New York State Court of Claims

New York State Court of Claims

JONES v. THE STATE OF NEW YORK, #2009-042-526, Claim No. 116904, Motion No. M-76835


Synopsis


This motion is brought by defendant to dismiss the claim pursuant to CPLR Rule 3211 (a) (1), (2), (5) and (7), as well as Court of Claims Act Sections 8-b (3) (a), (4), (5) and (9). In opposition, claimant’s counsel seeks to amend the claim. The court finds that claimant did not contest the facts of the underlying conviction for possession of a weapon in the fourth degree and inasmuch as that conviction was not reversed or vacated, claimant cannot meet the requirements of pleading or for recovery under Court of Claims Act Section 8-b. The court finds that it need not rule on the request to amend the claim as there is no cross-motion for that relief, and, in any event, if granted, it would still fail to remedy deficiencies in the pleading. Defendant’s motion is granted and the claim is dismissed.

Case Information

UID:
2009-042-526
Claimant(s):
EDWARD JONES
Claimant short name:
JONES
Footnote (claimant name) :

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

Third-party claimant(s):

Third-party defendant(s):

Claim number(s):
116904
Motion number(s):
M-76835
Cross-motion number(s):

Judge:
NORMAN I. SIEGEL
Claimant’s attorney:
LUIBRAND LAW FIRM, PLLCBy: KEVIN A. LUIBRAND, ESQ.
Defendant’s attorney:
HON. ANDREW M. CUOMO
Attorney General of the State of New York
By: JOEL L. MARMELSTEIN, ESQ. Assistant Attorney General
Third-party defendant’s attorney:

Signature date:
November 16, 2009
City:
Utica
Comments:

Official citation:

Appellate results:

See also (multicaptioned case)



Decision

The court has considered the following papers on defendant’s motion to dismiss the claim:
  1. Notice of Motion, amended, filed June 17, 2009
  2. Affirmation of Joel L. Marmelstein, Esq., dated June 12, 2009
  3. Opposition affirmation of Kevin A. Luibrand, Esq., dated September 30, 2009
  4. Reply affirmation of Joel L. Marmelstein, Esq., dated October 5, 2009

This matter comes before the court on defendant’s motion to dismiss the claim pursuant to CPLR Rule 3211 (a) (1), (2), (5) and (7) as well as Court of Claims Act Sections 8-b (3) (a), (4), (5) and (9). Defendant argues that claimant fails to meet the statutory standards set forth in Court of Claims Act Section 8-b. In opposition, claimant’s counsel seeks to amend the claim, and asserts that claimant’s alleged criminal acts were justified and thus lawful.

The claim, filed on May 26, 2009 was unaccompanied by any documentary support. It alleges that claimant was convicted on March 17, 2008 of manslaughter in the second degree, assault in the second degree and criminal possession of a weapon in the fourth degree and sentenced to serve seven and one-half to fifteen years in state prison. According to the claim, on February 26, 2009 the Appellate Division, Third Department vacated the conviction on the aforementioned counts, finding that the State did not establish that defendant’s use of deadly force was not justified, and finding that the State failed to prove that claimant did not act in self-defense.

On this motion, it is defendant’s contention that in fact claimant appealed only his conviction for manslaughter in the second degree and assault in the second degree and did not appeal his conviction for criminal possession of a weapon in the fourth degree and was not exonerated on that charge. The State points out that the Appellate Division specifically noted that “(claimant) has failed to present any specific arguments on this appeal challenging his conviction for criminal possession of a weapon in the fourth degree. As a result, we cannot conclude that his conviction (on this count) was against the weight of the evidence” (People v Jones, 59 AD3d 864, 868 [3d Dept 2009]). Thus, defendant contends that claimant has not met the pleading requirements of Court of Claims Act Section 8-b.

The State also asserts that claimant failed to comply with other pleading requirements of Court of Claims Act Section 8-b.

In opposition, claimant’s counsel argues that failure to attach documentary evidence to the claim can be remedied by an amended claim attaching the Appellate Division decision and asserts that the claim sets forth facts in sufficient detail for the court to conclude that claimant did not commit any of the acts in the accusatory instrument and did not by his own conduct cause or bring about his conviction.

Court of Claims Act Section 8-b is a statutory remedy designed to provide relief to those persons unjustly convicted and imprisoned. In order to maintain a claim for this extraordinary relief, claimants must meet certain thresholds. The proof of innocence is the paramount threshold for recovery. As the statute itself notes:
[t]he legislature intends by enactment of the provisions of this section that those innocent persons who can demonstrate by clear and convincing evidence that they were unjustly convicted and imprisoned be able to recover damages against the state.
(Court of Claims Act Section 8-b [1]).


In this case, in order to state a claim for unjust conviction, claimant must establish that the “judgment of conviction was reversed or vacated, and the accusatory instrument dismissed” upon certain statutory grounds (Court of Claims Act Section 8-b [3] [b] [ii]). The claim does not meet this threshold, and the clear reading of the Appellate Division decision in the underlying criminal case (People v Jones, 59 AD3d 864) demonstrates that this threshold cannot be met. Claimant’s judgment was not dismissed in its entirety, nor can claimant demonstrate that “he did not commit any of the acts charged in the accusatory instrument” as mandated by Court of Claims Act Section 8-b (4) and as required at trial by Court of Claims Act Section 8-b (5) (c). As stated earlier, the appellate court only reversed the conviction for two of the three charges. The appellate court specifically stated that the defendant (claimant) failed to address the third charge (criminal possession of a weapon in the fourth degree) and the court could not conclude that the conviction was against the weight of the evidence (People v Jones, 59 AD3d 864, 868). Inasmuch as claimant did not contest the facts underlying the conviction for criminal possession of a weapon in the fourth degree and inasmuch as that conviction was not reversed or vacated, claimant cannot meet the pleading requirements of Court of Claims Act Section 8-b (see Paris v State of New York, 202 AD2d 482; Torres v State of New York, 228 AD2d 579; Groce v State of New York, 272 AD2d 519).

Turning to the State’s argument that the claim is statutorily deficient for failure to attach documentary evidence, the claimant argues that amendment of the claim to attach the Appellate Division decision would remedy any deficiencies in pleading. The court need not rule upon the request to amend the claim, as there is no cross-motion for that relief. However, the amendment, if granted, would still fail to remedy deficiencies in the claim. The Appellate Division decision does nothing to demonstrate that the final outcome of a review of the conviction for criminal possession of a weapon was favorable to claimant, as required by Court of Claims Act Section 8-b (3) (b), nor would the attachment of the appellate decision to the claim remedy other deficiencies in the claim.

Defendant’s motion is granted and the claim is dismissed.



November 16, 2009
Utica, New York

HON. NORMAN I. SIEGEL
Judge of the Court of Claims