New York State Court of Claims

New York State Court of Claims
HENRY v. THE STATE OF NEW YORK, # 2017-041-051, Claim No. 120014, Motion No. M-90396

Synopsis

Claim alleging that defendant denied the inmate/claimant "meaningful access to the Law Library and courts" is dismissed for lack of subject matter jurisdiction and failure to state a cause of action.

Case information

UID: 2017-041-051
Claimant(s): PAUL HENRY
Claimant short name: HENRY
Footnote (claimant name) :
Defendant(s): THE STATE OF NEW YORK
Footnote (defendant name) :
Third-party claimant(s):
Third-party defendant(s):
Claim number(s): 120014
Motion number(s): M-90396
Cross-motion number(s):
Judge: FRANK P. MILANO
Claimant's attorney: NONE
Defendant's attorney: HON. ERIC T. SCHNEIDERMAN
New York State Attorney General
By: Christina Calabrese, Esq.
Assistant Attorney General
Third-party defendant's attorney:
Signature date: July 24, 2017
City: Albany
Comments:
Official citation:
Appellate results:
See also (multicaptioned case)

Decision

Defendant moves pursuant to CPLR 3211 (a) (7) to dismiss the claim for failure to state a cause of action. Claimant has not appeared in opposition to the defendant's motion.

The claim alleges that defendant denied the inmate/claimant "meaningful access to the Law Library and courts" and consequently violated the New York State Constitution.

Although the Court of Appeals has recognized a narrowly defined cause of action for a state constitutional tort in the Court of Claims (Brown v State of New York, 89 NY2d 172, 177-178 [1996]), "no such claim will lie where the claimant has an adequate remedy in an alternate forum" (Shelton v New York State Liquor Authority, 61 AD3d 1145, 1150 [3d Dept 2009]; see Martinez v City of Schenectady, 97 NY2d 78, 83-84 [2001]).

The law is clear that enforcement of claimant's state constitutional right of access to the law library and to the courts may be pursued in the Supreme Court pursuant to CPLR article 78 (Matter of Izquierdo v Goord, 275 AD2d 494, 495 [3d Dept 2000], appeal dismissed 95 NY2d 930 [2000], lv denied 96 NY2d 704 [2001], where the court held in an Article 78 proceeding that: "[a] reasonable restriction placed upon petitioner's access to the law library as the result of the prior disposition [does not violate] petitioner's constitutional right to access the court system or the law library"). Claimant's state constitutional tort claim thus "does not lie" in the Court of Claims (Shelton, 61 AD3d at 1151).

Additionally, the Court lacks subject matter jurisdiction over the claim. The subject matter jurisdiction of Court of Claims is invoked where money damages are the essential object of the claim, unlike an instance where the principal claim is equitable in nature (such as to review action or inaction by a state agency), with monetary relief being incidental to the principal claim (see Harvard Fin. Servs. v State of New York, 266 AD2d 685, 685 [3d Dept 1999]; Matter of Gross v Perales, 72 NY2d 231, 236 [1988]).

In City of New York v State of New York (46 AD3d 1168, 1169-1170 [3d Dept 2007], lv denied 10 NY3d 705 [2008]), the court explains that:

"Two inquiries must be made to determine if the Court of Claims has subject matter jurisdiction. As that court has 'no jurisdiction to grant strictly equitable relief' (Psaty v Duryea, 306 NY 413, 416 [1954]), but may grant incidental equitable relief so long as the primary claim seeks to recover money damages in appropriation, contract or tort cases (see Ozanam Hall of Queens Nursing Home v State of New York, 241 AD2d 670, 671 [1997]), 'the threshold question is "[w]hether the essential nature of the claim is to recover money, or whether the monetary relief is incidental to the primary claim"' (Madura v State of New York, 12 AD3d 759, 760 [2004], lv denied 4 NY3d 704 [2005], quoting Matter of Gross v Perales, 72 NY2d 231, 236 [1988]). The second inquiry, regardless of how a claimant categorizes a claim, is whether the claim would require review of an administrative agency's determination--which the Court of Claims has no subject matter jurisdiction to entertain (see Hoffman v State of New York, 42 AD3d 641, 642 [2007]), as review of such determinations are properly brought only in Supreme Court in a CPLR article 78 proceeding (see Matter of Scherbyn v Wayne-Finger Lakes Bd. of Coop. Educ. Servs., 77 NY2d 753, 757 [1991])."

Here, claimant challenges the administrative action of defendant in allegedly denying him correctional facility library privileges. The appropriate remedy for such a challenge is an inmate grievance proceeding and, if necessary, an CPLR article 78 proceeding.

The claimant asks the Court of Claims to review an administrative action of defendant where the essential object of the claim is equitable, rather than monetary, relief. The Court lacks subject matter jurisdiction over such a claim.

The defendant's motion to dismiss the claim is granted.

The claim is dismissed.

July 24, 2017

Albany, New York

FRANK P. MILANO

Judge of the Court of Claims

Papers Considered:

1. Defendant's Notice of Motion to Dismiss, filed May 11, 2017;

2. Affirmation of Christina Calabrese, dated May 11, 2017, and annexed exhibits.