New York State Court of Claims

New York State Court of Claims
ISOM v. THE STATE OF NEW YORK, # 2019-038-524, Claim No. 132104, Motion No. M-93081

Synopsis

Defendant's motion to dismiss for lack of jurisdiction granted. Employees of a Town Police Department, County Sheriff's Department and county District Attorneys are local employees and the State cannot be found liable for their tortious conduct.

Case information

UID: 2019-038-524
Claimant(s): ISAAC ISOM
Claimant short name: ISOM
Footnote (claimant name) :
Defendant(s): THE STATE OF NEW YORK
Footnote (defendant name) :
Third-party claimant(s):
Third-party defendant(s):
Claim number(s): 132104
Motion number(s): M-93081
Cross-motion number(s):
Judge: W. BROOKS DeBOW
Claimant's attorney: O'CONNOR, O'CONNOR, BRESEE & FIRST, P.C.
By: Kathryn Conklin Mabey, Esq.
Defendant's attorney: LETITIA JAMES, Attorney General
of the State of New York
By: Paul F. Cagino, Assistant Attorney General
Third-party defendant's attorney:
Signature date: April 12, 2019
City: Saratoga Springs
Comments:
Official citation:
Appellate results:
See also (multicaptioned case)

Decision

Claimant filed and served this claim that names the State of New York as the only defendant and asserts that claimant was falsely imprisoned as the result of actions taken by officials with the East Greenbush Police Department, the Rensselaer County District Attorney's Office and the Rensselaer County Sheriff's Department. Defendant moves in lieu of answer to dismiss the claim on the ground that the claim fails to state a cause of action against defendant and that the Court lacks jurisdiction. Claimant opposes the motion.

The claim alleges that claimant was arrested by the East Greenbush Police Department for allegedly violating a " 'full stay away' " order of protection even though claimant explained that the " 'full stay away' " order had been superseded by a less restrictive order of protection (see Claim number 132104, 5). The claim alleges that the Rensselaer County District Attorney admitted into evidence the " 'full stay away' " order at claimant's preliminary hearing and claimant was "bound over and bail was set" (id., 6). The claim further alleges that claimant was subsequently indicted by a Rensselaer County Grand Jury, that claimant was arraigned on the indictment, and that he was held in the Rensselaer County Correctional Facility in the custody of the Renssalaer County Sheriff's Department until he made bail. The claim alleges that the indictment was subsequently dismissed after claimant's attorney discovered the superseding order of protection. The claim alleges that claimant sustained injuries as the result of the "reckless, careless and negligent acts, omissions and/or conduct on part of the respondents [sic] herein," and that "[i]n violation of their duties and/or negligent acts, conduct and/or omissions, the respondents [sic] herein caused, acquiesced in or allowed the Claimant to be falsely imprisoned [in] Rensselaer County Correctional Facility for 65 days for crimes he did not commit" (id., 10-11).

The Court of Claims is a court of limited jurisdiction, and as pertinent to this matter, its subject matter jurisdiction is limited to claims "against the state . . . for the torts of its officers or employees while acting as such officers or employees" (Court of Claims Act  9 [2] [emphasis added]; see NY Const Art VI). Defendant argues that the Court lacks jurisdiction over the claim because the alleged tortious acts were not committed by state officers or employees. In opposition, claimant argues that the Court has jurisdiction over the claim because the Rensselaer County District Attorney's Office "was acting as a quasi-judicial officer on behalf of the state while prosecuting claimant" (Conklin Mabey Affidavit, 8). Defendant's motion to dismiss will be granted because the Court lacks subject matter jurisdiction over this claim.

Employees of the East Greenbush Police Department and the Rensselaer Sheriff's Department are local employees and not officers or employees of the State, and the State cannot be held liable for their actions (see Whitmore v State of New York, 55 AD2d 745, 746 [3d Dept 1976], appeal den. 42 NY 810 [1977] [local police department officers]; Williams v State of New York, 90 AD2d 861, 862 [3d Dept 1982] ["Deputy Sheriff not a 'State' officer"]). Similarly, it is well established that district attorneys of a county are not state officers for whom the State may be held liable under the doctrine of respondeat superior (see Fisher v State of New York, 10 NY2d 60 [1961]; see also Whitmore, supra at 746; Fuller v State of New York, 11 AD3d 365, 366 [1st Dept 2004]). Claimant's argument that federal courts have held that district attorneys are state officers has been soundly rejected by the Court of Appeals because "even if these Federal decisions were binding on us, it would be a far jump from them to a conclusion that the State as such is liable in damages for the torts of county prosecuting officers, each of whom serves in and for a particular county is paid by that county and elected by its voters and has no authority outside his county" (Fisher, 10 NY2d at 62). Claimant's reliance on other decisions for the proposition that district attorneys are state officers is unpersuasive because those decisions do not address whether district attorneys are state officers within the meaning of Court of Claims Act 9 (2). Thus, because none of the alleged tortfeasors are officers or employees of the State for whom the State may be liable, and because the claim fails to state any cause of action against the State, the claim will be dismissed.

Accordingly, it is

ORDERED, that defendant's motion number M-93081 is GRANTED and claim number 132104 is DISMISSED.

April 12, 2019

Saratoga Springs, New York

W. BROOKS DeBOW

Judge of the Court of Claims

Papers considered:

(1) Claim number 132104, filed October 5, 2018;

(2) Notice of Motion to Dismiss in lieu of Answer, dated November 6, 2018;

(3) Affirmation of Paul F. Cagino, AAG, in Support of Motion to Dismiss in Lieu of Answer,

dated November 6, 2018, with Exhibit A;

(4) Attorney Affidavit of Kathryn Conklin Mabey, Esq., in Opposition to Defendant's Motion to Dismiss, sworn to January 9, 2019.