New York State Court of Claims

New York State Court of Claims
JACKSON v. STATE OF NEW YORK, # 2019-018-026, Claim No. 124312

Synopsis

Claimant, in seeking damages for wrongful confinement, failed to establish that the Tier III Hearing failed to comply with governing rules and regulations. The State's action in confining Claimant in the SHU was privileged.

Case information

UID: 2019-018-026
Claimant(s): SKYLER JACKSON
Claimant short name: JACKSON
Footnote (claimant name) :
Defendant(s): STATE OF NEW YORK
Footnote (defendant name) :
Third-party claimant(s):
Third-party defendant(s):
Claim number(s): 124312
Motion number(s):
Cross-motion number(s):
Judge: DIANE L. FITZPATRICK
Claimant's attorney: SKYLER JACKSON
Pro Se
Defendant's attorney: LETITIA JAMES
Attorney General of the State of New York
By: William Arnold, IV, Esquire
Assistant Attorney General
Third-party defendant's attorney:
Signature date: April 16, 2019
City: Syracuse
Comments:
Official citation:
Appellate results:
See also (multicaptioned case)

Decision

Claimant brings a claim, pro se, seeking damages for wrongful confinement in the Special Housing Unit (SHU) while an inmate at Auburn Correctional Facility (ACF). Claimant is now out of custody, and a trial was held in the Syracuse District on March 21, 2019. After considering all of the evidence and testimony, the Court grants Defendant's motion for a directed verdict and dismisses the claim.

Claimant testified that on January 8, 2014, ACF was on lockdown and all cells were searched. A razor blade removed from its housing and broken in half was found on the tracks of Claimant's cell door along with a bag of marijuana. Claimant was moved into the cell on November 30, 2013, a little more than one month before this incident. Claimant contends that the contraband did not belong to him. He was issued a misbehavior report and charged with weapon and drug possession. A Tier III hearing commenced on January 23, 2014. Claimant requested and was provided an assistant in accordance with Department of Corrections and Community Supervision (DOCCS) regulations (7 NYCRR Rules 270, 113.10 and 113.25; 7 NYCRR

251-4.1).

On January 13, 2014, Claimant was moved from the Special Housing Unit (SHU) to Mental Health and then back to the SHU on January 22, 2014,(1) his transfers delayed the hearing. Another extension of time was granted because the correction officer (CO) who authorized the misbehavior report, CO Rodriguez was unavailable.

The hearing concluded on February 7, 2014.(2) Claimant was found guilty of both charges: possession of both weapons and drugs. His punishment included six months in the SHU and other loss of privileges. Two months were suspended from his confinement and loss of privileges.

On February 18, 2014, Claimant filed an appeal(3) alleging a failure of the facility to provide him with the cell inspection sheet. In the appeal, Claimant indicates that the cell is inspected for contraband and the inmate acknowledges the inspection by signing the form. Claimant argued that he was never presented with that form. Claimant also argued on his appeal that the misbehavior report failed to particularize the exact location of the contraband or that it was wrapped in toilet paper, something to which CO Rodriguez testified at the hearing, allegedly in violation of Directive 4932. In addition, Claimant noted that no unusual incident report was introduced at the hearing in violation of Directive 4938. At the hearing, the hearing officer determined that the misbehavior report contained sufficient detail, and Claimant declined the copy of the unusual incident report which was offered.

The hearing officer took testimony from Mental Health personnel but it was kept confidential. The Claimant was not allowed to review the testimony because the hearing officer indicated that disclosing it could inhibit his future treatment.(4)

The appeal was granted and the hearing was reversed on April 16, 2014.(5) The memo sent to ACF indicated the reversal was because the hearing record failed to indicate how the Mental Health testimony was considered.(6) Claimant was returned to general population on April 8, 2014.

At the close of Claimant's proof, Defendant moved for a directed verdict pursuant to CPLR 4401. That motion is now GRANTED.

A cause of action for wrongful confinement is a "species" of the tort of false imprisonment (Gittens v State of New York, 132 Misc 2d 399, 407 [Ct Cl 1986]). To establish a wrongful confinement, it is Claimant's burden to show 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] cert denied sub nom., Schanbarger v Kellogg, 423 US 929 [1975]). Typically, the primary issue in contention is privilege. The State's restrictive confinement of an inmate is privileged if it was done in accordance with DOCCS regulations (Lee v State of New York, 124 AD2d 305, 307 [3d Dept 1986]; Gittens, 132 Misc 2d at 402). Where DOCCS employees have conducted the disciplinary process in accordance with the governing statutes and regulations, and their actions involve discretionary conduct that is quasi-judicial in nature, their conduct is absolutely immune from liability (Arteaga v State of New York, 72 NY2d 212, 214 [1988]). This immunity attaches even if later the hearing examiner's determination is reversed by administrative appeal or after an Article 78 proceeding (Id., at 215). There is no immunity, however, where there is a violation of an inmate's nondiscretionary due process rights which effect the outcome of the hearing causing actual prejudice or injury (Id., at 221; Davidson v State of New York, 66 AD3d 1089, 1089 [3d Dept 2009]; Vasquez v State of New York, 10 AD3d 825 [3d Dept 2004]).

Claimant did not establish with the evidence presented that the Tier III Hearing failed to comply with the governing rules and regulations. As a result, Claimant's confinement was privileged, and the State's actions in confining Claimant in the SHU privileged.

The claim is DISMISSED. LET JUDGMENT BE ENTERED ACCORDINGLY.

April 16, 2019

Syracuse, New York

DIANE L. FITZPATRICK

Judge of the Court of Claims


1. See Exhibit D.

2. See Exhibit A.

3. See Exhibit A.

4. See Exhibit A.

5. Exhibits 1 and C.

6. See Exhibit 2 and C.