Wrongful confinement dismissed, violation of drug testing directive is not a due process violation.
|Claimant(s):||In the Matter of the Application of MAURICE HADDOCK|
|Claimant short name:||HADDOCK|
|Footnote (claimant name) :|
|Defendant(s):||THE STATE OF NEW YORK|
|Footnote (defendant name) :|
|Claimant's attorney:||MAURICE HADDOCK
|Defendant's attorney:||HON. ERIC T. SCHNEIDERMAN
Attorney General for the State of New York
By: Thomas Monjeau, Assistant Attorney General
|Third-party defendant's attorney:|
|Signature date:||March 27, 2018|
|See also (multicaptioned case)|
The trial of this claim was heard on February 16, 2018 via video-conferencing technology.
The undisputed evidence established that on March 7, 2015, during claimant's incarceration at Eastern NY Correctional Facility (Eastern), claimant provided a urine sample for testing by defendant (Ex. A, p 7). The results of the urinalysis on March 16, 2015 indicated that claimant tested positive for "Intoxicant K2-2" (id. at 3-7). Claimant was issued a misbehavior report charging him with the use of an intoxicant (id. at 7). After a disciplinary hearing, claimant was found guilty of the charge and he served 30 days in keeplock (id. at 2). On administrative appeal, the disposition was reversed.
Claimant alleges that he is entitled to damages for 30 days of wrongful confinement. He contends that he was "set-up"(1) by Correction Officer Ingrid Jacobsen with a "dirty urine" in retaliation for the reversal of claimant's disciplinary violation for testing positive for THC in 2013 pursuant to urinalysis testing performed by Jacobsen. Claimant also contends that the hearing officer, who was the same hearing officer who had presided over claimant's 2013 disciplinary hearing, was biased against claimant due to the reversal of the hearing officer's determination in 2013. In further support of his claim of bias by the hearing officer, claimant asserts that he made a request for two documents to be produced at his 2015 disciplinary hearing and both requests were denied by the hearing officer. First, claimant requested the identity of the inmate whose urine had tested positive for K2-2 immediately prior to claimant's urine. Claimant maintained that this information could indicate if a mistake had been made by placing claimant's urine in the same "slot" of another inmate for the purpose of causing claimant to test positive for K2-2. Second, claimant requested the logbook entries and a list of all urine samples tested along with claimant's urine. This information was intended to show if other inmates had tested positive for K2-2 or whether claimant was being singled out.
Additionally, although claimant did not produce the directive, he testified without objection that the urinalysis testing Directive 4937 provides that, if it is anticipated that the specimen will not be tested within one day, then it is recommended that the specimen be stored frozen. According to claimant, the directive was violated because his specimen was not stored frozen and his urine was tested nine days later. Claimant maintains that, because testing for K2-2 was fairly new at Eastern in 2015 and defendant was not aware of what could produce a false positive result for K2-2, he was wrongfully found to be positive for K2-2.
At the end of claimant's case, defendant moved to dismiss the claim on the ground that claimant had not made out a prima facie case establishing that his due process rights were violated. Specifically, defendant argued that claimant did not establish that if he had been provided with the requested documentation at the disciplinary hearing, the outcome of the hearing would have been different. The Court reserved decision on the motion.
Defendant then presented the testimony of Correction Officer Ingrid Jacobsen. Jacobsen has been employed by the New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision (DOCCS) since 2007 and has been working at Eastern for the past 10 years in various positions. In particular, Jacobsen was trained to perform drug testing and has been performing urinalysis testing for the past five years. She performs approximately 120 to 140 urinalysis tests each month and did not recall doing any urinalysis tests on claimant's urine prior to 2015.
Jacobsen testified that page 4 of Exhibit A was the Urinalysis Procedure Form for claimant's drug test on March 16, 2015, indicating a positive test result at 11:45 a.m. Page 6 of Exhibit A was the second test done at 12:14 p.m. to confirm the positive result obtained from the first test.
During the cross-examination of Jacobsen, claimant elicited that Eastern had been testing inmates for K2-2 for approximately one year prior to 2015. Jacobsen did not recall receiving any paperwork regarding false positives for K2-2.
Defendant rested and renewed its motion to dismiss. The Court reserved decision on the motion.Analysis
It is well established that the State is accorded absolute immunity for the actions of its employees involved in the investigation and prosecution of disciplinary charges brought against inmates in a correctional facility and for the actions of the hearing officer charged with presiding over and reviewing such matters. This immunity covers discretionary conduct due to its quasi-judicial nature, even if that discretion was erroneously exercised or the findings were subsequently overturned (see Arteaga v State of New York, 72 NY2d 212 ; Loret v State of New York, 106 AD3d 1159 [3d Dept 2013]; Holloway v State of New York, 285 AD2d 765 [3d Dept 2001]; Varela v State of New York, 283 AD2d 841 [3d Dept 2001]).
Absolute immunity may be lost, however, if the State acted in contravention of a governing rule or regulation which caused the inmate to suffer actual prejudice or a deprivation of his due process rights (see Davidson v State of New York, 66 AD3d 1089 [3d Dept 2009] [defendant's failure to comply with regulatory provisions in conducting disciplinary hearing did not eliminate defendant's cloak of immunity and cause of action for wrongful confinement was dismissed]). Recently, in Miller v State of New York, 156 AD3d 1067 [3d Dept 2017], the Third Department held that "[t]o the extent that claimant asserts that drug testing directives were violated, they do not relate to the due process concerns of the hearing and do not serve as a basis for the wrongful confinement cause of action." So too here, the Court finds that claimant may not recover on his wrongful confinement claim based upon his allegation that defendant violated the directive which recommends that a specimen be stored frozen under certain circumstances. The Court also finds that, absent a showing that the outcome of claimant's disciplinary hearing would have been different, claimant cannot prevail on his wrongful confinement claim based upon claimant's allegation that the hearing officer violated claimant's due process rights by denying claimant the requested documentation at his disciplinary hearing (see Bottom v State of New York, 142 AD3d 1314, 1316 [4th Dept 2016]; Moustakos v State of New York, 133 AD3d 1268, 1270 [4th Dept 2015]).
Accordingly, defendant's motion to dismiss made at the conclusion of trial, is now GRANTED and the claim is DISMISSED.
LET JUDGMENT BE ENTERED DISMISSING CLAIM NO. 126379.
March 27, 2018
White Plains, New York
Judge of the Court of Claims
1. All quotations are to the trial audio recording unless otherwise indicated.