New York State Court of Claims

New York State Court of Claims
GREEN v. THE STATE OF NEW YORK, # 2009-031-064, Claim No. 112892, Motion No. M-76764, Cross-Motion No. CM-77084

Synopsis

Claimant's disciplinary hearing conducted in accordance with rules and regulations. Claimant's confinement resulting from such hearing was therefore not improper. Claimant's motion for Summary judgment denied, Defendant's motion for summary judgment granted.

Case information

UID: 2009-031-064
Claimant(s): SHAWN GREEN
Claimant short name: GREEN
Footnote (claimant name) :
Defendant(s): THE STATE OF NEW YORK
Footnote (defendant name) :
Third-party claimant(s):
Third-party defendant(s):
Claim number(s): 112892
Motion number(s): M-76764
Cross-motion number(s): CM-77084
Judge: RENÉE FORGENSI MINARIK
Claimant's attorney: SHAWN GREEN, PRO SE
Defendant's attorney: HON. ANDREW M. CUOMO
New York State Attorney General
BY: BONNIE GAIL LEVY, ESQ.
Assistant Attorney General
Third-party defendant's attorney:
Signature date: December 10, 2009
City: Rochester
Comments:
Official citation: 90 AD3d 1577 (4th Dept 2011)
Appellate results: Order so appealed from is unanimously affirmed without costs.
See also (multicaptioned case)

Decision

The following papers, numbered 1 to 5, were read on motions by Claimant and Defendant for summary judgment:

1) Claimant's Notice of Motion (M-76764), filed June 1, 2009;

2) Claimant's Affidavit, sworn to May 21, 2009, with attached exhibits;

3) Defendant's Notice of Cross-Motion (CM-77084), filed August 14, 2009;

4) Affirmation of Bonnie Gail Levy, Esq., dated August 12, 2009; with attached exhibits;

5) Claimant's Reply Affidavit, sworn to August 18, 2009, with attached exhibits.

Claimant and Defendant have both moved for summary judgment. In his claim, filed on October 18, 2006, Claimant, an inmate in the care of the New York State Department of Correctional Services, alleges that his constitutional rights were violated when he was found guilty of what he alleges were bogus disciplinary charges after an inmate disciplinary hearing. The hearing took place at Attica Correctional Facility on March 21, 2006 and was related to events which occurred at Auburn Correctional Facility on March 7, 2006. Apparently, there had been a disturbance caused by another inmate in the same "holding area" where Claimant was waiting for transportation to a court appointment. Two of the correction officers that had been dispatched to assist in quelling the disturbance charged Claimant with hindering their efforts in various ways. He received an Inmate Misbehavior Report ("IMR") from Sergeant P. Sigona, which charged Claimant with violations of rules: 102.10 (threats); 104.11 (threats of violence); 104.12 (organized action detrimental to facility); 104.13 (conduct that disturbs order); 106.10 (refusing to obey a direct order); 107.10 (interference with employee); and 107.11 (harassment of employee). He also received an IMR from Sergeant R. Smith which charged him with violations of rules: 104.11 (threats of violence); 106.10 (refusing to obey a direct order); 107.10 (verbal interference); and 107.11 (insolent /obscene language).

At the conclusion of his disciplinary hearing concerning both IMRs, Claimant was found guilty of most, but not all, of the charges against him and was sentenced to four months confinement in the Special Housing Unit. It is not clear from the record before me whether or not Claimant appealed the determination of his disciplinary hearing.

Claimant alleges in his claim that the charges against him were not supported by the record and that the hearing officer's determination of guilt was arbitrary and capricious. He also alleges that the underlying inmate misbehavior reports, upon which the disciplinary hearing was based, lacked sufficient specificity in identifying the charges against him.

Defendant's motion is based upon its assertion that the disciplinary process was proper and all relevant rules and regulations relating to such hearings were followed. Defendant argues that, because the rules and regulations were followed, it enjoys immunity from actions for monetary damages such as this.

I have reviewed the "hearing packet" (Exhibit C) as well as the transcript of Claimant's disciplinary hearing (Exhibit D). Those documents clearly indicate that the misbehavior reports adequately and accurately described each charge against Claimant. Moreover, the justification for each charge was clearly set forth in the description portion of each inmate misbehavior report. Further, the hearing transcript (including portions of Claimant's own testimony) leaves no doubt that the hearing officer had sufficient and adequate evidence for his determination. Both Sergeant Sigona and Sergeant Smith testified credibly concerning Claimant's conduct on the day in question. There is no evidence of bias on the part of the hearing officer and no evidence that the determination was arbitrary or capricious. Claimant's motion for summary judgment appears to be merely a recitation of Claimant's assertion that he was innocent, and accordingly, that the hearing officer must have been biased because he did not find Claimant's testimony credible. Although Claimant disputes the validity of the charges against him, he cites no shortcoming in the hearing process itself upon which an action for illegal confinement can be based.

The actions of prison personnel involving inmate disciplinary matters are generally quasi-judicial and, unless they exceed the scope of their authority or violate applicable rules, are afforded absolute immunity (Arteaga v State of New York, 72 NY2d 212; Davis v State of New York, 262 AD2d 887, lv denied 93 NY2d 819).

Defendant's submissions demonstrate that the hearing officer took appropriate disciplinary measures and acted within the scope of his discretionary functions in conducting the hearing and in imposing penalties upon Claimant. There is no indication that Defendant violated any of its own rules and regulations in conducting the hearing, or otherwise acted outside the sphere of privileged actions (Arteaga v State of New York, 72 NY2d 212, supra.; Holloway v State of New York, 295 AD2d 765; cf. Gittens v State of New York, 132 Misc 2d 399). Accordingly, the determination is entitled to immunity.

Based upon the foregoing, it is

ORDERED, that claimant's motion for summary judgment is denied. Defendant's cross-motion for summary judgment is granted and the claim is dismissed in its entirety.

December 10, 2009

Rochester, New York

RENÉE FORGENSI MINARIK

Judge of the Court of Claims