New York State Court of Claims

New York State Court of Claims
JAMES v. THE STATE OF NEW YORK, # 2018-038-536, Claim No. 129361, Motion No. M-90190

Synopsis

Defendant's motion to dismiss on jurisdictional grounds (failure to plead in accordance with Court of Claims Act  11 [b]) granted.

Case information

UID: 2018-038-536
Claimant(s): CARL WAYNE JAMES, C#127873
Claimant short name: JAMES
Footnote (claimant name) :
Defendant(s): THE STATE OF NEW YORK
Footnote (defendant name) :
Third-party claimant(s):
Third-party defendant(s):
Claim number(s): 129361
Motion number(s): M-90190
Cross-motion number(s):
Judge: W. BROOKS DeBOW
Claimant's attorney: CARL WAYNE JAMES, Pro se
Defendant's attorney: ERIC T. SCHNEIDERMAN, Attorney General
of the State of New York
By: Michael T. Krenrich, Assistant Attorney General
Third-party defendant's attorney:
Signature date: April 6, 2018
City: Saratoga Springs
Comments:
Official citation:
Appellate results:
See also (multicaptioned case)

Decision

This claim asserts that it sounds in "false imprisonment, unlawful confinement, false arrest, negligence and federal civil rights violations" (Claim No. 129361,  2), as well as "retaliation for the exercise of his right to free speech, freedom of the press, race discrimination, cruel and unusual punishment, infliction of emotional distress, libel, slander and false words causing special damages in violation of claimant [sic] due process rights" (id.,  63), and demands $3 million in damages for an alleged 1,723 days of wrongful confinement. The claim appears to assert that defendant's liability arises from defendant's alleged failure to provide claimant with a new time assessment hearing as required by an order of Bronx County Supreme Court in May 2012 (see id.,  3). In a pre-answer motion, defendant seeks dismissal of the claim on numerous grounds. The motion was held in abeyance pending resolution of claimant's motion for assignment of counsel, which was denied by decision and order filed on November 8, 2017 (see James v State of New York, Claim number 129361, Motion No. M-90365 [Ct Cl, DeBow, J., Oct. 4, 2017]).(1)

The claim alleges that claimant was "held in custody beyond his maximum expiration [ME] date of his sentence because defendant failed to promptly provide claimant with a 'new' time assessment hearing, violating the lawful order of the Court" (Claim number 12936, 2). The claim alleges that on May 29, 2012, the Division of Parole was ordered by Bronx County Supreme Court to promptly provide claimant with a new time assessment hearing, that the Attorney General filed a notice of appeal and that the appeal was eventually abandoned and withdrawn, and that the Division of Parole never subsequently held the hearing. The claim alleges that the Attorney General filed a Mental Hygiene Law (MHL) Article 10 proceeding against claimant in May 2013 while he was incarcerated alleging that claimant was a detained sex offender suffering from a mental abnormality, which was based upon a false accusation that claimant had committed a sex offense while under parole supervision in 2011 that was in retaliation for claimant having filed a complaint against a parole officer. The claim alleges that claimant consented to having a mental abnormality in October 2011 and was released from incarceration in November 6, 2013 and placed on parole under Strict and Intensive Supervision and Treatment (SIST). The claim alleges that claimant received correspondence from the Deputy Solicitor General Stephen Wu indicating that claimant's request for a new time assessment hearing was moot and that his ME date remained April 25, 2014. The claim alleges that on April 25, 2014, claimant reached his ME date and was discharged from parole supervision and placed under SIST in the custody of the Office of Mental Health (OMH) under MHL Article 10 Civil Management.

The claim alleges that claimant was taken into custody by parole officers on August 18, 2014, and that in February 2015 Westchester County Supreme Court ordered claimant confined to a secure treatment facility, and claimant was subsequently transferred to Central New York Psychiatric Center in March 2015. The claim alleges that in February 2016 an Assistant Solicitor General conceded in a brief that claimant did not commit a sex offense in 2011 while under parole supervision, and that claimant's parole was revoked, which the claim alleges was unlawful and unconstitutional because no new time assessment hearing was ever held. The claim alleges that claimant had a hearing in Oneida County Supreme Court, at which the Court sought to delay the annual review hearing until his appeal was decided in the Appellate Division Second Department and his habeas corpus was decided, but claimant indicated that he wished to proceed with his annual review hearing.

The claim alleges that as a result of the failure of the Attorney General to promptly provide claimant with a new time assessment hearing, claimant's delinquency date was modified, changing claimant's ME date from March 9, 2014 to April 25, 2014, and that since claimant was never provided an opportunity to exonerate himself at the original parole revocation hearing in 2011 as directed by Bronx County Supreme Court in May 2012, that the hearing should be voided and expunged from his parole and institutional records. The claim alleges that defendant's failure to afford him a new time assessment hearing resulted in his unlawful confinement and violated his constitutional rights.

Defendant argues that the Court lacks jurisdiction over the claim because it does not satisfy the pleading requirements of Court of Claims Act  11 (b). Defendant asserts that the "claim consists of cluttered and confusing allegations," that it is "replete with a myriad of vague and conclusory allegations, which fails to satisfy even the minimal requirement of particularity required by [Court of Claims Act] 11 [b]," and that it "omits completely any 'ultimate facts' giving rise to or regarding 'the nature of the claim against the State and any reference to the specific actions of the State or its employees on which liability is premised'" (Krenrich Affirmation, 9, 10). Defendant further contends that to the extent that the claim alleges that claimant was wrongfully confined from May 29, 2012 to November 6, 2013, it is barred by the statute of limitations, and that to the extent it challenges the constitutionality of regulations or claimant's civil confinement under MHL Article 10, the Court lacks jurisdiction. As noted above, claimant's correspondence did not expressly acknowledge or argue against the motion to dismiss, but in it he argues the merits of his claim, i.e. that the failure to afford him a new time assessment hearing violated his civil rights and resulted in his unlawful confinement.

Court of Claims Act  11 (b) requires, among other things, that "[t]he claim shall state the time when and place where such claim arose, the nature of same, [and] the items of damage or injuries claimed to have been sustained." The pleading must set forth sufficient facts to satisfy each of the pleading requirements set forth in Court of Claims Act  11 (b) (see Kolnacki v State of New York, 8 NY3d 277, 280-281 [2007]), and the failure to do so is a fatal defect in subject matter jurisdiction that requires dismissal of the claim (see Lepkowski v State of New York, 1 NY3d 201, 209 [2003]; Kolnacki, at 281). While it has been stated that substantial compliance with this pleading requirement is sufficient (see Wharton v City Univ. of N.Y., 287 AD2d 559, 559-560 [2d Dept 2001], quoting Grumet v State of New York, 256 AD2d 441, 442 [2d Dept 1998]), and "absolute exactness is not required, the claim must provide a sufficiently detailed description of the particulars of the claim . . . [and] defendant is not required to ferret out or assemble information that section 11 (b) obligates the claimant to allege" (Morra v State of New York, 107 AD3d 1115, 1115-1116 [3d Dept 2013] [internal quotations and citations omitted]).

Even when given the liberal review accorded to submissions by a pro se litigant (see Ali v State of New York, UID No. 2006-028-516 [Ct Cl, Sise, P.J., Feb. 7, 2006]), the Court agrees with defendant that the claim is jurisdictionally defective. While it is possible to discern from the claim that claimant alleges that defendant's failure to provide him with a new time assessment hearing resulted in his confinement and violated his constitutional rights, the claim does not state the date of its accrual, which cannot be discerned from its rambling and disjointed allegations (see Rivera v State of New York, 52 AD3d 1075, 1076 [3d Dept 2008] [dismissal appropriate where court has difficulty in interpreting unclear pleading]). Moreover, it is unclear whether claimant is challenging the confinement that ended when his ME date expired on April 25, 2014, or whether he is challenging his current civil confinement under MHL Article 10. Finally, the allegations in the claim are confusing and contradictory inasmuch as it alleges that claimant was held past his ME date, while also clearly stating that he was released from incarceration on November 6, 2013 and placed on parole, and that he reached his ME date on April 25, 2014 and was discharged from parole (Claim number 129361, 2, 13, 15). In sum, notwithstanding that the claim contains numerous factual details, its lack of clarity as to its accrual date and the period of incarceration that it seeks to hold defendant liable renders it jurisdictionally infirm, and the claim must be dismissed (Rivera v State of New York, 52 AD3d at 1076).

In light of the Court's finding that the Court lacks jurisdiction, defendant's remaining arguments in support of dismissal of the claim need not be addressed.

Accordingly, it is

ORDERED, that defendant's motion number M-90190 is GRANTED, and claim number 129361 is hereby DISMISSED.

April 6, 2018

Saratoga Springs, New York

W. BROOKS DeBOW

Judge of the Court of Claims

Papers considered:

(1) Claim number 129361, filed February 28, 2017;

(2) Notice of Motion to Dismiss (M-90190), dated April 4, 2017;

(3) Affirmation of Michael T. Krenrich, AAG, in Support of Motion to Dismiss, dated April 4,

2017, with Exhibit A;

(4) Affidavit of Service of Motion of Tara K. Matthews, sworn to April 4, 2017;

(5) Correspondence of Eileen F. Fazzone, Chief Clerk of the Court of Claims, dated

April 6, 2017;

(6) Correspondence of Carl Wayne James (M-90190), dated May 6, 2017, with attachment and

Affidavit of Service, unsworn and received May 15, 2017;

(7) Correspondence of Carl Wayne James (M-901190 [sic]), dated October 13, 2017, with

Affirmation of Terry Difillippo, Esq., dated October 10, 2017, and with

unsworn Affidavit of Service;

(8) Decision and Order in James v State of New York, UID No. 2017-038-566

(Motion Nos. M-90365 and M-90190 [Ct Cl, DeBow J., filed November 8, 2017]);

(9) Correspondence of Carl Wayne James (M-901190 [sic] and M-90365), dated November 10, 2017.


1. In unsworn correspondence dated November 10, 2017, claimant asserts that he never received this motion to dismiss the claim, as referenced in the Court's decision and order denying his application for counsel as Motion No. M-90190. However, defendant's motion to dismiss is accompanied by an Affidavit of Service of the Motion to Dismiss of Tara K. Matthews, sworn to April 4, 2017, and claimant was informed by copy of a letter from the Chief Clerk of the Court of Claims dated April 6, 2017 that the motion to dismiss (M-90190) had been calendared before the undersigned. Claimant also received a copy of a letter from Michael Krenrich, AAG, which referred to defendant's motion to dismiss (M-90190) as well as claimant's motion for assigned counsel (M-90365). Claimant addressed the merits of his claim in letters to the Court dated May 6, 2017 and October 13, 2017, in which he referred to defendant's motion to dismiss (M-90190), both of which were accompanied by an affidavit of service that indicated the papers served were addressed to Motion No. M-90190. Thus, claimant's unsworn and bare assertion that he did not receive the motion is not compelling and does not preclude the Court from deciding the properly served motion.