New York State Court of Claims

New York State Court of Claims

WASHINGTON v. STATE OF NEW YORK, #2007-039-042, Claim No. 113537, Motion No. M-73406


Synopsis


Defendant’s motion to dismiss the claim in lieu of an answer on the grounds that the Court is without jurisdiction and claimant has failed to state a cause of action is granted. Insofar as claimant seeks redress for alleged violations of the United States Constitution or the New York State Constitution, the Court is without jurisdiction. To the extent that claimant seeks redress for defendant’s alleged failure to comply with CPL §§ 380.60 and 380.70, the Court is also without jurisdiction of the claim. Here, even though claimant seeks only monetary relief in his prayer for relief, it is clear that an award of damages, if any, is merely incidental to a determination that defendant failed to fulfill its mandatory statutory obligation to provide the correctional facility with a certified copy of the sentencing minutes and a certificate of conviction. Thus, the primary relief sought is obtainable in an article 78 proceeding and the Court lacks subject matter jurisdiction of the claim.

Case Information

UID:
2007-039-042
Claimant(s):
DEXTER WASHINGTON
Claimant short name:
WASHINGTON
Footnote (claimant name) :

Defendant(s):
STATE OF NEW YORK1 1.The Court has, sua sponte, amended the captions to reflect the State of New York as the only proper Defendant.
Footnote (defendant name) :

Third-party claimant(s):

Third-party defendant(s):

Claim number(s):
113537
Motion number(s):
M-73406
Cross-motion number(s):

Judge:
JAMES H. FERREIRA
Claimant’s attorney:
Dexter Washington, pro se
Defendant’s attorney:
Hon. Andrew M. Cuomo
Attorney General of the State of New York
By: Heather R. RubinsteinAssistant Attorney General
Third-party defendant’s attorney:

Signature date:
October 11, 2007
City:
Albany
Comments:

Official citation:

Appellate results:

See also (multicaptioned case)



Decision

During 1997, claimant Dexter Washington was convicted of two counts of burglary in the first degree, in violation of Penal Law § 140.30, one count of robbery in the first degree, in violation of Penal Law § 160.15, one count of robbery in the second degree, in violation of Penal Law § 160.10 and one count of resisting arrest, in violation of Penal Law § 205.30. He was subsequently sentenced to concurrent terms of imprisonment of 25 years for each count of burglary in the first degree and robbery in the first degree, 15 years for robbery in the second degree, and one year for resisting arrest.

Claimant was incarcerated at Auburn Correctional Facility and commenced the instant claim during April 2007. He alleges, among other things, that defendant violated his statutory and constitutional rights when the Department of Correctional Services detained him without proper jurisdiction or documentation from the sentencing court in accordance with Criminal Procedure Law §§ 380.60, 380.70 and Correction Law § 601-A. Defendant now moves the Court, in lieu of an answer, for an order dismissing the claim on the grounds that, pursuant to Court of Claims Act §§ 10 and 11, the Court is without jurisdiction and claimant has failed to state a cause of action.

The Court finds in the first instance that, insofar as claimant seeks redress for alleged violations of the United States Constitution or the New York State Constitution, the Court is without jurisdiction. Claimant does not identify the portions of the state or federal constitutions that he alleges to have been violated. Nonetheless, “[a] state is not a ‘person’ acting under color of law, as defined in 42 USC 1983" (Welch v State of New York, 286 AD2d 496, 498 [2001]; see also Thomas v State of New York, 10 Misc 3d 1072 (A), *3 [2005]). Additionally, since there is another remedy available to claimant, as discussed below, the Court declines to entertain a state constitutional cause of action (see, Brown v State of New York, 89 NY2d 172 [1996]; see also Thomas v State of New York, supra; Matter of McLaurin v New York State Bd. of Parole, 27 AD3d 565, 566 [2006]). The Court further finds that, to the extent claimant seeks redress for defendant’s alleged failure to comply with CPL §§ 380.60 and 380.70, it is without jurisdiction of the claim. Although “[j]urisdiction reposes in the Court of Claims where ‘the essential nature of the claim [against defendant] is to recover money’, [it does not lie] where ‘monetary relief is incidental to the primary claim’ ” (Guy v State of New York, 18 AD3d 936, 937 [2005], quoting Harvard Fin. Servs. v State of New York, 266 AD2d 685, 685 [1999]). Moreover, “it is well settled that ‘[t]he Court of Claims lacks subject matter jurisdiction of a cause of action where the primary relief sought is obtainable in an article 78 proceeding, regardless of how a claimant characterizes his [or her] claim’ ” (Guy v State of New York, supra at 937 [2005], quoting Young v State of New York, 179 Misc 2d 879, 882 [1999]).

CPL § 380.60 provides, in relevant part, that “a certificate of conviction showing the sentence pronounced by the court, or a certified copy thereof, constitutes the authority for execution of the sentence and serves as the order of commitment, and no other warrant, order of commitment or authority is necessary to justify or to require execution of the sentence.” CPL § 380.70 mandates that “a certified copy of the stenographic minutes of the sentencing proceeding and a certificate of conviction . . . be delivered to the person in charge of the institution to which the defendant has been delivered.” “[P]resumably [the copies are] placed in the inmate’s permanent file so as to be available for, inter alia, parole hearings” (Matter of McLaurin v New York State Bd. of Parole, supra at 566, quoting CPL § 380.70).

Here, even though claimant seeks only monetary damages in his prayer for relief, it is clear that an award of damages, if any, is merely incidental to a determination that defendant failed to fulfill its mandatory statutory obligation to provide the correctional facility with a certified copy of the sentencing minutes and a certificate of conviction. The issue raised is a “‘quintessential example of a dispute governed under CPLR article 78,’ ” perhaps in the nature of mandamus to compel (Guy v State of New York, supra at 937, quoting Madura v State of New York, 12 AD3d 759, 761 [2004]; see also CPLR 7801 et seq.). Notably, claimant objects to defendant’s characterization of the nature of the claim as unjust confinement. In fact, “a sentence or commitment is not defective by reason of a failure to comply with the provisions of [CPL § 380.70]” (CPL § 380.70). Instead, claimant relies upon defendant’s alleged mandatory statutory obligation and avers that “the real issue for determination by this court is whether defendants displayed a ‘deliberate indifference’ to clearly established law as it relates to the custody and ongoing confinement of claimant.” In light of the foregoing, the Court is constrained to find that it lacks subject matter jurisdiction and the claim must be dismissed.

Accordingly, it is hereby ordered that M-73406 is granted and the claim is dismissed.


October 11, 2007
Albany, New York

HON. JAMES H. FERREIRA
Judge of the Court of Claims


Papers Considered
:
  1. Notice of Motion dated May 14, 2007;
  1. Affirmation of Heather R. Rubinstein, AAG, in support of motion to dismiss dated on May 14, 2007; and
  1. Affidavit in Opposition to Motion to Dismiss of Dexter Washington sworn to on May 17, 2007 with exhibits.