New York State Court of Claims

New York State Court of Claims

McEACHIN v. THE STATE OF NEW YORK, #2008-038-119, Claim No. 108830


Claim for unlawful confinement (keeplock) dismissed after trial. Claimant's prima facie showing of wrongful keeplock confinement for expunged penalty rebutted by defendant's showing that keeplock confinement was in service of a penalty for a different administrative penalty. Keeplock confinement was therefore authorized and lawful

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 General of the State of New York
By: Michael C. Rizzo, Assistant Attorney General
Third-party defendant’s attorney:

Signature date:
November 14, 2008

Official citation:

Appellate results:

See also (multicaptioned case)


Claimant, an inmate in a State correctional facility, filed this claim seeking damages for allegedly unlawful confinement in keeplock at Upstate Correctional Facility (CF) from March 22 through April 21, 2003. The trial of this claim was conducted by videoconference on August 19, 2008, with the parties appearing at Clinton CF in Dannemora, New York and the Court sitting in Saratoga Springs, New York. Claimant offered his own testimony; defendant offered the testimony of Department of Correctional Services (DOCS) Captain Daniel Phelix. Claimant offered three documents into evidence, all of which were received in evidence. Defendant offered four documents into evidence, all of which were received in evidence. After listening to the witnesses testify and observing their demeanor as they did so, and upon consideration of that evidence and all of the other evidence received at trial and the applicable law, the Court makes the following findings of facts and conclusions of law. While incarcerated at Five Points CF, claimant was issued a Tier II inmate misbehavior report charging him with three offenses arising from an incident that occurred on December 19, 2000. An administrative hearing was held at Five Points CF on December 29, 2000 to determine the December 19, 2000 charges. Claimant contends that he was not afforded an opportunity to be present at the hearing since he was transferred out of Five Points CF to Auburn CF on that date, while official DOCS records indicate that he refused to attend the hearing. Claimant was found guilty in absentia of the charges, and a penalty of 30 days in keeplock was imposed upon him. The instant claim alleges that claimant served this keeplock penalty from March 22 through April 21, 2003, but that he was unlawfully confined in keeplock because the disciplinary determination of December 29, 2000 had been expunged from his institutional record.

“To establish [a] cause of action [for unlawful confinement] the [claimant] must show that: (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]). Restrictive confinement is privileged to the extent that it is imposed “under color of law or regulation, specifically in accordance with regulations” (Gittens v State of New York, 132 Misc 2d 399, 401 [Ct Cl 1986]). Manifestly, the evidence at trial satisfied the first three elements of an unlawful confinement cause of action. As to the last element – that the confinement was imposed in accordance with regulations or otherwise privileged – as the party charged with the tort of wrongful confinement, it is defendant, and not claimant, who bears the burden of proving that the confinement was privileged (see Hollender v Trump Vil. Coop., 58 NY2d 420, 425 [1983]; Gonzalez v State of New York, 110 AD2d 810, 812 [1985], appeal dismissed 67 NY2d 647 [1986]; Fernandez v State of New York, 2002 NY Slip Op 50510[U], *9 [Ct Cl 2002]).

Claimant’s testimony and other evidence adduced at trial demonstrates that sometime prior to March 11, 2003, claimant became aware of the Five Points hearing and the 30-day keeplock penalty that resulted from the December 19, 2000 incident. Claimant’s effort to have references to the incident and the hearing expunged from his institutional record was successful. Claimant was thereafter transferred to Upstate CF on March 12, 2003, and he testified that he was confined in keeplock at Upstate CF from March 22 through April 21, 2003 to serve the 30-day keeplock penalty from the December 19, 2000 incident. An official DOCS record entitled “Disciplinary Incident Summary” references claimant’s service of 30 days in keeplock for the December 19, 2000 incident at Five Points CF (see Defendant’s Exhibit A). Because this document is undated, it is possible that it was produced prior to the expungement and references a future period of keeplock; it is equally possible that it references a period of keeplock that had already been served. Written communication between claimant and DOCS officials demonstrates that there was uncertainty and/or confusion about the expungement of the December 29, 2000 hearing and penalty (see Defendant’s Exhibits A-C). While there is no affirmative official record of the expungement, a document reciting claimant’s inmate disciplinary history as of November 1, 2005 contains no record of the incident, the hearing, or of claimant serving any time in keeplock as the result of the penalty imposed at the hearing (Claimant’s Exhibit 3).

The November 1, 2005 record of claimant’s inmate disciplinary history does indicate that claimant served 45 days in keeplock from March 23, 2003 through May 7, 2003 as a penalty imposed for a Tier III incident at Auburn CF on February 14, 2001. It also indicates that he served 17 months in a Special Housing Unit (SHU) from October 23, 2001 to March 23, 2003 as a penalty imposed for a Tier III incident on June 16, 2001 at Auburn CF. Captain Phelix credibly testified that when inmates receive multiple penalties for disciplinary violations, they always serve the most serious penalty first. He further testified that claimant’s keeplock status from March 23 through May 7, 2003 was the 45-day keeplock penalty that was imposed on February 19, 2001 from the Tier III incident at Auburn CF.

In this case, it appears that at the time claimant was in keeplock confinement between March 22 and April 21, 2003, DOCS officials believed he was keeplocked in satisfaction of the 30-day keeplock penalty that resulted from the December 19, 2000 incident at Five Points CF. Further, it is clear to the Court that at some point, either before or after the period of March 22 and April 21, 2003, references to the Five Points hearing and the 30-day keeplock penalty were expunged from claimant’s institutional record. In the absence of any other keeplock or SHU penalties, the period between March 22, and April 21, 2003 that claimant spent in keeplock would likely not be privileged. However, in this claim, defendant has met its burden of demonstrating its authority to restrictively confine claimant for the period from March 22 through April 21, 2003 by proving that that time was in satisfaction of the 45-day keeplock penalty and the 17-month SHU penalty assessed for the February 14 and June 16, 2001 incidents at Auburn CF. As the 30-day period of keeplock confinement of which claimant complains was thus privileged, defendant has borne its burden of proving that the confinement was not unlawful.

Accordingly, the Court finds in favor of defendant. Any motions not previously ruled upon are hereby DENIED. The Chief Clerk is directed to enter judgment in favor of defendant, dismissing the claim.

Let judgment be entered accordingly.

November 14, 2008
Albany, New York

Judge of the Court of Claims