject, of course, in a proper case, to the imposition of such terms as may be necessary to protect the rights of any party.
(Kaminsky v Kahn, 23 AD2d 231, 236).

Separately, the Court of Claims is established by NY Const. Art. VI, §9, which states, in relevant part that "[t]he court shall have jurisdiction to hear and determine claims against the state or by the state against the claimant or between conflicting claimants as the legislature may provide." The Court of Claims is limited to awarding money damages against the State of New York (Matter of Silverman v Comptroller of State of N.Y., 40 AD2d 225).

Based upon the foregoing, defendant’s motion is granted and the claim is dismissed in its entirety. The Clerk of the Court is directed to close the file.

June 13, 2007
Hauppauge, New York

Judge of the Court of Claims

[2].The following papers have been read and considered on defendant’s motion: Notice of Motion dated April 9, 2007 and filed April 12, 2007; Affirmation in Support of Lori L. Pack, Esq. with annexed Exhibits A-C dated April 9, 2007 and filed April 12, 2007; Response to Motion and Affirmation of Geoffrey C. Schlakman with annexed Exhibits A-C sworn to April 16, 2007 and filed April 18, 2007.