New York State Court of Claims

New York State Court of Claims

WOODARD v. THE STATE OF NEW YORK, #2007-041-037, Claim No. 113670, Motion Nos. M-73685, CM-73804


Summary judgment is granted dismissing claim for wrongful confinement since the allegation that the time claimant spent in administrative segregation prior to disciplinary hearing must be deducted from disciplinary penalty imposed after hearing is unsupported by law or regulations.

Case Information

Claimant short name:
Footnote (claimant name) :

Footnote (defendant name) :

Third-party claimant(s):

Third-party defendant(s):

Claim number(s):
Motion number(s):
Cross-motion number(s):
Claimant’s attorney:
Defendant’s attorney:
New York State Attorney GeneralBy: Michael T. Krenrich, Esq., Assistant Attorney General
Third-party defendant’s attorney:

Signature date:
August 16, 2007

Official citation:

Appellate results:

See also (multicaptioned case)


Claimant moves for an order striking certain affirmative defenses contained in the defendant’s answer while defendant cross-moves for summary judgment dismissing the claim. The claim states that a misbehavior report was issued by defendant on March 27, 2005 alleging that claimant, while incarcerated at Clinton Correctional Facility, had violated a facility rule prohibiting inmates from using narcotics or controlled substances unless prescribed by health service providers. Claimant had tested positive for the use of marijuana on March 27, 2005 and was immediately placed in keeplock pending a superintendent’s hearing.

The hearing was held on March 30, 2005, within the time frame required by 7 NYCRR 251-5.1 (a), which provides as follows:
“Where an inmate is confined pending a disciplinary hearing or superintendent's hearing, the hearing must be commenced as soon as is reasonably practicable following the inmate's initial confinement pending said disciplinary hearing or superintendent's hearing, but, in no event may it be commenced beyond seven days of said confinement without authorization of the commissioner or his designee.”
Claimant admitted his guilt at the hearing and was prescribed a penalty of three months confinement in the special housing unit (SHU) commencing March 30, 2005 and concluding June 30, 2005, six months loss of privileges commencing March 30, 2005 and concluding September 30, 2005 and six months loss of good time. Claimant did not appeal the penalty.

The claim states that claimant was released from SHU on June 30, 2005 and that his privileges were restored on September 30, 2005, as provided for in the hearing decision. Claimant alleges that he should have been released from SHU on June 25, 2005 because the penalty was “90 days S.H.U.” and his confinement actually began on March 27, 2005 when he was placed in keeplock. Similarly, claimant alleges that “the loss of the claimant’s privileges was excessive, because the 6 months loss of his privileges expired on September 25, 2005.” The claim essentially alleges that claimant was entitled to a credit against his penalty for the time he spent in keeplock prior to the superintendent’s hearing.

Having reviewed the claimant’s motion and the cross-motion, the claim is dismissed.

“A motion for summary judgment should be entertained only after the moving party has established, by competent admissible evidence, that it is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. . . If the movant meets this initial burden, the opposing party is required to submit evidence which raises a material issue of fact to preclude an award of summary judgment” (Ware v Baxter Health Care Corp., 25 AD3d 863, 864 [3d Dept 2006]; see Svoboda v Our Lady of Lourdes Memorial Hospital, Inc., 31 AD3d 877 [3d Dept 2006]).

The facts are not in dispute and defendant has satisfied its initial burden by correctly pointing out that it was not legally obligated to credit the prehearing period of time in which claimant was in keeplock against the ultimate penalty imposed:
“[W]e reject petitioner's contention that he should be credited with the time he spent in administrative segregation prior to the initial determination of his guilt on September 13, 1996. There is nothing in the regulations of the Department of Correctional Services that requires petitioner’s prehearing segregation be credited toward the penalty imposed after a disciplinary hearing” (Matter of Melluzzo v Goord, 250 AD2d 893, 895 [3d Dept 1998], lv denied 92 NY2d 814 [1998]; see Matter of Starks v Goord, 2 AD3d 1117 [3d Dept 2003]; Davis v State of New York, 262 AD2d 887 [3d Dept 1999], lv denied 1999 WL 1057238 [1999]; Fama v Mann, 196 AD2d 919 [3d Dept 1993], lv denied 82 NY2d 662 [1993]).
It is also apparent that, accepting the factual as opposed to the legal allegations of the claim as true, the defendant’s actions in the context of the disciplinary proceeding were immune from liability as a matter of law.

Where employees of the Department of Correctional Services, in commencing and conducting formal inmate disciplinary proceedings, “act under the authority of and in full compliance with the governing statutes and regulations . . . their actions constitute discretionary conduct of a quasi-judicial nature for which the State has absolute immunity” (Arteaga v State of New York, 72 NY2d 212, 214 [1988]). In particular, “the actions of Correction Department employees in preparing and filing misbehavior reports, confining inmates, and making dispositions following Superintendents’ hearings entail discretionary decisions in furtherance of general policies and purposes where the exercise of reasoned judgment can produce different acceptable results” (Arteaga, 72 NY2d at 219).

The absolute immunity for discretionary quasi-judicial acts relating to inmate discipline applies even where it is later determined that the discretionary decision was mistaken (Varela v State of New York, 283 AD2d 841 [3d Dept 2001].

In Holloway v State of New York (285 AD2d 765, 766 [3d Dept 2001]), an inmate was subjected to a cell frisk conducted in violation of a regulation (the inmate should have been permitted to observe the frisk unless he presented a danger to the safety and security of the facility) and, after a hearing, was sentenced to 180 days in the Secure Housing Unit (SHU). The disciplinary determination was administratively reversed on the basis of the improperly conducted cell frisk.

The subsequent claim alleging unlawful confinement in SHU was dismissed since “[i]n conducting the frisk and deciding whether to allow claimant to observe it, the correction officers were obligated to make a ‘discretionary decision in furtherance of general policies and purposes where the exercise of reasoned judgment can produce different acceptable results’” (Holloway, 285 AD2d at 766, quoting Arteaga, 72 NY2d at 219). The Holloway court concluded, at p. 766, that:
“Accordingly, while the correction officers who frisked claimant's cell may have abused their discretion by not allowing him to observe the frisk, thereby providing the basis for this Court’s judgment annulling the disciplinary determination, the correction officers conducting the frisk were nevertheless exercising a discretionary authority for which the State has absolute immunity.”
Holloway recognizes that even though the improper cell frisk resulted in a reversal on administrative appeal of an initial guilty finding, both the frisk and the subsequent disciplinary hearing involved discretionary decisions and were entitled to absolute immunity.

Simply put, the State is absolutely immune from liability “when the [challenged] action involves the conscious exercise of discretion of a judicial or quasi-judicial nature” (Arteaga, 72 NY2d at 216; see Carossia v City of New York, 39 AD3d 429, 429 [1st Dept 2007]).

“In opposition to a motion for summary judgment a party must assemble and lay bare affirmative proof to establish that genuine material issues of fact exist. Only the existence of a bona fide issue raised by evidentiary fact rather than one based on conclusory or irrelevant allegations, will be sufficient to defeat a motion for summary judgment where the movant has made out a prima facie basis for the granting of the motion” (Archambault v Martinez, 120 AD2d 632, 632-633 [2d Dept 1986]). Further, “mere conclusions, expressions of hope or unsubstantiated allegations or assertions are insufficient” to defeat a motion for summary judgment (Zuckerman v City of New York, 49 NY2d 557, 562 [1980]).

In opposing the defendant’s cross-motion, claimant argues that defendant’s failure to release him from SHU and failure to restore his privileges earlier than required by the hearing decision was an omission to perform a ministerial act for which defendant lacks immunity. Claimant fails to raise any triable issue of fact. He pled guilty to the charge and did not appeal the penalty imposed. Claimant was released from keeplock, and his privileges were restored, in full compliance with the express requirements of the decision issued after the superintendent’s hearing.

Defendant was not required to credit the prehearing period of time in which claimant was in keeplock against the ultimate penalty imposed. Defendant was therefore not required to release claimant, or restore his privileges, any earlier than the dates set forth in the decision: June 30, 2005 and September 30, 2005, respectively.

The defendant’s cross-motion to dismiss the claim is granted and the claim is dismissed.

August 16, 2007
Albany, New York

Judge of the Court of Claims

Papers Considered:
  1. Claimant’s Notice of Motion, filed July 9, 2007;
  2. Affidavit/Affirmation of Victor Woodard, executed July 5, 2007;
  3. Defendant’s Notice of Cross-Motion, filed August 1, 2007;
  4. Affirmation of Michael T. Krenrich, dated August 1, 2007, with annexed exhibits;
  5. Letter of claimant in opposition to cross-motion.