New York State Court of Claims

New York State Court of Claims
HINES v. STATE OF NEW YORK, # 2017-018-856, Claim No. 125675

Synopsis

After trial, Claimant is awarded $180 for excessive wrongful confinement.

Case information

UID: 2017-018-856
Claimant(s): ARTHUR HINES
Claimant short name: HINES
Footnote (claimant name) :
Defendant(s): STATE OF NEW YORK
Footnote (defendant name) :
Third-party claimant(s):
Third-party defendant(s):
Claim number(s): 125675
Motion number(s):
Cross-motion number(s):
Judge: DIANE L. FITZPATRICK
Claimant's attorney: ARTHUR HINES
Pro Se
Defendant's attorney: ERIC T. SCHNEIDERMAN
Attorney General of the State of New York
By: Ray A. Kyles, Esquire
Assistant Attorney General
Third-party defendant's attorney:
Signature date: December 15, 2017
City: Syracuse
Comments:
Official citation:
Appellate results:
See also (multicaptioned case)

Decision

Claimant, proceeding pro se, filed a claim alleging wrongful confinement. A verified answer was imposed asserting eight affirmative defenses including immunity, privilege and justification. Claimant brought a summary judgment motion(1) which was partially granted to the extent that the Court found he had established excessive wrongful confinement. A trial was held on November 21, 2017 on the remaining wrongful confinement claim for the Department of Corrections and Community Supervision's (DOCCS's) failure to timely release him from the Special Housing Unit (SHU) after the March 24, 2014 administrative reversal of the disciplinary findings for a period of six days. Claimant was the only witness and four exhibits were received.

On January 12, 2014, Claimant was placed in disciplinary keeplock pending a Tier III hearing. The misbehavior report was provided to him on January 13, 2014, alleging violations of Rule 104.11 (violent conduct); 100.13 (fighting); and 104.13 (creating a disturbance).(2) Claimant requested witnesses be produced to support his position that he was not involved in the underlying incident. His witnesses were allowed to testify at the Tier III hearing but Claimant was found guilty of the charges. The disposition(3) was six months in the SHU with two months of that time suspended; nine months loss of good time; and loss of recreation, packages, commissary and telephone calls.

A witness interview notice(4) was provided to Claimant which explained that a confidential informant had been questioned regarding the incident and implicated Claimant. For security reasons, Claimant was not permitted to question that person. Claimant appealed the hearing determination(5) which was reversed on March 24, 2014, and Claimant was released from the SHU on March 31, 2014.(6) No reason for the reversal was given.

Claimant contends that the misbehavior report failed to comply with 7 NYCRR [New York State Codes, Rules and Regulations for Department of Corrections and Community Supervision] section 251-3.1 [c] [4] thereby depriving him of due process.

Law applicable to the facts:

A cause of action for wrongful confinement, requires claimant to prove that "(1) the defendant intended to confine him, (2) the [claimant] was conscious of the confinement, (3) the [claimant] did not consent to the confinement and (4) the confinement was not otherwise privileged." (Broughton v State of New York,, 37 NY2d 451, 456 [1975] cert denied sub nom., Schanbarger v Kellogg, 423 US 929 [1975]).

The first three factors are usually easily met and were here. Whether the disciplinary confinement was privileged is the issue. Disciplinary confinement is privileged if it was done in accordance with DOCCS due process regulations (Lee v State of New York, 124 AD2d 305, 307 [3d Dept 1986]; Gittens,132 Misc 2d at 402). Where DOCCS's employees have conducted the disciplinary process in accordance with the governing statutes and regulations, their actions are considered discretionary conduct that is quasi-judicial in nature and absolutely immune from liability (Arteaga v State of New York, 72 NY2d 212, 214 [1988]; Bottom v State of New York, 142 AD3d 1314 [4th Dept 2016]). Even if the hearing officers's findings are later reversed after an administrative appeal, disciplinary decisions may be immune from liability (Arteaga, at 215; Loret v State of New York, 106 AD3d 1159 [3d Dept 2013]). Claimant must show that there was some violation of a due process regulation and demonstrate that the outcome of the hearing would have been different had the violation not occurred (Bottom v State of New York, 142 AD3d 1314; Moustakos v State of New York, 133 AD3d 1268 [4th Dept 2015]).

It is Claimant's burden to demonstrate that he was denied due process at the hearing, that the disciplinary hearing was conducted in violation of the relevant rules and regulations and that but for such violation, he would not have been confined.

Here, Claimant has failed to prove that the disciplinary process and/or the hearing officer violated any specific due process regulation or rule that affected the outcome of the hearing.

DOCCS rules and regulations, 7 NYCRR section 251-3.1 [c] [1]-[4] require written specification of the particulars of the alleged misbehavior involved, and where more than one inmate is involved in an incident, the report should, to the extent practicable under the circumstances, indicate the specific role each inmate played. Here, the sergeant preparing the report did not personally witness the fight but relied upon confidential information. The misbehavior report provides the date, time, and location of the inmates involved in the fight. Claimant has not shown that the information provided was insufficient to prepare a defense of the charges (see Matter of Williams v Goord, 31 AD3d 1086 [3d Dept 2006]), and has not established any violation of the regulation impacted the hearing determination.

The cause of action for wrongful confinement from January 12, 2014 until March 24, 2014 is DISMISSED.

The Decision and Order on the summary judgment motion found Defendant liable for six days of excessive wrongful confinement (from March 25 through and including March 30, 2014);

Accordingly, Claimant is awarded the sum of $180.00 ($30/6 days) for his damages, together with the appropriate interest from June 25, 2015, the date of the Decision and Order establishing liability (Love v State of New York, 78 NY2d 540 [1991]) until the date of this Decision, and thereafter to the date of entry of judgment pursuant to CPLR 5001 and 5002.

To the extent that claimant has paid a filing fee, it may be recovered pursuant to

Court of Claims Act 11-a (2).

Any and all other motions on which the Court may have previously reserved on or which

were not previously determined, are hereby denied.

LET JUDGMENT BE ENTERED ACCORDINGLY.

December 15, 2017

Syracuse, New York

DIANE L. FITZPATRICK

Judge of the Court of Claims


1. Hines v State of New York, UID No. 2015-018-625 [Ct Cl, Fitzpatrick, J., June 25, 2015].

2. Exhibit 2.

3. Exhibit 1.

4. Exhibit A.

5. Exhibit 3.

6. Claimant successfully moved for summary judgment for excessive wrongful confinement for the period from March 25 - 30, 2014 (Hines v State of New York, UID No. 2015-018-625 [Fitzpatrick, J., June 25, 2015]).