New York State Court of Claims

New York State Court of Claims
RANDALL v. STATE OF NEW YORK, # 2017-018-845, Claim No. NONE, Motion No. M-90988

Synopsis

Late claim motion denied.

Case information

UID: 2017-018-845
Claimant(s): MICHAEL RANDALL
Claimant short name: RANDALL
Footnote (claimant name) :
Defendant(s): STATE OF NEW YORK
Footnote (defendant name) :
Third-party claimant(s):
Third-party defendant(s):
Claim number(s): NONE
Motion number(s): M-90988
Cross-motion number(s):
Judge: DIANE L. FITZPATRICK
Claimant's attorney: MICHAEL RANDALL
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: November 3, 2017
City: Syracuse
Comments:
Official citation:
Appellate results:
See also (multicaptioned case)

Decision

Movant, pro se, brings a motion for permission to file a late claim under Court of Claims Act section 10 (6). Defendant opposes the motion.

Movant seeks permission to file the submitted proposed claim for damages arising from an alleged wrongful confinement. The proposed claim alleges that Movant was found guilty of a violation of the Department of Corrections and Community Supervision (DOCCS) rule 102.10, which Movant asserts prohibits an inmate from making any threats using spoken or written words or gestures. Movant alleges he was found guilty of the rule violation at a Superintendent's hearing without a fair and impartial hearing and without substantial evidence to support the charge. Movant appealed his disciplinary finding, which was administratively reversed on July 26, 2017. The proposed claim seeks $3,150 for 70 days of wrongful confinement.

Court of Claims Act section 10 (6) allows a claimant who has failed to properly serve a notice of intention or who has failed to file and properly serve a claim within the time frame set forth in Court of Claims Act section 10 to make an application to the Court for permission to file such a claim, in the discretion of the Court, at any time before an action asserting a like claim against a citizen of the State would be barred under article two of the CPLR (Court of Claims Act 10 [6]). Movant's motion is timely (Court of Claims Act 10 [6]; CPLR 214 [5], 215 [3]; Ramirez v State of New York, 171 Misc 2d 677 [Ct Cl 1997]).

To determine whether an application for permission to file a late claim should be granted, consideration is given to the six factors listed in Court of Claims Act section 10 (6) and any other relevant factors. No one factor is determinative, rather, it is a balancing of all of the factors by the court, that supports the discretionary decision to grant the application (Bay Terrace Coop. Section IV v New York State Employees' Retirement Sys. Policemen's & Firemen's Retirement Sys., 55 NY2d 979 [1982]; Ledet v State of New York, 207 AD2d 965 [4th Dept 1994]).

The first factor is whether the delay in filing the claim is excusable. Movant argues that he is a lay person and was not aware of the short filing time frame in this Court. He asserts that this was compounded by the incorrect information which he received from other inmates in the law library. Ignorance of the law is not a valid excuse (Matter of Sandlin v State of New York, 294 AD2d 723 [3d Dept 2002] lv denied 99 NY2d 589 [2003]).

Other than Movant's blanket assertion, he did not provide any documentation that the State had notice of his position that the disciplinary hearing was not fair or impartial or that his misbehavior findings were not based upon substantial evidence. The reason(s) for the administrative reversal of the findings at the Superintendent's hearing is not reflected on the document from D. Venettozzi dated July 26, 2017, advising Movant of the reversal. Nonetheless, the State has not denied these factors, leading the Court to find that the State had notice, an opportunity to investigate, and will not suffer substantial prejudice if this late claim application is granted.

The next factor, whether the claim appears to be meritorious, is often the most compelling for the granting or denial of any late claim application. To meet this factor the proposed claim must not be patently groundless, frivolous or legally defective, and upon consideration of the entire record, there must be cause to believe that a valid cause of action exists (Matter of Santana v New York State Thruway Auth., 92 Misc 2d 1, 11 [Ct Cl 1977]). If this low threshold for merit cannot be met, it would be futile for the Court to grant the application even if all of the other factors have been shown (see Prusack v State of New York, 117 AD2d 729 [2d Dept 1986]).

A cause of action for wrongful confinement, requires a claimant to ultimately 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]). As it is often the case, whether the confinement is privileged is the primary issue. Confinement is "privileged to the extent that it was [imposed] under color of law or regulation." (Gittens v State of New York, 132 Misc 2d 399, 402 [Ct Cl 1986]). Here, Movant makes a general statement that the Superintendent's hearing finding Movant guilty of disciplinary rule 102.10 was not based upon substantial evidence and was not fair and impartial. Movant does not specify any factual information as to how it was unfair and impartial, nor does he describe any due process rules or regulations that were violated. Whether the hearing examiner had sufficient evidence to support the findings of misbehavior, is not the type of review that this Court has jurisdiction to perform. This Court is without the authority to review the internal handling of matters of discipline within the confines of the prison setting, as the actions of correction facility employees in this area are quasi-judicial in nature and subject to absolute immunity (Arteaga v State of New York, 72 NY2d 212, 214, 218-220 [1988]; Holloway v State of New York, 285 AD2d 765-766 [3d Dept 2001]). Unless the correction employees have exceeded the scope of their authority or violated nondiscretionary governing statutes and regulations, they are blanketed with immunity (see Arteaga, 72 NY2d at 216, 220). Here, Movant makes no specific allegations that the hearing officer exceeded his or her scope of authority, or that the disciplinary process or procedure didn't comply with the applicable rules and regulations. Even where the disciplinary findings have been administratively reversed, or there is an incorrect use of discretion, or even an abuse of discretion, the wrongdoing is not actionable in this Court, for these State employees were exercising their discretionary authority - even if erroneous - and are, therefore, cloaked with immunity (Arteaga, 72 NY2d at 212; Holloway, 285 AD2d at 766).

Additionally, as Defendant points out, the claim itself is deficient under Court of Claim Act section 11 (b), as it fails to set forth the dates of confinement or any factual description of the nature of his claim. For all of these reasons, this factor weighs against granting Movant's application.

The final factor is whether Movant has any other available remedy. Given the circumstances of Movant's proposed claim, he has no other available remedy.

Accordingly, upon balancing all of the factors in Court of Claims Act section 10 (6), this Court DENIES Movant's motion.

November 3, 2017

Syracuse, New York

DIANE L. FITZPATRICK

Judge of the Court of Claims

The Court has considered the following in deciding this motion:

1) Notice of Motion.

2) Affidavit of Michael Randall, sworn to August 7, 2017, in support, with an exhibit attached thereto.

3) Affirmation of Ray A. Kyles, in opposition, with exhibit attached thereto.