New York State Court of Claims

New York State Court of Claims

MABRY v. THE STATE OF NEW YORK, #2008-029-064, Claim No. 110024


Reason for reversal of claimant’s disciplinary conviction did not appear in State records. Thus, State not entitled to immunity because the reversal may have been on procedural grounds. Nevertheless, claimant did not establish that she would not have been convicted had proper procedure been followed.

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:
ANDREW M. CUOMO, ATTORNEY GENERALBy: Elyse J. Angelico, Assistant Attorney General
Third-party defendant’s attorney:

Signature date:
December 22, 2008
White Plains

Official citation:

Appellate results:

See also (multicaptioned case)


Claimant, an inmate at Bedford Hills Correctional Facility, seeks damages in the form of compensation for wrongful excessive confinement and lost wages arising out of her conviction on disciplinary charges at the facility and the subsequent reversal of that conviction.

Claimant testified she was in the facility’s law library on August 15, 2004, preparing pamphlets as part of her effort to reverse what she described as her wrongful criminal conviction, when she was approached by Sergeant Smith who asked to see one of the pamphlets. Smith left the library and later, as the library was closing, spoke with Officer Jones who took claimant’s bag and seized the pamphlets. Smith later asked claimant if she knew that there was a solicitation for stamps on the back of the pamphlets and claimant told him she had prior approval for such a solicitation. On August 18, she was served with a misbehavior report charging her with solicitation, possessing property in an unauthorized area, possession of contraband items and a facility correspondence violation (Exhibit B to Claim). [1] On August 19, a hearing was held and claimant was convicted of two of the charges and sentenced to 30 days of keeplock and the loss of some privileges.

Claimant appealed and on October 13, 2004, the Deputy Superintendent for Security (DSS) at Bedford Hills reversed the conviction. The form with the subject “Hearing Modification,” under the pre-printed words “I have decided to modify this case. My reason for this modification is:” was filled out as follows: “expunge hearing – Dismissed” (Exhibit F to Claim).

On cross-examination, claimant conceded that the back of her pamphlets contained the words “donations for stamps would be greatly appreciated,” and that such a request would be contrary to the facility’s rules absent prior approval. She testified that she had written to the Superintendent of the facility, Elaine Lord, requesting approval for the solicitation but had never received a response.

Lieutenant Lawrence Hammond testified for the defense. Although he conducted many disciplinary hearings at Bedford Hills, he was not involved in the subject hearing. He attempted to contact former DSS Schneider, who reversed claimant’s conviction, but she is retired and Hammond was unable to reach her. Lt. Hammond had no idea why claimant’s conviction was reversed and expunged. He also could not explain why the reason for such action did not appear on the document, although he acknowledged “obviously, the form is set up to include the reason.”

Citing Arteaga v State of New York (72 NY2d 212 [1988]), defendant moved to dismiss the claim on the grounds of immunity. In that decision, the Court of Appeals held that the actions of correctional personnel in disciplining inmates are entitled to absolute immunity so long as they act “entirely within their authority and in compliance with the applicable rules and regulations” (id., p 218; see 7 NYCRR Parts 250-254). The Court also held that such immunity does not extend to “unlawful actions of employees taken beyond their authority or in violation of the governing rules and regulations” (id., p 220). Thus, when a prison disciplinary hearing is not conducted in accordance with governing rules and regulations, liability may result (see e.g. Mabry v State of New York, Ct Cl, Patti, J., UID No. 2001-013-514, Dec. 31, 2001; Diaz v State of New York, Ct Cl, Schweitzer, J., UID No. 2006-036-008, June 20, 2006). Here, the court is unable to make a finding as to the reason for the reversal because defendant’s employee failed to properly complete the form and there is no other competent evidence upon which to base such a finding. Under these circumstances, the court must find that defendant failed to establish that it is entitled to immunity and the motion to dismiss on such ground is denied. This case stands on the same footing as those where immunity was denied because a conviction was reversed based on defendant’s failure to follow the applicable procedural rules.

Nevertheless, removal of the Arteaga immunity is not, per se, sufficient to establish liability. Claimant must still establish the merits of her claim; i.e., “that if defendant had properly complied with its rules and regulations, the outcome of the hearing would have been different and claimant would not have been wrongfully confined or suffered damages” (McKinney v State of New York, Ct Cl, Schaewe, J., UID No. 2008-044-589, Nov. 20, 2008; see also Brown v State of New York, Ct Cl, Ruderman, J., UID No. 2008-010-038, Oct. 6, 2008). Whatever the reason for the reversal and expungement of claimant’s conviction, she admitted that her pamphlets contained a solicitation requiring prior approval and that she requested such approval but did not receive a response. While she contended that the confiscated pamphlets were not present at the hearing, and that such was the reason for the DSS’s actions, the court cannot conclude that she would not have been convicted had the pamphlets been produced at the hearing. Thus, she has failed to prove a prima facie case.

Accordingly, the Clerk of the Court is directed to enter judgment of dismissal on the merits.

December 22, 2008
White Plains, New York

Judge of the Court of Claims

[1].Since the claim contained copies of all relevant documentation, it was received in evidence as Exhibit 1 upon the joint request of both parties.