New York State Court of Claims

New York State Court of Claims

MITCHELL v. THE STATE OF NEW YORK, #2009-015-520, Claim No. 111167-A


Synopsis


Pro se inmate claim alleging his transfer was retaliatory was dismissed following trial.

Case Information

UID:
2009-015-520
Claimant(s):
MARK MITCHELL
Claimant short name:
MITCHELL
Footnote (claimant name) :

Defendant(s):
THE STATE OF NEW YORK
Footnote (defendant name) :

Third-party claimant(s):

Third-party defendant(s):

Claim number(s):
111167-A
Motion number(s):

Cross-motion number(s):

Judge:
FRANCIS T. COLLINS
Claimant’s attorney:
Mark Mitchell, Pro Se
Defendant’s attorney:
Honorable Andrew M. Cuomo, Attorney General
By: Stephen J. Maher, EsquireAssistant Attorney General
Third-party defendant’s attorney:

Signature date:
July 7, 2009
City:
Saratoga Springs
Comments:

Official citation:

Appellate results:

See also (multicaptioned case)



Decision

Claimant, an inmate proceeding pro se, alleges that his transfer from the long-term protective custody unit at Clinton Correctional Facility to the general population at Great Meadow Correctional Facility on April 11, 2005 was retaliatory and motivated by a desire to punish him for the exercise of his constitutionally protected rights. The claim was tried on April 30, 2009.


Claimant testified that in April 2005 he was in the process of preparing a motion pursuant to CPL § 440 when he was advised by the law librarian at Clinton Correctional Facility, Correction Officer McClain, to apply for a sentence reduction under the Rockefeller drug law sentencing reforms. Claimant testified that Officer McClain instructed him that if he continued to pursue a CPL § 440 motion he would be transferred out of the protective custody unit. He testified that approximately two months later he was transferred to Great Meadow Correctional Facility. Claimant testified that he was transferred because he would not stop pursuing his CPL § 440 motion. He testified that he wrote a letter to the inmate movement control unit but that he was transferred anyway. Claimant testified that as a result of this transfer, he was unable to complete his drug rehabilitation program, his access to the law library was denied and his ability to file a CPL § 440 motion was impeded.

On cross-examination claimant testified that he was in the long-term protective custody unit at Clinton Correctional Facility for approximately five years prior to his transfer to Great Meadow. He was questioned with regard to paragraph "7" of the claim which alleges that he filed a CPL § 440.10 motion on September 23, 2004. Claimant then explained that his problems with the librarian started a couple of months after he received a letter regarding the sentencing reforms in January 2005. He admitted, however, that this letter was sent by the Erie County Bar Association, not the law librarian (see Exhibit 1[f]).

Defendant called Isabelle McClain to testify on its behalf. Ms. McClain testified that she was a Correction Officer for 25 years and is now retired. She testified that she supervised the law library at Clinton Correctional Facility. Ms. McClain stated that she never denied the claimant access to the law library, never gave him legal advice, never told him he would be transferred if he filed a CPL § 440 motion and never tried to influence the assessment committee to remove claimant from the long-term protective custody unit.

On cross-examination Ms. McClain testified that claimant used the law library frequently and that she does not remember giving the claimant a "ticket" for alleged misconduct. Ms. McClain testified that she never advised the claimant not to file a CPL § 440 motion.

Claimant failed to establish by a preponderance of the credible evidence that his transfer from the long-term protective custody unit at Clinton was motivated by a desire to punish or prevent him from exercising his constitutionally protected rights. While the claimant testified that his ability to file a motion pursuant to CPL § 440.10 was impeded by his transfer, he also admitted that the motion was filed in September 2004, long before the transfer occurred. Nor does the Court conclude that Ms. McClain attempted to dissuade the claimant from filing the motion with threats of a transfer. The law is well-settled that the Department of Correctional Services has "almost unbridled authority to transfer inmates from one facility to another" (Matter of Johnson v Ward, 64 AD2d 186, 188 [1978]; Matter of Burr v Goord, 8 AD3d 853 [2004]). As claimant failed to establish that his transfer was retaliatory or otherwise motivated by a desire to prevent him from exercising his constitutionally protected rights, his claim must be dismissed.

Let judgment be entered accordingly.


July 7, 2009
Saratoga Springs, New York

HON. FRANCIS T. COLLINS
Judge of the Court of Claims