New York State Court of Claims

New York State Court of Claims
ROBINSON v. THE STATE OF NEW YORK, # 2009-030-030, Claim No. 113557


Claim alleging loss or damage to personal property dismissed after trial. No evidence or testimony offered to sustain the harassment cause of action asserted in the claim.

Case information

UID: 2009-030-030
Claimant short name: ROBINSON
Footnote (claimant name) : During testimony Claimant indicated that his name is "Latee Robinson" rather than Robinson Latee and the caption has been amended accordingly.
Footnote (defendant name) : The caption has been amended to reflect the only proper defendant.
Third-party claimant(s):
Third-party defendant(s):
Claim number(s): 113557
Motion number(s):
Cross-motion number(s):
Claimant's attorney: LATEE ROBINSON, PRO SE
Third-party defendant's attorney:
Signature date: November 23, 2009
City: White Plains
Official citation:
Appellate results:
See also (multicaptioned case)


Latee Robinson, an inmate proceeding pro se, alleged several different causes of action in his filed claim, but testified primarily about the defendant's alleged negligence or intentional behavior in losing or converting his property starting on March 8, 2007 at Green Haven Correctional Facility. Trial of the matter was held on October 23, 2009.

On March 8, 2007 he said that jewelry that he claimed he was "allowed"(3) to possess as well as tinted eyeglasses necessary for a "light sensitivity condition" were "confiscated" by correctional personnel when he was "moved to another block." He said that on that date during a cell search, his jewelry, the eyeglasses, and the permit for the eyeglasses were confiscated.

On May 10, 2007 his new cell was searched and his property was "I-64'd". "Everything", his "food, clothing, legal work" was taken or damaged. Claimant said that he had been helping other inmates file grievances, and was told that they were "frivolous." Thereafter, he thought that personnel engaged in retaliatory conduct toward him. For example, he said that "co's would lose [his] laundry bag property" and his grievances concerning harassment were denied as "having no merit, because no inmates would come forward and be a witness for him."

Claimant said he was moved from H-Block to G-Block - he "had a grievance complaint about that" - and "about them losing my laundry bag. The other inmate said that the co said to give him my laundry bag, and that was what my complaint was about." Claimant said "I got a ticket about the jewelry, and the glasses, even though I was allowed to hold the jewelry 'till my family came to visit when I could give it to them." Then they moved him to another block.

The jewelry "was a platinum diamond chain. For whatever reason they allowed me to wear it from Downstate to there, and they continued to let me have it until my family came to visit so I could give it to them." Claimant wanted reimbursement "for the loss" saying that "the glasses were worth $5 or $8."

On cross-examination, claimant confirmed that he filed a facility claim and identified a copy of same.[See Exhibit A]. He claimed, however, that there had been a superintendent's decision as well, and "that it's still in my possession at my other jail." Claimant reviewed the voluminous documents attached to the claim filed in this Court, but could not find a copy of the "complete" facility claim he asserted existed. His recollection was that the Superintendent's appeal was denied as well.

Claimant also confirmed that it was on March 8, 2007 that the items were confiscated, saying "there is a ticket about that". Asked about other dates in his claim, it was determined that "all the 2006 dates" have to do with his allegations of being harassed by personnel in retaliation for the numerous grievances he filed on others' behalf, including the allegations that his laundry was stolen at the behest of correctional personnel. Claimant acknowledged - after reviewing the claim actually served on the Attorney General's Office - that the claim served on defendant was not the same as the filed claim, and did not contain any harassment allegations or any of the attachments to the filed claim. Additionally, it was unclear whether the claim had been served by the proper means based upon the colloquy between claimant and counsel for the defendant. Notably, however, defendant's answer does not contain a defense alleging improper service, thus even if it was served only by regular mail, the defense was waived. Court of Claims Act 11 (c). The timeliness defenses, however, were raised in the answer.

No other witnesses testified and no other evidence was submitted.

Upon review of all the evidence, including listening to Mr. Robinson testify and observing his demeanor as he did so, the Court finds that claimant has not established any basis for the State's liability.

It is not quite clear what causes of action have been asserted on notice to the defendant given the differences between the claim served on defendant and the claim filed with the Court, nor is it clear what claimant sought to establish on the trial of this claim. If it is a bailment claim, alleging negligence by the alleged bailee in a bailment created between defendant and claimant by delivery of claimant's personal property into the custody of defendant's employees, all the elements are not established [see generally Claflin v Meyer, 75 NY 260 (1878) ; Board of Educ. of Ellenville Cent. School v Herb's Dodge Sales & Serv., 79 AD2d 1049,1050 (3d Dept 1981)].

As an initial matter, claimant failed to exhaust his administrative remedy as required, [see Exhibit A], thus that portion of his claim that may be viewed as an alleged personal property loss is dismissed. Court of Claims Act 10 (9). The defense was raised by defendant in its answer, and was one basis for defendant's motion to dismiss made at the end of trial.

Additionally, when an inmate is found in possession of "surplus or disallowed property", he is given the option of having the property destroyed, donated, picked up by a visitor within a certain time frame or mailed to another location at his expense.(4) This is the procedure described in facility regulations and also set forth in one of the New York State Department of Correctional Services [hereinafter DOCS] Directives available to the public at its website.(5) Different considerations may obtain, however, when property is seized as contraband and a misbehavior report alleging the inmate's unauthorized possession of contraband items is issued triggering the disciplinary process. [See 7 NYCRR 253.1 et seq (for Tier II disciplinary proceedings); 254.1 et seq (for Tier III disciplinary proceedings)].

Here, however, the property at issue was seized as contraband. Although defendant did not cite to any particular provision concerning what effect property's designation as contraband will have on an inmate's ability to control its destiny, some research indicates that as "contraband" that an inmate is not allowed to possess, the inmate may not be entitled to compensation for its destruction or disappearance in any event because his initial possession is not authorized. See Patterson v State of New York, UID # 2000-029-020, Claim No. 94538 (September 26, 2000, Mignano, J); Barrett v State of New York, UID # 2000-001-036, Claim No. None, Motion No. M-60959 (June 30, 2000, Read, J.).

This claim was filed in the Office of the Chief Clerk of the Court of Claims on April 9, 2007. With regard to any causes of action for harassment, which claimant himself indicated accrued in 2006, even assuming the claim was timely served with regard to these (which, to all appearances, it was not) claimant did not present any evidence or testimony on the issue, beyond declaring that his laundry was deliberately misdirected by correctional personnel in retaliation for his grievance activities.

It is ultimately claimant's burden to establish entitlement to the relief requested, here damages in the amount of "$126,000,000.00." [See Claim No. 113557]. Based on the foregoing record, claimant has not established any basis for holding the State of New York liable.

Accordingly, claimant has failed to establish entitlement to relief, and claim number 113557 is in all respects dismissed.

Let judgment be entered accordingly.

November 23, 2009

White Plains, New York


Judge of the Court of Claims

3. Quotations are to audio recordings or trial notes unless otherwise indicated.

4. DOCS Directive No. 4913, Inmate Property (III D. Disposal of Excess Property). See

5. See