New York State Court of Claims

New York State Court of Claims
JOHNSON v. THE STATE OF NEW YORK, # 2009-015-227, Claim No. 116984, Motion No. M-77105


Claim alleging damages resulting from alleged failure of Parole Board to issue a timely decision of his appeal was dismissed for lack of subject matter jurisdiction.

Case information

UID: 2009-015-227
Claimant short name: JOHNSON
Footnote (claimant name) :
Footnote (defendant name) :
Third-party claimant(s):
Third-party defendant(s):
Claim number(s): 116984
Motion number(s): M-77105
Cross-motion number(s):
Claimant's attorney: Johnathan Johnson, Pro Se
Defendant's attorney: Honorable Andrew M. Cuomo, Attorney General
By: Michael C. Rizzo, Esquire
Assistant Attorney General
Third-party defendant's attorney:
Signature date: December 11, 2009
City: Saratoga Springs
Official citation:
Appellate results:
See also (multicaptioned case)


Defendant moves for dismissal of the instant claim pursuant to CPLR 3211 (a) (2), (7) and (8) on grounds that the Court lacks jurisdiction to review determinations of the Division of Parole, that portions of the claim are untimely and that, in any event, the defendant is immune from liability for the discretionary quasi-judicial decisions of the Board of Parole.

Claimant alleges causes of action for "mental and emotional stress, and a liberty interest" stemming from the Board of Parole's denial of his request for release to parole supervision. Claimant alleges in his first cause of action that he suffered damages as the result of the failure of the Board of Parole to timely render a decision on his appeal from an initial determination denying his request for parole. Claimant alleges in his second cause of action that the Board of Parole wrongfully relied upon incorrect information contained in his "Presentence Investigation Report" in denying him parole each year from 2005 through 2009 (Claim, p. 4).

The law is clear that "[a]s a court of limited jurisdiction, the Court of Claims has no jurisdiction to grant strictly equitable relief" (Madura v State of New York, 12 AD3d 759, 760 [2004], lv denied 4 NY3d 704 [2005], citing Ozanam Hall of Queens Nursing Home v State of New York, 241 AD2d 670, 671 [1997] and Psaty v Duryea, 306 NY 413 [1954]). The threshold question in determining the subject matter of the Court of Claims is "[w]hether the essential nature of the claim is to recover money, or whether the monetary relief is incidental to the primary claim" (Matter of Gross v Perales, 72 NY2d 231, 236 [1988]; see also Guy v State of New York, 18 AD3d 936 [2005]). " 'The second inquiry, regardless of how a claimant categorizes a claim, is whether the claim would require review of an administrative agency's determination - which the Court of Claims has no subject matter jurisdiction to entertain' " (Buonanotte v New York State Off. of Alcoholism & Substance Abuse Servs., 60 AD3d 1142, 1143-1144 [2009], quoting City of New York v State of New York, 46 AD3d 1168, 1169 [2007]; see also Hoffman v State of New York, 42 AD3d 641, 642 [2007]; Matter of Scherbyn v Wayne-Finger Lakes Bd. of Coop. Educ. Servs., 77 NY2d 753 [1991]; Sidoti v State of New York, 115 AD2d 202 [1985]; Schaffer v Evans, 86 AD2d 708 [1982], affd 57 NY2d 992 [1982]). While the instant claim nominally seeks money damages, review of an administrative determination by the Division of Parole would be required. As a result, the proper procedural vehicle for challenging the administrative determination regarding the denial of release to parole supervision is a proceeding pursuant to article 78 of the CPLR, not an action in the Court of Claims (Buonanotte v New York State Off. of Alcoholism & Substance Abuse Servs., 60 AD3d at 1144; see e.g. Cruz v Alexander, 67 AD3d 1240 2009 [2009]).

To the extent the instant claim is premised upon the parole board's alleged failure to issue a decision on his appeal within the requisite 4-month period to do so, the applicable regulation provides the remedy: "the appellant may deem this administrative remedy to have been exhausted, and thereupon seek judicial review of the underlying determination from which the appeal was taken" and the Division of Parole is precluded from raising the doctrine of exhaustion as a defense (see 9 NYCRR 8006.4 [c]; see also Matter of Buford v Russi, 152 Misc 2d 23 [1991], citing Matter of Greene v Smith, 52 AD2d 292, appeal dismissed 40 NY2d 826 [1976] [remedy for parole board's failure to issue a timely decision is not release from prison but a judgment directing the parole board to perform its statutory obligations]). Claimant's recourse was judicial review in a proceeding pursuant to article 78 in the Supreme Court, not a plenary action in the Court of Claims under the guise of a claim for money damages (see Lublin v State of New York, 135 Misc 2d 419 [1987], affd 135 AD2d 1155 [1987], lv denied 71 NY2d 802 [1988]; Safran v State of New York, Ct Cl, September 25, 2006 [Claim No. 112358, Motion No. M-71895, UID # 2006-015-127], Collins, J.). As a result, this Court lacks jurisdiction of the claim.

Moreover, decisions regarding parole release are quasi-judicial in nature and entitled to absolute immunity (Tarter v State of New York, 68 NY2d 511 [1986]).

Based on the foregoing, defendant's motion is granted and the claim is dismissed.

December 11, 2009

Saratoga Springs, New York


Judge of the Court of Claims

The Court considered the following papers:

  1. Notice of motion dated August 18, 2009;
  2. Affirmation of Michael C. Rizzo dated August 18, 2009 with exhibits;
  3. Unsworn affidavit of Johnathan Johnson dated August 25, 2009.