New York State Court of Claims

New York State Court of Claims
MUNIZ v. THE STATE OF NEW YORK, # 2018-041-070, Claim No. 125635, Motion No. M-91975

Synopsis

Defendant's motion to dismiss wrongful confinement claim as untimely is denied where the wrongful confinement ended, and the claim accrued, on December 22, 2014 when the inmate-claimant was released from defendant's physical custody, rather than on October 30, 2014, as asserted by defendant, when claimant was purportedly transferred to a Residential Treatment Facility, and the claim was served on February 27, 2015, within ninety days after the claim accrued.

Case information

UID: 2018-041-070
Claimant(s): ALBISO MUNIZ
Claimant short name: MUNIZ
Footnote (claimant name) :
Defendant(s): THE STATE OF NEW YORK
Footnote (defendant name) :
Third-party claimant(s):
Third-party defendant(s):
Claim number(s): 125635
Motion number(s): M-91975
Cross-motion number(s):
Judge: FRANK P. MILANO
Claimant's attorney: LAW OFFICE OF ROBERT DEMBIA, P.C.
By: Robert Dembia, Esq.
Defendant's attorney: HON. BARBARA D. UNDERWOOD
New York State Attorney General
By: Michael T. Krenrich, Esq.
Assistant Attorney General
Third-party defendant's attorney:
Signature date: October 30, 2018
City: Albany
Comments:
Official citation:
Appellate results:
See also (multicaptioned case)

Decision

Defendant moves to dismiss this wrongful confinement claim pursuant to CPLR 3211 (a) (2) and Court of Claims Act 10 (3) and 10 (3-b) on the basis that the claim was not timely served and the Court therefore lacks jurisdiction over the claim. Claimant opposes the defendant's motion.

After the defendant's motion to dismiss was fully submitted, the Court gave notice to the parties that it would treat the defendant's motion to dismiss as a motion for summary judgment, pursuant to CPLR 3211 (c), and requested further factual submissions from the parties regarding the claimant's confinement periods and locations.

The essential allegations of this wrongful confinement claim were the subject of a successful habeas corpus proceeding brought by claimant against defendant, which was defended by the Attorney General, and which resulted in a Decision, Order and Judgment of the Franklin County Supreme Court on December 2, 2014. In Matter of Muniz v. Uhler, (2014 NY Slip Op 33134(U) [Sup Ct, Franklin County 2014]), the court made the following factual averments, with which neither of the parties disagree:

"On April 2, 2009 petitioner was sentenced in Chemung County Court, as a second felony offender, to a controlling determinate term of 7 years, with 5 years post-release supervision . . . He was subsequently received into DOCCS custody and there is no dispute that the maximum expiration date of the 7-year determinate sentence was reached on July 2, 2014. Upon reaching the maximum expiration date of his determinate sentence petitioner was entitled to be released from DOCCS custody to post-release parole supervision, subject to conditions set forth by the New York State Board of Parole. See Penal Law 70.45(3). '[N]otwithstanding any other provision of law, the board of parole may impose as a condition of post-release supervision that for a period not exceeding six months immediately following release from the underlying [determinate] term of imprisonment the person [post-release supervision releasee] be transferred to and participate in the programs of a residential treatment facility as that term is defined in subdivision six of section two of the correction law.' Penal Law 70.45(3). Correction Law 2(6), in turn, defines a residential treatment facility (RTF) as '[a] correctional facility consisting of a community based residence in or near a community where employment, education and training opportunities are readily available for persons who are on parole or conditional release and for persons who are or who will soon be eligible for release on parole who intend to reside in or near that community when released.' In this proceeding petitioner does not dispute the authority of the Board of Parole to mandate an RTF placement - in accordance with the above-quoted provisions of Penal Law 70.45(3) - as a condition of post-release supervision."

The Muniz court went on to explain that the habeas corpus proceeding:

"[W]as commenced on July 11, 2014 when the Petition of Albiso C. Muniz, sworn to on July 7, 2014, was filed in the Franklin County Clerk's office. See CPLR 304(a). At that time petitioner remained incarcerated in DOCCS custody at the Upstate Correctional Facility. The principal argument advanced in this proceeding is that such continued incarceration is unlawful since the July 2, 2014 maximum expiration date of petitioner's underlying determinate sentence had already passed."

The Muniz court noted that Upstate Correctional Facility was not "classified under DOCCS regulations as a medium security correctional facility to be used, inter alia, as a 'residential treatment facility.'"

On October 30, 2014, while the habeas corpus proceeding was pending, the Department of Corrections and Community Services (DOCCS) transferred claimant from Upstate Correctional Facility (Upstate) to the Woodbourne Correctional Facility (Woodbourne), which defendant asserts was classified as a Residential Treatment Facility (RTF), where claimant would begin post-release supervision (PRS).

Defendant argues that the claim is untimely because it was served more than ninety days after "the instant claim accrued when [claimant] was placed in [Woodbourne] RTF on October 30, 2014" and thus more than ninety days after claimant was released from the allegedly wrongful confinement at Upstate.

The Muniz court, though, held that "as a matter of law, that regardless of any telecommunication/transportation assets available at the Woodbourne Correctional Facility, such facility is not 'in or near' Bronx County so as to lawfully function as an RTF for the petitioner [claimant]."

The holding of the Muniz court, that Woodbourne, as a matter of law, could not "lawfully function as an RTF for the [claimant]" is entitled to collateral estoppel effect in this action (see Clark v Farmers New Century Ins. Co., 117 AD3d 1208, 1209 [3d Dept 2014], lv denied 24 NY3d 991 [2014], which describes collateral estoppel as a doctrine which "precludes a party from relitigating an issue when it was clearly raised in a prior action or proceeding and decided against that party in a final judgment on the merits after a full and fair opportunity to be heard").

The Muniz decision makes clear that DOCCS had a full and fair opportunity to be heard on whether Woodbourne could "lawfully function as an RTF for the [claimant]." As set forth above, the Muniz court found, as a matter of law, that it could not.

Ultimately, on December 18, 2014, claimant was transferred from Woodbourne to Fishkill Correctional Facility (also, according to the reasoning of the Muniz Court, arguably not in or near Bronx County "so as to lawfully function as an RTF for the [claimant]") and released from defendant's physical custody to PRS at a "SARA [Sexual Assault Reform Act] compliant men's shelter" on December 22, 2014 (see affidavit of Anne Marie McGrath, DOCCS Associate Commissioner for Population Management, sworn to August 22, 2018).

Court of Claims Act 10 (3) and (3-b) require that a cause of action for wrongful confinement, whether based on intentional or unintentional conduct by defendant, be served upon the attorney general within ninety days after the accrual of such claim.

A claim for wrongful confinement accrues on "the date on which [claimant's] confinement terminated" (Santiago v City of Rochester, 19 AD3d 1061, 1062 [4th Dept 2005], lv denied 5 NY3d 710 [2005]; Davis v State of New York, 89 AD3d 1287, 1287 [3d Dept 2011]).

Claimant's maximum expiration date was July 2, 2014. As of that date, according to the Muniz decision, he was entitled, at a minimum, to be released from defendant's physical custody at Upstate to PRS at a qualifying residential treatment facility. The Muniz court's decision (apparently unchallenged by defendant) held, as a matter of law, that Woodbourne was not a qualifying residential treatment facility with respect to claimant, who intended after his release to reside in Bronx County.

On this record, the Court concludes, for the purpose of determining defendant's challenge to the timeliness of service of the claim, that the claim accrued when claimant was released from defendant's physical custody to PRS at a "SARA [Sexual Assault Reform Act] compliant men's shelter" on December 22, 2014.

The claim was served on February 27, 2015, within ninety days of its earliest possible accrual on December 22, 2014.

With respect to defendant's assertion that this Court lacks subject matter jurisdiction to review the propriety of defendant's determination to place claimant in an RTF at Woodbourne, the Court notes that, as set forth above, it was the Muniz habeas corpus proceeding in Franklin County Supreme Court in which the determination was made that Woodbourne was not a qualifying RTF for claimant. Defendant is collaterally estopped from challenging the Muniz court determination.

Defendant's motion for summary judgment dismissing the claim is denied.

October 30, 2018

Albany, New York

FRANK P. MILANO

Judge of the Court of Claims

Papers Considered:

1. Defendant's Notice of Motion to Dismiss, filed March 14, 2018;

2. Affirmation of Michael T. Krenrich, dated March 14, 2018, and attached exhibits;

3. Affirmation in Opposition of Robert Dembia, dated March 29, 2018;

4. Reply Affirmation of Michael T. Krenrich, dated April 6, 2018;

5. Court's letter of May 22, 2018;

6. Supplemental Affirmation in Opposition of Robert Dembia, dated August 15, 2018, and attached exhibits;

7. Further Affirmation of Michael T. Krenrich, dated August 22, 2018, and attached exhibits, including affidavit of Anne Marie McGrath, sworn to August 22, 2018;

8. Supplemental Affidavit in Opposition of Albiso C. Muniz, sworn to August 17, 2018.