New York State Court of Claims

New York State Court of Claims

v. , #2008-044-595, Claim No. 107726, Motion Nos. M-75521, CM-75543


Inmate claimant’s motion to strike answer and for summary judgment is denied as moot; defendant’s motion to dismiss granted. Doctrine of judicial immunity applies.

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: James E. Shoemaker, Assistant Attorney General
Third-party defendant’s attorney:

Signature date:
December 24, 2008

Official citation:

Appellate results:

See also (multicaptioned case)


Claimant, an inmate proceeding pro se,[3] filed this claim seeking damages for Supreme Court’s alleged errors in vacating a writ of habeas corpus on one occasion, and failing to issue a writ of habeas corpus on another occasion. Defendant answered and asserted several affirmative defenses. Claimant now moves to strike the answer and requests that the Court issue summary judgment in his favor on both causes of action. Defendant opposes the motion and cross-moves to dismiss the claim. Claimant replies. As it may be potentially dispositive, the Court will initially address defendant’s cross motion to dismiss the claim. Defendant asserts that claimant’s remedy for the perceived erroneous rulings by Supreme Court was to take direct appeals in each instance pursuant to CPLR 7011. Defendant further contends that because the actions taken by a State-employed Judge are cloaked with judicial immunity, the State is not liable.

Conversely, claimant argues that he has met his burden on this motion for summary judgment with admissible evidence which defendant has failed to rebut.

In his first cause of action, claimant alleges he filed a habeas corpus petition dated June 23, 2002, naming Thomas Beilein, Niagara County Sheriff as respondent. Supreme Court, Niagara County (Sconiers, J.), issued a writ of habeas corpus on December 9, 2002. Claimant was thereafter placed into the custody of the Department of Correctional Services (DOCS) and was incarcerated at Elmira Correctional Facility (Elmira). Accordingly, Supreme Court, Niagara County, transferred the proceeding to Chemung County. Because claimant was no longer in the custody of the Niagara County Sheriff, Supreme Court, Chemung County (O’Brien III, J.), vacated the writ in its Decision and Order entered January 28, 2003,[4] which recited the aforementioned facts. Claimant alleges that Supreme Court should have held an evidentiary hearing and either released him or issued a new writ of habeas corpus directed to the Superintendent of Elmira, and that because of its failure to do so, claimant is entitled to payment of $1,000.

Claimant alleges in his second cause of action that, in response to a separate and distinct petition for a writ than that referenced in his first cause of action,[5] Supreme Court, Niagara County (Sconiers, J.), issued a writ of habeas corpus on August 8, 2002 which was assigned Index No. 112064.[6] That matter was apparently heard by the Court on October 25, 2002, and the petition was dismissed without prejudice, by Order entered December 5, 2002.[7] Petitioner then filed a new petition on the same ground which was sworn to February 20, 2003, and an amended petition sworn to on March 18, 2003, while he was incarcerated at Elmira. Supreme Court, Chemung County (O’Brien III, J.), found that habeas corpus relief was not available under such circumstances, and denied the petitions.[8]

First, as defendant correctly notes, the appropriate remedy for claimant to pursue, based on his dissatisfaction with the results of the Orders vacating one writ and denying his petition for the other, would have been a direct appeal (see CPLR 7011). Claimant’s assertions are not properly pled in the Court of Claims, which, within its constitutional authority, is an equal court of original jurisdiction and thus has no appellate jurisdiction over Supreme Court (see e.g. Rabinowitz v State of New York, Ct Cl, Oct. 7, 2004, Lack, J., Claim No. 108108, Motion No.

M-68831 [UID # 2004-033-084]). Accordingly, claimant’s applicable remedy would have been to obtain a reversal of Supreme Court’s Orders, thereby potentially establishing a violation of CPLR 7003 – an outcome which is not available in the Court of Claims.

Further, it is well settled that the doctrine of judicial immunity bars claims against judges of the State for their judicial acts, as well as against the State, under the theory of respondeat superior, for any alleged errors made by its judges in their judicial capacity (see e.g. Murray v Brancato, 290 NY 52 [1943]; Jameison v State of New York, 7 AD2d 944 [1959]; Koeppe v City of Hudson, 276 App Div 443 [1950]; see also Harley v State of New York, 186 AD2d 324 [1992], appeal dismissed 81 NY2d 781 [1993]; Rossman v State of New York, 40 AD2d 1046 [1972]). Accordingly, this claim fails to state any cause of action against defendant.

To the extent that claimant may be seeking recovery against former Supreme Court Justice O’Brien,[9] the jurisdiction of the Court of Claims is limited to claims which seek money damages against the State, and this Court does not have subject matter jurisdiction over any individual employee of the State (Court of Claims Act § 9; see Peters v Tormey, Ct Cl, Sept. 30, 2008, Midey, Jr., J., Claim No. 115165, Motion No. M-74925, Cross Motion No. CM-75039 [UID # 2008-009-028]).

Defendant’s cross motion is granted. Claim No. 107726 is hereby dismissed in its entirety. Claimant’s motion for summary judgment and to strike the answer is denied as moot.

December 24, 2008
Binghamton, New York

Judge of the Court of Claims

The following papers were read on claimant’s motion and defendant’s cross motion:

1) Notice of Motion filed on September 12, 2008; Affidavit of Stacey Fuller sworn to on September 2, 2008, and attached exhibits.

2) Notice of Cross Motion filed on September 18, 2008; Affirmation of James E. Shoemaker, AAG, dated September 16, 2008, and attached Exhibits A through E.

3) Claimant’s Reply filed on September 22, 2008.

Filed papers: Claim filed on May 8, 2003; Supplemental Claim filed on June 5, 2003; Verified Answer filed on June 11, 2003; Verified Answer to Supplemental Claim filed on July 9, 2003.

[3]. Claimant, an inmate at the time he filed this claim, was thereafter released from custody. Apparently since that release, claimant has been confined on a new commitment.
[4]. Affirmation of Assistant Attorney General (AAG) James E. Shoemaker, Esq., dated September 16, 2008, Exhibit E.
[5]. Claimant alleges that the basis for this petition for a writ of habeas corpus was that the trial court did not have jurisdiction to convict him, and that conviction and subsequent detention were therefore illegal. His petition for such a writ as referenced in the first cause of action was apparently unjust/unlawful parole revocation (Claimant’s Reply to Defendant’s Response to Claimant’s Motion for Summary Judgment, ¶ 5).
[6]. Affirmation of AAG James E. Shoemaker, Esq. dated September 16, 2008, Exhibit B.

[7]. Affirmation of AAG James E. Shoemaker, Esq. dated September 16, 2008, Exhibit C.

Although claimant asserts that the petition was dismissed based upon his failure to serve the Attorney General’s Office, that statement does not appear to be accurate. The named respondent was again Thomas Beilein, Niagara County Sheriff, and the Order dismissing the petition indicates that the County did appear by an Assistant Niagara County Attorney.
[8]. Affirmation of AAG James E. Shoemaker, Esq. dated September 16, 2008, Exhibit D.
[9]. The Court notes that Justice O’Brien retired in 2006.