New York State Court of Claims

New York State Court of Claims

NALLEY v. THE STATE OF NEW YORK, #2008-030-012, Claim No. 111567


Synopsis


Inmate’s wrongful confinement claim dismissed after trial. Claimant was issued a misbehavior report alleging facility rules violations concerning possession of a weapon, and was found guilty after a hearing during which witnesses he requested testified. He served the period imposed by the hearing officer until the matter was reversed on appeal, and he was immediately released. 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, 72 NY2d 212, 219-220 (1988). Whether such determination was against the weight of the evidence or otherwise flawed would be subject to review after exhaustion of administrative remedies through the Article 78 process. There has been no showing that claimant was kept confined beyond the sentence entered in disposition of the charges, or that he lost any privileges beyond the initial period imposed

Case Information

UID:
2008-030-012
Claimant(s):
JOSEPH NALLEY
Claimant short name:
NALLEY
Footnote (claimant name) :

Defendant(s):
THE STATE OF NEW YORK
Footnote (defendant name) :

Third-party claimant(s):

Third-party defendant(s):

Claim number(s):
111567
Motion number(s):

Cross-motion number(s):

Judge:
THOMAS H. SCUCCIMARRA
Claimant’s attorney:
JOSEPH NALLEY, PRO SE
Defendant’s attorney:
HON. ANDREW M. CUOMO, NEW YORK STATE ATTORNEY GENERAL
BY: J. GARDNER RYAN, ASSISTANT ATTORNEY GENERAL
Third-party defendant’s attorney:

Signature date:
May 16, 2008
City:
White Plains
Comments:

Official citation:

Appellate results:

See also (multicaptioned case)

.
Decision

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 incident[1], 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 reversal.

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.[2] Defendant’s 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 its entirety.

Let judgment be entered accordingly.


May 16, 2008
White Plains, New York

HON. THOMAS H. SCUCCIMARRA
Judge of the Court of Claims




[1]. Mr. Nalley said it occurred on May 20, 2005, yet the misbehavior report stated that it occurred on May 21, 2005. No copy of the report was submitted.
[2].A claim alleging denial of due process, if based upon a violation of the Federal Constitution, should be pursued pursuant to 42 USC §1983. No cause of action against the State of New York exists for alleged violations of an individual’s rights under the United States Constitution [See Welch v State of New York, 286 AD2d 496, 498 (2d Dept 2001); Zagarella v State of New York, 149 AD2d 503 (2d Dept 1989)], in that the State is not a “person” amenable to suit pursuant to 42 USC §1983. With respect to alleged violation of the New York State Constitution, the Court must consider certain factors, not present here, to determine if a cause of action for a State constitutional tort is properly brought in the Court of Claims. See generally Brown v State of New York, 89 NY2d 172 (1996). Only where it is necessary to ensure the effectiveness and promote the purposes of the allegedly violated provision will a constitutional tort cause of action for damages be implied. Brown v State of New York, supra at 191; Lyles v State of New York, 2 AD3d 694 (2d Dept 2003), affd 3 NY3d 396 (2004). Claimant has alleged a cause of action for wrongful confinement as an alternative damages remedy, thus no constitutional tort remedy need be implied.