Defendant's motion to dismiss claim denied. Contrary to defendant's contention, the Court has subject matter jurisdiction over the claim, which alleges, inter alia, that claimant was wrongfully confined pursuant to a false parole warrant. Parole officers not entitled to qualified immunity where they lacked a reasonable basis for issuing the parole warrant.
|Claimant short name:||ANDRIANI|
|Footnote (claimant name) :|
|Defendant(s):||THE STATE OF NEW YORK|
|Footnote (defendant name) :|
|Judge:||W. BROOKS DeBOW|
|Claimant's attorney:||DANIELLE COYSH, ESQ.|
|Defendant's attorney:||LETITIA JAMES, Attorney General
of the State of New York
By: Lori L. Pack, Assistant Attorney General
|Third-party defendant's attorney:|
|Signature date:||June 22, 2020|
|See also (multicaptioned case)|
This claim seeks compensation for twenty-eight days of false imprisonment in the Suffolk County Correctional Facility, false arrest, and malicious prosecution stemming from an allegedly false parole violation warrant. Defendant now moves to dismiss the claim on the grounds of lack of subject matter jurisdiction and absolute and qualified immunity. Claimant opposes the motion.
The claim alleges that on April 2, 2015, claimant was sentenced to a term of four years of incarceration plus five years of postrelease supervision following his guilty plea to one count of attempted robbery in the second degree (see Claim No. 134149, ¶ 3). The claim alleges that in August 2018, while claimant was incarcerated at Franklin Correctional Facility (CF), the State brought an extradition proceeding against him in Franklin County Court on the ground that he was "wanted in the State of Florida for the crime of Violation of Probation" (id.). The claim alleges that on August 8, 2018, claimant signed a document waiving extradition to Florida, that on September 17, 2018, claimant appeared in Franklin County Court and "consented to his return to the State of Florida in the custody of a duly authorized agent of the State," and that "Acting County Court Judge Derek P. Cha[m]pagne ordered, inter alia, that . . . claimant be held by DOCCS until the arrival of the appropriate authorities of the State of Florida" (id.).
The claim alleges that "[o]n or about October 11, 2018, DOCCS met with claimant and reviewed and signed the Certificate of Release to Post Release Supervision," and that DOCCS and the State were aware at the time that claimant had waived extradition to Florida (id.). The claim further alleges that on or about October 12, 2018, upon the completion of claimant's term of incarceration, claimant was transferred directly from Franklin CF to a company called Prisoner Transport Services, which "delivered [claimant] to the custody of the Leon County Detention Facility in Tallahassee, Florida on October 22, 2018" (id.). The claim alleges that on or about November 19, 2018, claimant was sentenced to thirteen months of incarceration in Florida on the parole violation charge, and that claimant's sentence expired on September 10, 2019 (see id.).
The claim alleges that on October 26, 2018, DOCCS lodged a parole violation warrant (Parole Warrant No. 762210) against claimant alleging that he failed to report to the parole office within twenty-four hours of his October 12, 2018 release from Franklin CF, "failed to make his office report on" October 13, 2018, and "failed to notify his Parole Officer of a change in his residence program at Suffolk County DSS" (id.). The claim alleges that "[o]n or about March 19, 2019, . . . DOCCS placed a detainer on claimant with the State of Florida Department of Corrections," and that claimant "objected and did not consent" to the detainer "multiple times" beginning in April 2019 (id.). The claim alleges that claimant was transferred from the custody of the State of Florida Department of Corrections to DOCCS, and that DOCCS transported claimant in handcuffs via a commercial flight from Florida to New York (see id.). The claim alleges that on September 16, 2019, DOCCS personnel falsely testified at a preliminary hearing at the Suffolk County Jail that claimant had been released as a "walk out" from Franklin CF on October 12, 2018, and that, as a result, "probable cause for the violation was found and claimant was held in custody pending [a] final hearing" (id.). The claim alleges that "[c]laimant was unlawfully imprisoned for twenty-eight days until [Parole Warrant No. 782210] was dismissed by DOCCS on October 7, 2019 and claimant was subsequently released from custody" (id.).
A Parole Board Report from January 2018 attached as an exhibit to defendant's moving papers reflects that DOCCS officials were aware at that time that claimant "ha[d] [a] Florida warrant for false imprisonment" but that "Florida Warrants was contacted and it was confirmed that the State's Attorney will not extradite" (Pack Affirmation, Exhibit B [Parole Board Report, Jan. 2018]). On August 9, 2018, claimant signed a document from DOCCS Inmate Records Coordinator II Ellen Jock indicating that he wished to waive extradition to the State of Florida for "LEON CO. FLORIDA - VOP - CASE# 1303319, DATED 6-10-14" (Coysh Affirmation, Exhibit A [DOCCS Waiver of Extradition, dated Aug. 8, 2018]). That same day, the Franklin County District Attorney filed a Fugitive Information in Franklin County Court alleging that claimant was a fugitive from justice from the State of Florida (see id., Exhibit B [Fugitive Information CPL 570.32, sworn to Aug. 9, 2018]).
On September 17, 2018, claimant appeared in Franklin County Court and executed a Waiver of Extradition "consent[ing] to return to the State of Florida in the custody of the duly authorized agent of said State" (id., Exhibit B [Waiver of Extradition (570.50 CPL) and Securing Order, dated Sept. 17, 2018]). Acting County Court Judge Derek P. Champagne issued a securing order directing, as relevant here, that claimant remain in DOCCS custody "until arrival of the appropriate authorities of the State of Florida" (id.).
On October 22, 2018, Officer Kevin Smith executed an Arrest/Probable Cause Affidavit in Florida indicating that on that day, claimant "was transported to Leon County Detention Facility by Prisoner Transport Services" on a warrant for "VOP/FALSE IMPRISONMENT" (id., Exhibit C [Second Judicial Circuit Arrest/Probable Cause Affidavit, dated Oct. 22, 2018]). The affidavit includes an arrest date of October 22, 2018 (see id.). A DOCCS Violation of Release Report signed by Parole Officer S. McHugh and Senior Parole Officer L. Todd indicated that a warrant was issued on October 26, 2018 charging claimant with violating three of his conditions of release by "fail[ing] to make his arrival report" to the parole office within twenty-four hours of his release from Franklin CF, by "fail[ing] to make his office report on [October 13, 2018] and thereafter as directed," and by "fail[ing] to notify his Parole Officer of a change in his residence program at Suffolk County DSS" (id., Exhibit D [Violation of Release Report]).
At the September 16, 2019 preliminary parole violation hearing, Senior Parole Officer Todd (SPO Todd) testified that claimant violated the conditions of his release by failing to appear at the parole office within twenty-four hours of his release from Franklin CF or to report to DSS "within the expected time frame" for assistance in obtaining placement in a sober house (Pack Affirmation, Exhibit B [Preliminary Hearing Transcript, dated Sept. 16, 2019, pg. 5, lines 3-20]). SPO Todd further testified that Parole Officer (PO) McHugh prepared the parole warrant on October 16, 2018 after determining that claimant was "an absconder of parole supervision" (id. at pg. 5, lines 24-25). SPO Todd testified that it was confirmed on December 10, 2018 that claimant had been arrested in Florida on October 26, 2018, and that "it was determined that the [parole warrant] was still accurate in that [claimant] was an absconder" (id. at pg. 6, lines 5-8).
Claimant testified that prisoners were typically released from incarceration on Thursdays, but that he was released on a Friday because he was being released to a prison transport, and it would not have been possible for him to report to the parole board the next day because the parole office was not open on Saturdays (see id., pg. 7, lines 18-25). Claimant further testified that he left Franklin CF on the prison transport on October 12, 2018, and that he arrived in Florida on October 22, 2018, ten days later, after making stops in Buffalo, Poughkeepsie, Rochester, West Virginia, and Georgia (see id., pg. 8, lines 3-15, pg. 9, lines 14-17).
SPO Todd then testified that PO McHugh had "contacted [Franklin CF] who said they did not have a record of [claimant] being released to a warrant [and] that he was released as a walk out" (id. at pg. 9, line 24 - pg. 10, line 1). SPO Todd further testified that he had also made a telephone call after DOCCS learned that claimant was in custody in Florida because "[w]e wanted to determine if he had in fact been release[d] and we determined that he was" (id. at pg. 10, lines 2-3). SPO Todd testified that "when [he] contacted the facility in Florida the information that was relayed to [him] was that [claimant] was held on a Florida warrant on [October 26, 2018]," and that he was given "[n]o information that [claimant] was held on a warrant prior to that" (id. at pg. 10, lines 4-6, 8-9). Claimant then stated that he had paperwork to prove that he had been picked up at Franklin CF by the prisoner transportation service and taken to Florida and that he was in custody in Leon County, Florida from October 22, 2018 until he was transferred to a state penitentiary in December 2018 (see id. at pg. 10, lines 11-16).
The Preliminary Hearing Officer found at the conclusion of the hearing that DOCCS "ha[d] met the burden of proof" through SPO Todd's testimony that there was probable cause that claimant violated the conditions of his parole and set a final hearing date of October 7, 2019 (id. at pg. 10, lines 21-24; see id., Exhibit C [Preliminary Violation Hearing Decision and Summary, dated Sept. 16, 2019]). However, on October 4, 2019, before the final hearing could take place, claimant's delinquency was cancelled on the basis of "[a]lternatives or information not available at time of DD" (id., Exhibit D [Board Action, dated Oct. 4, 2019]).
In support of its motion, defendant argues that this claim must be dismissed for lack of subject matter jurisdiction because claimant is seeking judicial review of the determination rendered following the preliminary parole violation hearing, which must be brought as a proceeding pursuant to CPLR article 78 in Supreme Court or a habeas corpus proceeding (see Pack Affirmation, ¶ 9). In opposition to the motion, claimant argues that it is not the Hearing Officer's determination that forms the basis of this claim, but rather the "utter failure" of DOCCS "to exercise any sort of reasoned judgment or discretion and the abdication of their duties insofar as it pertains to the issuance and execution of Parole Warrant #762210" (Coysh Affirmation, ¶ 9). Claimant argues that a habeas corpus proceeding cannot be brought because claimant is no longer in custody, and a CPLR article 78 proceeding is not an appropriate remedy "because the underlying warrant was cancelled and has no further negative effect" (id. at ¶ 10). Claimant argues that the Court has subject matter jurisdiction over this claim because DOCCS had actual knowledge that claimant had appeared at an extradition hearing in Franklin County Court and was transferred from Franklin CF directly to the State of Florida (see id. at ¶¶ 11-14).
As framed by the parties, the question of the Court's subject matter jurisdiction over this claim - more specifically, whether this claim must be brought in Supreme Court - centers on whether, as defendant asserts, the claim is based on the Hearing Officer's determination following the preliminary parole violation hearing or, as claimant counters, the claim is based on DOCCS's issuance of a false parole violation warrant. A review of the claim reveals that it asserts causes of action for "unlawful arrest, false imprisonment, and malicious prosecution of claimant" based upon the "intentional, malicious, negligent, careless, reckless and gross negligence" of the State and DOCCS (Claim No. 134149, ¶ 2). The claim alleges that DOCCS "intentionally and/or negligently and/or maliciously lodged" a parole violation warrant against claimant falsely charging him with violating the conditions of his release "without probable cause and with actual and/or constructive notice that claimant had never been released into the community and with actual and/or constructive notice that claimant had been transferred to the custody of Prisoner Transport Services and extradited to the State of Florida" (id. at ¶ 3). The claim further alleges that probable cause was found that claimant committed a parole violation and that claimant continued to be held in custody awaiting a final hearing because of the "intentional and/or negligent and/or malicious false and misleading information DOCCS provided to the Hearing Officer" through the testimony of SPO Todd (id.).(1)
Based on the foregoing, it is clear that the claim is addressed not to the Hearing Officer's determination following the preliminary parole violation hearing that there was probable cause that claimant committed a parole violation, but to the underlying conduct of parole officers that led to the issuance of the parole violation warrant upon which the Hearing Officer's determination was based. This claim alleging false imprisonment and malicious prosecution based on the allegedly false parole violation warrant thus is properly brought against the State in the Court of Claims (see e.g. Forshey v State of New York, 113 AD3d 985 [3d Dept 2014], lv denied 23 NY3d 902  [claim for false imprisonment against the State stemming from arrest and detention on a parole violation warrant]; Green v State of New York, 39 Misc 3d 1239[A], 2013 NY Slip Op 50931[U] [Ct Cl 2013] [claim against the State for false arrest, false imprisonment, and malicious prosecution based on allegations that claimant was imprisoned on parole violation based on misconduct of claimant's parole officer]), and it will not be dismissed for lack of subject matter jurisdiction.(2)
Next, defendant argues that even if the Court did possess jurisdiction over this claim, the Hearing Officer at the preliminary parole violation hearing is entitled to absolute and qualified immunity because the decision to revoke parole is a quasi-judicial determination (see Pack Affirmation, ¶¶ 12-14). Defendant further argues that claimant's causes of action for wrongful arrest and false imprisonment must be dismissed because "[c]laimant was arrested pursuant to a facially valid parole warrant" and was "immediately released" when it was confirmed that he was in the custody of the Florida authorities on October 13, 2018 (id. at ¶ 16). In opposition, claimant argues that defendant's position that the claim must be dismissed because the Parole Hearing Officer is entitled to immunity is misplaced because this claim is predicated on DOCCS's actions in falsely issuing the parole violation warrant against claimant and not on the Hearing Officer's determination following the preliminary parole violation hearing (see id. at ¶¶ 16-18). In any event, claimant argues that DOCCS's actions were not privileged because the parole warrant was not facially valid, and SPO Todd "either intentionally, negligently, or maliciously failed to provide critical information, in its possession, to the Parole Hearing Officer resulting in the continued unlawful detention of the [c]laimant" (id. at ¶ 24 [emphasis in original]). Defendant argues in reply that even if the claim is predicated on the allegedly wrongful actions of the parole officers and not the Hearing Officer, the parole officers are entitled to qualified immunity because they had reasonable cause to believe that claimant had violated the conditions of his parole and that the parole warrant was facially valid and issued in good faith (see Pack Reply Affirmation, ¶¶ 2-6).
As an initial matter, as discussed above, the claim is not predicated on the determination of the Hearing Officer following the preliminary parole violation hearing, but rather on the issuance of the parole violation warrant by DOCCS. Thus, defendant's argument that this claim must be dismissed because the Hearing Officer is entitled to immunity is misplaced, and the claim will not be dismissed on that basis.
As for defendant's contention that the Court must dismiss the causes of action for unlawful arrest and false imprisonment because claimant was arrested pursuant to a facially valid parole violation warrant (see Pack Affirmation, ¶ 16; see also Nastasi v State of New York, 300 NY 473, 474 ; Nazario v State of New York, 75 AD3d 715, 718 [3d Dept 2010], lv denied 15 NY3d 712 ), the Court notes that defendant has not included a copy of the warrant as an exhibit in support of the motion. Although claimant has included a Violation of Release Report as an exhibit to its opposition papers, defendant's failure to include the warrant on this motion precludes the Court from ascertaining its facial validity, and thus the Court declines to dismiss the unlawful arrest and false imprisonment causes of action on that basis (see Sanabria v State of New York, UID No. 2010-038-104 [Ct Cl, DeBow, J., Aug. 3, 2010]).
Turning next to the malicious prosecution cause of action, parole officers are entitled to qualified rather than absolute immunity with respect to the issuance of parole warrants because "a parole officer who recommends the issuance of a revocation warrant is performing an investigatory rather than a prosecutorial function" (Best v State of New York, 264 AD2d 404, 404 [2d Dept 1999]). The Court of Appeals has explained that "[q]ualified immunity does not shield the State from liability where its officials acted in bad faith or without a reasonable basis" (Pietra v State of New York, 71 NY2d 792, 798 ; see Arteaga v State of New York, 72 NY2d 212, 216  [qualified immunity "shield(s) the government except when there is bad faith or the action taken is without a reasonable basis"]).
Here, the documentary evidence submitted by both parties reflects that although a January 2018 parole board report indicated that the State of Florida did not intend to extradite claimant following his incarceration in New York, claimant signed a document provided to him by DOCCS in August 2018 indicating that he intended to waive extradition to Florida, and a fugitive information was filed against him in Franklin County Court. Claimant then appeared in Franklin County Court in September 2018, during his incarceration at Franklin CF, and waived extradition, and a securing order was issued directing that claimant remain in DOCCS custody until the Florida authorities arrived. Claimant was transported by Prisoner Transport Services to the Leon County Detention Facility, where he arrived on October 22, 2018. However, prior to claimant's arrival and re-incarceration in Florida, defendant issued a parole violation warrant charging claimant with violating several conditions of his release to parole.
In the Court's view, the documentary evidence shows that defendant's agents or DOCCS were aware that claimant was to be transported back to the State of Florida on an outstanding warrant following the completion of his term of incarceration in New York. While claimant was in DOCCS custody, he waived extradition, appeared in Franklin County Court, was ordered to remain in DOCCS custody until he could be returned to Florida, and was subsequently picked up from DOCCS custody and transported to Florida, where he arrived on October 22, 2018. Defendant has offered no documentary evidence to support SPO Todd's testimony at the preliminary parole violation hearing that claimant was released from incarceration not to a warrant but as a "walk-out," or to explain why defendant had no record of claimant's transport to Florida directly from Franklin CF upon his release. The Court thus cannot conclude on this record that defendant had a reasonable basis for issuing Parole Warrant No. 762210 against claimant, and the claim will not be dismissed.
Accordingly, it is
ORDERED, that defendant's motion number M-95288 is hereby DENIED.
June 22, 2020
Saratoga Springs, New York
W. BROOKS DeBOW
Judge of the Court of Claims
1. Claim No. 134149, filed December 16, 2019;
2. Notice of Motion to Dismiss, dated February 20, 2020;
3. Affirmation in Support of Lori L. Pack, AAG, dated February 19, 2020, with Exhibits A-D;
4. Affirmation of Danielle Coysh, Esq., in Opposition to Motion to Dismiss, dated May 7, 2020, with Exhibits A-D;
5. Reply Affirmation of Lori L. Pack, AAG, dated May 14, 2020.
1. The claim also alleges causes of action against the State and DOCCS for negligent investigation and negligent hiring, training, and supervision (see Claim No. 134149, ¶ 3).
2. Moreover, as claimant correctly argues, a habeas corpus proceeding is not available here inasmuch as claimant's delinquency was cancelled and he was released from custody on October 4, 2019 (see People ex rel. McAdoo v Taylor, 31 AD3d 847, 848 [3d Dept 2006] [habeas corpus proceeding dismissed as moot where petitioner was released from custody during pendency of the proceeding]), and a CPLR article 78 proceeding is not an appropriate remedy inasmuch as claimant's delinquency was cancelled on October 4, 2019 (see Matter of McCants v Travis, 291 AD2d 594, 596 [3d Dept 2002] ["the cancellation of (petitioner's) delinquency without any final determination that he violated his parole afforded petitioner all the relief to which he is entitled and he is no longer aggrieved in any respect"]).