Joseph Nalley alleges in his claim that on or about May 20, 2005 he was
wrongfully charged with a facility rules violation while he was incarcerated at
Green Haven Correctional Facility, was issued a flawed misbehavior report that
should have been administratively dismissed immediately, was denied due process
at a disciplinary hearing held with regard to the charges before a hearing
officer who was not impartial, and thereafter wrongfully confined. Trial of the
matter was held at Sing Sing Correctional Facility on May 9, 2008.
Claimant testified that he was charged with a facility rules violation [113.10]
alleging that he possessed a weapon that had been passed on from inmate to
inmate after a stabbing in one of the recreational yards. At the time of the
alleged incident on May 20, 2005, however, Mr. Nalley maintained that he had
been in line at the medical unit awaiting his medication. He was placed in
confinement on May 21, 2005, pending investigation of the matter; a misbehavior
report was served on him on May 24, 2005 he alleges, and thereafter a Tier III
Superintendent’s hearing was commenced on May 29, 2005 before Lieutenant
Russet. [Exhibit 2]. The appropriate advices were given to claimant concerning
the report, his entitlement to witnesses, and the complete misbehavior report
was read on the record. [Id.].
At the hearing, despite his claims that the hearing was not conducted
impartially, a nurse from the medical unit testified, as did other witnesses
called by claimant. He made objections to the “validity of the
misbehavior report” [see
Claim No 111567, ¶12] in that it did
not contain the correct date for the alleged
, and this and other objections were
noted by the hearing officer but denied. [Exhibit 2]. The charge itself, Mr.
Nalley protested, had been based on information supplied by a confidential
informant, which he viewed as unfair. Claimant was found guilty of all charges
and confined from May 21, 2005, when the investigation began, to July 3, 2005,
losing all privileges, packages, and family visits with his wife for that
period. Thereafter, the Superintendent’s hearing was reversed on appeal on
August 18, 2005. [Exhibit 1].
On cross-examination, claimant confirmed that he was released after the
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 Cl 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), cert
denied sub nom. Schanbarger v Kellogg, 423 US 929 (1975).
The quasi-judicial acts of correction employees taken in furtherance of
authorized disciplinary measures, however, 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.
Issues concerning whether the initial determination was against the weight of
the evidence or otherwise flawed substantively - issues the claimant appeared to
be arguing in the trial before this court - 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)].
Upon review of all the evidence, including listening to Mr. Nalley testify and
observing his demeanor as he did so, the Court finds that claimant has not
established an adequate basis for the state’s liability.
From the facts presented it would appear that correction officers acted within
the bounds of New York State Department of Correctional Services [DOCS] rules
and regulations. The court listened to the cassette tape recording the
disciplinary hearing, although most of it was inaudible. [Exhibit 2]. After
reading the entire misbehavior report to claimant, including the advice that he
could call witnesses, have an assistant, etc., the hearing officer entered Mr.
Nalley’s plea on May 29, 2005. [Id.]. Matters were adjourned,
witnesses were called, rulings were made, and a disposition was entered
thereafter. [Id.]. In the written claim, too, it can be discerned that
the misbehavior report was properly served upon claimant - alleging the facility
rule violation described - and that a disciplinary hearing concerning the
charges was timely commenced within seven (7) days of confinement, or within
other authorized time periods, and timely concluded. See generally 7
NYCRR § 251-3; 251-5. Based on the testimony and evidence submitted
herein, the procedure went through its normal course.
The disposition entered after a timely concluded hearing is just the type of
quasi-judicial determination shielded by the immunity principles of Arteaga v
State of New York, supra. Because of the appeal process, the
determination was reversed. [See Exhibit 1]. 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 40 days of what would have been a far longer sentence, and was released
upon reversal according to his own testimony.
While it is unfortunate that claimant lost the opportunity to visit with his
wife, and the court is sympathetic to the claimant’s protestations that
his had been an otherwise unblemished disciplinary record throughout his
incarceration, having achieved the status of porter at the time of this
incident, no misfeasance on the part of DOCS is established on this record.
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 after he has served the sentence provided for in the
disposition period. The discretionary functions at issue here, however, do not
render the State liable.
Claimant has failed to establish his claim of wrongful confinement and all
associated causes of action.
motion to dismiss, reserved on at the time of trial, and based upon its second
affirmative defense, is hereby granted, and Claim Number 111567 is dismissed in
Let judgment be entered accordingly.