New York State Court of Claims

New York State Court of Claims

MARSH v. THE STATE OF NEW YORK, #2008-030-013, Claim No. 111655


Synopsis


Inmate’s wrongful confinement claim dismissed after trial. Claimant was issued a misbehavior report, he was found guilty, only partially pursued his remedies, served the period imposed by the hearing officer, and 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 flawed would have been more properly determined upon further administrative review, and 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:
2008-030-013
Claimant(s):
TYRONE MARSH
Claimant short name:
MARSH
Footnote (claimant name) :

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

Third-party claimant(s):

Third-party defendant(s):

Claim number(s):
111655
Motion number(s):

Cross-motion number(s):

Judge:
THOMAS H. SCUCCIMARRA
Claimant’s attorney:
TYRONE MARSH, 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 19, 2008
City:
White Plains
Comments:

Official citation:

Appellate results:

See also (multicaptioned case)

.
Decision

Tyrone Marsh alleges in his claim that on or about June 15, 2005 he was wrongfully charged with facility rules violations while he was incarcerated at Green Haven Correctional Facility, was issued a misbehavior report, wrongfully confined while the matter was being investigated and after the disciplinary hearing commenced and was adjourned, denied due process at the hearing, ultimately found guilty, and thereafter again wrongfully confined. Trial of the matter was held at Sing Sing Correctional Facility on May 9, 2008.

More specifically, Mr. Marsh alleges in his claim that he was wrongfully charged with stealing a mattress, and lying about it. He first testified that on June 15, 2005 as he returned from his program as a laundry clerk under escort by a correctional officer, another inmate - working as a “laundry runner”[1] - was bringing a mattress to F-Block for inmate Farrell, and asked for Mr. Marsh’s assistance in bringing the mattress to the cell. Claimant then explained that earlier in the day he had asked his supervisor, George Torres, if he could help “change out” inmate Farrell’s mattress, and the supervisor had indicated that there was “no problem.” Farrell would have to take his old mattress to a designated spot, and leave it with the runner. Thus when inmate Moore, the laundry runner, came down in the afternoon he had a “couple of mattresses” as well as the laundry that he was returning to some of the inmates.

Claimant said he saw Moore, and asked if that was the mattress that was coming to the cellblock, and when Moore said that it was, they went in the back to get the mattress, but there was no room on the cart for it. George Torres wrote a pass, letting Moore take the mattress.

When inmates left their work area, they had to line up and be checked before going into the F and G-block residence areas. When claimant got to the line waiting to go into the cellblock that afternoon, the runner who was taking the mattress was still standing ahead, waiting to get in the block. Officer Marnet, claimant’s escorting officer, knocked on the door and the block Officer Savino let them through. Since claimant was in the same block as Farrell, “they asked . . . [claimant] to take the mattress over to Farrell.”

As Mr. Marsh was walking to the cells, Officer Murphy was “coming off 4 company,” saw claimant moving the mattress, and told him to stop, and put it aside. Claimant explained to Murphy that it was “a mattress for 153 cell.” The officer told him to leave it, and to go lock in. That evening, claimant “went to recreation” and his “regular college program.” The next day “on the 11 o’clock go around,” claimant “put down for school” but was advised that he was keeplocked. When Claimant asked why, he was told he was under investigation.

Four days later, “they let Farrell loose” and claimant “got served with a misbehavior report” saying he had stolen a mattress and had lied.

At the disciplinary hearing that commenced on June 22, 2005, claimant testified, and Lieutenant Russert, the hearing officer, also called George Torres, the claimant’s supervisor, at claimant’s request. Inmate Farrell and Sergeant Ulrich - the officer who had issued the misbehavior report - also testified. Sergeant Ulrich corrected the date contained in the misbehavior report from June 16 to June 15, during his testimony. Although at trial Mr. Marsh said that Mr. Torres was only asked about an incident “occurring on June 16” when the laundry was closed, “so when they asked Mr. Torres if he knew anything about a mattress being authorized by him to go to F-block he said ‘no’,” review of the tape of the hearing reveals otherwise. Indeed, it was Mr. Marsh whose questioning would have narrowed the matter to the 16th had the hearing officer not indicated that the incident under discussion occurred on the 15th and that the date issue had already been corrected. [Exhibit 1].

When inmate Farrell testified at the disciplinary hearing, he denied any knowledge of the mattress exchange plan. At trial, claimant said that Mr. Farrell “misinformed the officers.” Claimant testified:
“I had told him to take your mattress and put it on 4-company. He didn’t do that. That morning at 6 am when they went to chow and to industry, Farrell just picked up a mattress that was over there and gave it to the runner. Now I did not know this because I was at work. When the guy [inmate Moore] tells me he has a mattress, I say it must be the mattress from 153-cell. When the officers did the investigation later, they checked Farrell’s cell and he still had a mattress. But I didn’t know that! They let Farrell off keeplock, and charged me.”

Adjournments of the hearing, which was concluded on July 22, 2005, were authorized on the record, and were related to the unavailability of witnesses, and the hearing officer’s schedule. [Exhibit A]. However, claimant testified:
“When the lieutenant adjourned the hearing after Torres’ testimony, he went on vacation for like 20 something days, while I stayed on keep lock until July 4, 2005 and went back to working in the laundry. In the meantime, I did a FOIL request for the laundry records showing on June 15, 2005 a mattress was authorized - and Torres confirmed that his laundry records showed that a mattress was authorized on that date.”


Only one witness claimant requested was denied, and the reasons therefor were set forth on the record, namely that his testimony was immaterial to the issues. [See Exhibit A, and Exhibit 1]. Inmate Moore refused to testify according to the hearing record. [Exhibit 1]. Claimant was found guilty and sentenced to 13 more days in keeplock as a disposition, having served 17 days in administrative keeplock while the investigation and hearing process was ongoing.

Claimant submitted a tape recording of the disciplinary hearing [Exhibit 1], a progress report concerning his work as a laundry clerk dated November 17, 2003 [Exhibit 2]; and laundry room records that he stated represented the period of June 15, 2005 through June 22, 2005 (although there is no calendar year indicated on the form). [Exhibit 3]. The disciplinary packet was submitted as well, including the misbehavior report and the facility appeals. [Exhibit A].

On cross-examination, claimant confirmed that on June 16, 2005 he was issued a misbehavior report, that a hearing started on June 22, 2005 and finished on July 22, 2005. Mr. Marsh confirmed that while the appeal made to the superintendent was denied, he did not seek further remedies or pursue further judicial review. Claimant acknowledged that he was released upon completion of his sentence.

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 Cl1986)], 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 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.

More significantly, 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; Price v Phillips et al, 4 AD3d 364 (2d Dept 2004)].

Upon review of all the evidence, including listening to Mr. Marsh 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 of the disciplinary hearing, although much of it was inaudible. [Exhibit 1]. 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. Marsh’s plea on the record and witnesses he requested were called, except for one. [Id.]. The hearing was adjourned with approval from the department [see Exhibit A], witnesses were called, rulings were made, and a disposition was entered thereafter.

The misbehavior report was properly served upon claimant - alleging the facility rule violations described , and 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. Whether such determination was flawed would have been more properly determined upon further administrative review, and 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.

No misfeasance on the part of DOCS is established on this record. Claimant was issued a misbehavior report, he was found guilty, only partially pursued his remedies, served the period imposed by the hearing officer, and was immediately released. Immunity principles apply from the issuance of the misbehavior report throughout the 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, simply do not render the State liable in money damages.

Based on the trial testimony and documentary evidence herein, claimant has failed to establish his claim of wrongful confinement by a preponderance of the credible evidence, and claim number 111655 is hereby dismissed.

Let judgment be entered accordingly.


May 19, 2008
White Plains, New York

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




[1]. All quotations are to trial notes or audiorecordings unless otherwise indicated.