New York State Court of Claims

New York State Court of Claims
MARTINEZ v. THE STATE OF NEW YORK, # 2020-015-037, Claim No. 130057, Motion No. M-95112

Synopsis

Pro se inmate's motion for summary judgment on his wrongful confinement claim was denied and, upon searching the record, the claim was dismissed as claimant alleged only a violation of a drug testing directive which forms no basis for a claim of wrongful confinement.

Case information

UID: 2020-015-037
Claimant(s): JOHN MARTINEZ
Claimant short name: MARTINEZ
Footnote (claimant name) :
Defendant(s): THE STATE OF NEW YORK
Footnote (defendant name) :
Third-party claimant(s):
Third-party defendant(s):
Claim number(s): 130057
Motion number(s): M-95112
Cross-motion number(s):
Judge: FRANCIS T. COLLINS
Claimant's attorney: John Martinez, Pro Se
Defendant's attorney: Honorable Letitia James, Attorney General
By: Thomas J. Reilly, Esq., Assistant Attorney General
Third-party defendant's attorney:
Signature date: April 22, 2020
City: Saratoga Springs
Comments:
Official citation:
Appellate results:
See also (multicaptioned case)

Decision

Claimant, proceeding pro se, moves for summary judgment on his wrongful confinement claim pursuant to CPLR 3212 .

Claimant, an inmate in the custody of the Department of Corrections and Community Supervision (DOCCS), seeks damages for wrongful confinement arising from the conduct of a prison disciplinary hearing in which he was found guilty of violating a urinalysis testing procedure (Rule 180.14), refusing a direct order (Rule 106.10) and giving false statements or information (Rule 107.20). Claimant alleges that the incident occurred on January 22, 2017, he was served with a misbehavior report on January 23, 2017, he moved to long term keeplock on February 8, 2017 and was confined on keeplock status until his release to general population on May 10, 2017, allegedly following reversal of the hearing officer's determination on May 1, 2017. The claimant's wrongful confinement claim is premised upon two distinct theories of liability- the first arising from violations of the drug testing directives, and the second arising from DOCCS' ministerial failure to release him from punitive confinement immediately upon the reversal of the hearing officer's determination.

"To obtain summary judgment it is necessary that the movant establish his cause of action or defense sufficiently to warrant the court as a matter of law in directing judgment in his favor (CPLR 3212, subd. [b]), and he must do so by tender of evidentiary proof in admissible form" (Zuckerman v City of New York, 49 NY2d 557, 562 [1980] [inner quotation marks and citation omitted]; see also Deleon v New York City Sanitation Dept., 25 NY3d 1102 [2015]; Vega v Restani Constr. Corp., 18 NY3d 499, 503 [2012] Alvarez v Prospect Hosp., 68 NY2d 320, 324 [1986]). To meet this burden, CPLR 3212 specifically requires a motion for summary judgment be supported by a copy of the pleadings. Only where the movant has met the required showing does the burden shift to the opposing party "to produce evidentiary proof in admissible form sufficient to establish the existence of material issues of fact which require a trial of the action" (Alvarez v Prospect Hosp., 68 NY2d at 324).

Claimant's motion for summary judgment is supported by no more than his own unsworn statement,(1) a copy of the verified claim, and an uncertified copy of the administrative reversal. The defendant's answer was not submitted, nor were the hearing disposition sheet and the drug testing directives that were allegedly violated. Thus, claimant failed to establish his entitlement to summary judgment as a matter of law.

Moreover, to the extent the claim is premised upon a violation of DOCCS' drug testing directives, it lacks merit. Conduct of correctional facility employees taken in furtherance of authorized disciplinary measures is quasi-judicial in nature and entitled to absolute immunity (Arteaga v State of New York, 72 NY2d 212 [1988]; Matter of Kairis v State of New York, 113 AD3d 942 [3d Dept 2014]; Loret v State of New York, 106 AD3d 1159 [3d Dept 2013], lv denied 22 NY3d 852 [2013]; Shannon v State of New York, 111 AD3d 1077 [3d Dept 2013]). Only where prison employees "exceed the scope of their authority or violate the governing statutes and regulations", may the cloak of absolute immunity be lost for those actions (Ramirez v State of New York, 175 AD3d 1635, 1636 [3d Dept 2019], quoting Miller v State of New York, 156 AD3d 1067, 1067 [3d Dept 2017]; see also Arteaga, 72 NY2d at 221; Loret v State of New York, 106 AD3d at 1159; Holloway v State of New York, 285 AD2d 765, 765 [3d Dept 2001]). Where an alleged violation implicates no constitutionally required due process safeguard (see generally Wolff v McDonnell, 418 US 539 [1974]; Matter of Texeira v Fischer, 26 NY3d 230, 234 [2015]), the State retains immunity for its quasi-judicial determinations (Ramirez v State of New York, 175 AD3d 1635; but see Bottom v State of New York, 142 AD3d 1314 [4th Dept 2016] [State was not immune from liability for a discretionary, albeit erroneous, denial of a witness at a prison disciplinary hearing]). It is settled, at least in the Appellate Division, Third Department, that a violation of DOCCS' drug testing directives does not constitute a due process violation (see Raimirez, 175 AD3d at 1638; Miller v State of New York, 156 AD3d at 1068). As a result, the Court will search the record and dismiss the wrongful confinement claim to the extent it rests upon such a violation (CPLR 3212 [b]; 3211 (a) (7); Dunham v Hilco Constr. Co., 89 NY2d 425 [1996]). The claim related to DOCCS' alleged failure to timely release claimant from punitive confinement suffers from no such infirmity and remains undisturbed.

Based on the foregoing, claimant's motion is denied and, upon searching the record, the claim is dismissed to the extent it rests upon the alleged violation of a drug testing directive.

April 22, 2020

Saratoga Springs, New York

FRANCIS T. COLLINS

Judge of the Court of Claims

Papers Considered:

  1. Notice of Motion dated December 11, 2019;
  2. Affidavit in support sworn to December 11, 2019, with attachments;
  3. Affirmation in opposition dated December 18, 2019, with Exhibit A.

1. While claimant submitted a notarized "Verification" with his statement in support of the motion, it indicates only that claimant has "read the foregoing claim and know[s] the content thereof" and the same are true to his knowledge except as to matters alleged therein upon information and belief. (Verification attached to claimant's statement in support [emphasis added]). It says nothing about claimant's knowledge of the contents of his statement submitted in support of the motion.