Claimant, an inmate proceeding pro se, filed Claim No. 109414 alleging that he
was wrongfully confined in the Special Housing Unit as a result of a
disciplinary hearing commenced on March 5, 2004 at Elmira Correctional Facility.
Defendant answered and asserted several affirmative defenses, including that the
State is entitled to absolute immunity when engaging in the quasi-judicial
conduct of an inmate disciplinary proceeding. Defendant now moves for summary
judgment. Claimant opposes the motion.
Defendant argues that claimant has not established that the State violated any
rules or regulations when it conducted claimant’s disciplinary hearing,
and that the State is therefore entitled to absolute immunity. Defendant
asserts that a review of the hearing record is prima facie proof that the
proceeding was conducted appropriately. Conversely, claimant contends that the
Hearing Officer was biased because he presumed that claimant was guilty, and
further alleges that defendant violated 7 NYCRR 254.5 when the Hearing Officer
refused to call certain requested
It is well-settled that defendant is entitled to absolute immunity from claims
for monetary damages relating to disciplinary hearings, so long as it complies
with the rules and regulations that govern such hearings (Arteaga v State of
New York, 72 NY2d 212 ). This immunity may be retained even though
the disciplinary charges are subsequently reversed (id.; Davis v State
of New York, 262 AD2d 887 , lv denied 93 NY2d 819 ).
However, the State's absolute immunity may be lost if defendant violated its own
rules and regulations in conducting the hearing, or otherwise acted outside the
sphere of privileged actions (Arteaga v State of New York, supra).
On this motion for summary judgment, it is defendant’s burden to
establish entitlement to judgment as a matter of law by setting forth evidence
that defendant conducted the hearing in accordance with all applicable rules and
regulations (see Alvarez v Prospect Hosp., 68 NY2d 320, 324 ;
see also Arteaga v State of New York, supra). If the movant does not
meet its burden, the motion must be denied regardless of the sufficiency of the
opposing papers (see generally Winegrad v New York Univ. Med. Ctr., 64
NY2d 851, 853 ).
Defendant submitted, among other documents, copies of the misbehavior report,
the hearing record, the Superintendent’s Hearing Disposition, the
administrative affirmance, the witness interview notice, and most importantly,
the hearing transcript. This evidence establishes that claimant was charged
with harassment, threats, and a violation of facility correspondence. The
charges were all based upon a letter (the Letter) written by claimant and
addressed to Correction Officer (CO) Connors at Auburn Correctional Facility.
In the Letter (which is also attached to defendant’s motion papers),
claimant accused CO Connors of stealing some of claimant’s personal
property. Claimant indicated in the Letter that if the property was not
returned within two weeks, he would file “a big class action law
suit.” Claimant also stated in the Letter that Connors had stolen
property belonging to other inmates assigned to SHU. Claimant thereafter stated
that “you [messed] with the wrong guy and just so your [sic] know by the
time the case go [sic] to trial I will be on the street so if you have a problem
with this you will be deal [sic] with then.” A Tier III disciplinary
hearing was held and claimant was found guilty of all three charges. He was
sentenced to two months in the Special Housing Unit.
At the hearing, claimant admitted that he wrote the Letter and sent it to CO
Connors. Claimant requested the testimony of CO Connors as well as four
administrative officials. The Hearing Officer allowed CO Connors to testify by
telephone, but declined to call the four other witnesses, indicating his reason
in writing as required by 7 NYCRR 254.5 (a).
The Court has reviewed the hearing record and now determines that the Hearing
Officer’s exclusion of claimant’s witnesses was justified (see
generally McKinley v State of New York,
Ct Cl, May 11, 2006, Minarik, J.,
Claim No. 107323 [UID # 2006-031-514]). Moreover, the record fails to reveal
any evidence that the Hearing Officer was biased.
The Court finds that the evidence establishes that defendant complied with the
relevant rules and regulations, and has thus established the State’s
entitlement to judgment as a matter of law (see Arteaga v State of New York,
supra). Claimant has failed to offer any admissible evidence in opposition
to show that defendant violated the rules and regulations for conducting
disciplinary hearings (see id.; Alvarez v Prospect Hosp., supra).
Accordingly, defendant is entitled to absolute immunity in its conduct of the
hearing and its determination in claimant’s disciplinary matter.
Defendant’s motion for summary judgment is granted in its entirety, and
Claim No. 109414 is hereby dismissed.