New York State Court of Claims

New York State Court of Claims
PAIGE v. THE STATE OF NEW YORK, # 2018-040-026, Claim No. 129909, Motion No. M-90951

Synopsis

Claimant's Motion for Summary Judgment denied.

Case information

UID: 2018-040-026
Claimant(s): SAMUEL PAIGE, No. 08-B-0255
Claimant short name: PAIGE
Footnote (claimant name) :
Defendant(s): THE STATE OF NEW YORK
Footnote (defendant name) :
Third-party claimant(s):
Third-party defendant(s):
Claim number(s): 129909
Motion number(s): M-90951
Cross-motion number(s):
Judge: CHRISTOPHER J. McCARTHY
Claimant's attorney: Samuel Paige, 08-B-0255, Pro Se
Defendant's attorney: ERIC T. SCHNEIDERMAN
Attorney General of the State of New York
By: Michael T. Krenrich, Esq., AAG
Third-party defendant's attorney:
Signature date: March 16, 2018
City: Albany
Comments:
Official citation:
Appellate results:
See also (multicaptioned case)

Decision

For the reasons set forth below, Claimant's Motion for summary judgment in his favor is denied.

This pro se Claim, which was filed with the office of the Clerk of the Court on June 26, 2017, alleges that Claimant was incarcerated at Franklin Correctional Facility (hereinafter, "Franklin") on December 1, 2015, and that, at approximately 11:35 p.m., Inmate Emmitt Hunter was assaulted in the E-1 dormitory bathroom (Claim, 3). This was the dormitory where Claimant was housed. On December 2, 2015, the entire E-1 dorm was subjected to a search because of the assault on Inmate Hunter the previous night (id., 5). During this search, verbal threats were made by the Correction Officers present that if, by the end of the search, the assailant was not apprehended, they would just start "picking people who they want, to be responsible for it" (id., 6, 7). At the conclusion of the search, no inmate was apprehended for the assault on Mr. Hunter (id., 8).

On December 3, 2015, Correction Officer E. Hoit and a civilian teacher began selecting inmates to be interviewed in an attempt to gather information leading to the identity of the assailant (Claim, 9). Claimant was one of those interviewed (id., 10). Claimant explained that he was in his cubicle because of a disciplinary sanction that placed him on cubicle confinement. Claimant was threatened that, if he did not provide identifying information, he would be the one to "wear it." When Claimant still refused to cooperate, he was then offered to be "cleared" if he implicated an inmate named E. Turner. Claimant refused and was immediately taken to the Special Housing Unit (hereinafter, "SHU") (id., 11).

On December 4, 2015, Claimant received a misbehavior report, charging him with the assault on Inmate Hunter (Claim, 12). A disciplinary hearing was held on December 9, 2015 (id., 17). Claimant made objections during the hearing and asserted that the hearing was not conducted in accordance with the Department of Corrections and Community Supervision (hereinafter, "DOCCS") rules (id., 17, 25, 27, 28). On December 9, 2015, Claimant was found guilty of the two charges against him and a penalty of 303 days in SHU, among other things, was imposed (id., 36 and Ex. 3 attached). Claimant filed an administrative appeal and, by notice dated January 22, 2016, the hearing officer's determination was reversed and a new hearing was ordered (id., 37, 38). A new hearing was commenced on February 3, 2016 (id., 39). Claimant again made several objections and asserted that DOCCS did not follow its rules in conducting the hearing (id., 56, 59, 60, 67, 70, 72, 77). At the conclusion of the hearing on February 16, 2016, Claimant was again found guilty of the charges and a penalty of 300 days in SHU, among other things, was imposed (id., 84 and Ex. 8 attached). He administratively appealed the determination, which was affirmed on March 16, 2016 (id., 85 and Ex. 9 attached). Claimant then commenced a CPLR Article 78 proceeding in Supreme Court, Franklin County regarding this matter (id., 87) and, two days later, on April 28, 2016, DOCCS administratively reversed the February 16, 2016 determination and ordered another re-hearing (id., 88 and Ex. 10 attached). Claimant's third hearing on the charges was commenced on May 5, 2016 (id., 89). Claimant was present and pleaded not guilty to the charges. He then objected to the hearing and refused to participate on the basis that DOCCS had rendered a final decision on the second hearing, he had commenced an Article 78 proceeding against DOCCS regarding that matter, and DOCCS was without jurisdiction to conduct the third hearing (id., 90-93). On May 8, 2016, Claimant was found guilty of the charges against him and a penalty of 200 days in SHU was imposed (id., 94 and Ex 11 attached). On June 20, 2016, Claimant was released from SHU after completing the 200-day sentence (Claimant's Affidavit in Support of Motion, x). By Decision, Order and Judgment, dated September 29, 2016, Acting Supreme Court Justice S. Peter Feldstein granted Claimant's CPLR Article 78 petition, vacated DOCCS' May 8, 2016 determination, and expunged all references to the hearing and the underlying incident from Claimant's DOCCS' records (id., 95 and Ex 12 attached). Claimant alleges that he was wrongfully confined.

Summary judgment is a drastic remedy to be granted sparingly and only where no material issue of fact is demonstrated in the papers related to the motion (see Crowley's Milk Co. v Klein, 24 AD2d 920 [3d Dept 1965]; Wanger v Zeh, 45 Misc 2d 93 [Sup Ct, Albany County 1965], affd 26 AD2d 729 [3d Dept 1966]). "The proponent of a summary judgment motion must make a prima facie showing of entitlement to judgment as a matter of law, tendering sufficient evidence to eliminate any material issues of fact from the case" (Winegrad v New York Univ. Med. Center, 64 NY2d 851, 853 [1985]; see Alvarez v Prospect Hosp., 68 NY2d 320, 324 [1986]; Sillman v Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corp., 3 NY2d 395, 404 [1957]). "Failure to make such prima facie showing requires a denial of the motion, regardless of the sufficiency of the opposing papers" (Alvarez v Prospect Hosp., supra at 324; see Winegrad v New York Univ. Med. Center, supra at 853).

The predicate for this Claim is the decision of Acting Justice Feldstein granting Claimant's Article 78 petition, vacating the May 8, 2016 disciplinary conviction, and expunging all references to the proceeding, as well as to the incident underlying the hearing, from Claimant's institutional record (Paige v Annucci, Sup Ct, Franklin County, Sept. 29, 2016, Index No.2016-243). In that decision, Acting Justice Feldstein found that: (1) Defendant was without jurisdiction to convene the hearing that resulted in the May 8, 2016 disciplinary conviction because the petition in the CPLR Article 78 proceeding already had been filed; and (2) Claimant's conviction on violations arising from an alleged assault were the result of a proceeding in which Claimant's right to call witnesses was denied, raising issues "tantamount to a deprivation of constitutional rights," such that expungement "is the only proper remedy in light of the numerous violations" (id. at *6).

In support of his Motion, Claimant argues that Defendant's Answer lacks merit, does not raise any issues of fact, and that there are no issues of fact to be decided at trial. His argument boils down to: a prison official placed him in SHU, having failed to follow DOCCS' rules and regulations regarding disciplinary hearing set forth in Title 7 NYCRR, and without following proper due process, thus, regulatory procedure has not been followed, and Defendant is liable for damages.

"It is well settled that, where, as here, the actions of correction personnel have violated the due process safeguards contained in 7 NYCRR parts 252 through 254, those actions '[will] not receive immunity' " (Moustakos v State of New York, 133 AD3d 1268, 1269 [4th Dept 2015], quoting Arteaga v State of New York, 72 NY2d 212, 221[1988]). "Those due process safeguards include the right to call witnesses at a disciplinary hearing unless the witnesses' testimony is immaterial or redundant, or puts institutional safety or correctional goals in jeopardy" (Bottom v State of New York, 142 AD3d 1314 , 1315 [4th Dept 2016]; see Matter of Hill v Selsky, 19 AD3d 64, 65-66 [3d Dept 2005]). However, the absence of an immunity defense does not entitle Claimant to partial summary judgment on liability on his wrongful confinement cause of action. The "removal of immunity does not result in absolute liability to [D]efendant because [C]laimant is still required to prove the merits of his [C]laim" (Turley v State of New York, UID No. 2010-032-504 [Ct Cl, Hard, J., June 4, 2010]; see Steele v State of New York, UID No. 2013-029-026 [Ct Cl, Mignano, J., July 17, 2013]; Moreno v State of New York, UID No. 2001-007-551 [Ct Cl, Bell, J., Apr. 5, 2001]). " 'Where, as here, a prison inmate contends that he was wrongfully confined as a result of the flawed prison disciplinary proceeding, once the absolute immunity is removed by showing that the governing rules and regulations were not followed, he [or she] may recover damages if he [or she] is able to prove the traditional elements of the tort of [unlawful confinement]: (1) that the confinement was intentional; (2) that Claimant was conscious of the confinement; (3) that Claimant did not consent to the confinement; and (4) that the confinement was not otherwise privileged' " (Moustakos v State of New York, supra, quoting Kilpatrick v State of New York, Ct Cl, Patti, J., UID No. 2001-013-031[Ct Cl, Patti, J., Dec. 2001], citing Broughton v State of New York, 37 NY2d 451, 456,[1975]; cf. Lamage v State of New York, 31 Misc 3d 1205[A] [Ct Cl 2010]). " 'In other words, not every violation of the rules and regulations governing the imposition of prison discipline will result in liability on the part of the State; the rule violations merely remove the cloak of absolute immunity and make the State potentially liable, if liability would be imposed under common law tort principles' " (Moustakos v State of New York, supra, quoting Kilpatrick v State of New York, supra).

Here, there is no dispute concerning the first three elements of the unlawful confinement cause of action. The dispositive issue is whether Claimant established as a matter of law that the confinement was not otherwise privileged. In order to make a prima facie showing of entitlement to judgment as a matter of law, Claimant was required to present evidence that the evidence that was not admitted at his hearing would have changed the hearing's outcome (see Miller v State of New York, 156 AD3d 1067, 1068 [3d Dept 2017]; Bottom v State of New York , supra at 1315; Moustakos v State of New York, supra at 1270). "If [Claimant] would have been found guilty even if all the rules and regulations had been followed, then his confinement would not be wrongful, regardless of the irregularity of the hearing he received" (Turley v State of New York. supra). Claimant failed to make such a showing. Without it, Claimant has failed to meet his burden on this Motion (see Winegrad v New York Univ. Med. Center, supra; Alvarez v Prospect Hosp., supra). Thus, the Court concludes that Claimant has failed to establish that he is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.

Therefore, based upon the foregoing, Claimant's Motion for summary judgment in his favor is denied.

March 16, 2018

Albany, New York

CHRISTOPHER J. McCARTHY

Judge of the Court of Claims

The following papers were read and considered by the Court on Claimant's Motion for Summary Judgment:

Papers Numbered

Notice of Motion, Affidavit in Support,

Exhibits Attached & Memorandum of Law 1

Affirmation in Opposition & Exhibits Attached 2

Claimant's Reply Affidavit 3

Filed Papers: Claim, Answer