New York State Court of Claims

New York State Court of Claims

McKINLEY v. THE STATE OF NEW YORK, #2008-044-506, Claim No. 109414, Motion No. M-74139


Defendant’s motion for summary judgment granted; no evidence introduced to show that rules/regulations were violated at inmate’s disciplinary hearing.

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:
HON. ANDREW M. CUOMO, ATTORNEY GENERALBY: Edward F. McArdle, Assistant Attorney General
Third-party defendant’s attorney:

Signature date:
February 4, 2008

Official citation:

Appellate results:

See also (multicaptioned case)


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 witnesses.[1]

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 [1988]). This immunity may be retained even though the disciplinary charges are subsequently reversed (id.; Davis v State of New York, 262 AD2d 887 [1999], lv denied 93 NY2d 819 [1999]). 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 [1986]; 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 [1985]).

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).[2] 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.

February 4, 2008
Binghamton, New York

Judge of the Court of Claims

The following papers were read on defendant’s motion:

1) Notice of Motion filed on October 26, 2007; Affirmation of Edward F. McArdle, AAG, dated October 24, 2007, and attached Exhibits A through C.

2) “Notice of Motion” filed on November 9, 2007; Reply Affirmation of Sincere McKinley sworn to on November 6, 2007.

Filed papers: Claim filed on May 28, 2004; Verified Answer filed on June 25, 2004.

[1]. Claimant also asserts that the Hearing Officer improperly considered evidence outside of the record. This alleged deficiency, in essence, challenges the determination as lacking substantial evidence. As defendant accurately notes, whether the record contains substantial evidence to support the determination is appropriately raised in a CPLR article 78 proceeding, rather than in this forum (see CPLR 7803 [4]; see generally Matter of Crosby v Goord, 38 AD3d 1110 [2007]; Matter of Alamin v New York State Dept. of Correctional Servs., 253 AD2d 948 [1998]; McKinley v State of New York, Ct Cl, Apr. 4, 2003, Scuccimarra, J., Claim No. 105470 [UID # 2003-030-014]).
[2]. The Hearing Officer indicated that “none of the witnesses have direct personal knowledge of the events alleged in the misbehavior report,” and thus their testimony was not relevant. The Hearing Officer determined that the only relevant issue was whether the letter contained a threat or constituted harassment or a facility correspondence violation, such that claimant was guilty of the charges contained in the misbehavior report, rather than whether CO Connors had been accused of stealing personal property belonging to SHU inmates.