New York State Court of Claims

New York State Court of Claims
ANDERSON v. STATE OF NEW YORK, # 2020-038-553, Claim No. 131617, Motion No. M-95521

Synopsis

Case information

UID: 2020-038-553
Claimant(s): TERRANCE ANDERSON #00-B-1000
Claimant short name: ANDERSON
Footnote (claimant name) :
Defendant(s): STATE OF NEW YORK
Footnote (defendant name) :
Third-party claimant(s):
Third-party defendant(s):
Claim number(s): 131617
Motion number(s): M-95521
Cross-motion number(s):
Judge: W. BROOKS DeBOW
Claimant's attorney: TERRANCE ANDERSON, Pro se
Defendant's attorney: LETITIA JAMES, Attorney General
of the State of New York
By: Elizabeth A. Gavin, Assistant Attorney General
Third-party defendant's attorney:
Signature date: September 11, 2020
City: Saratoga Springs
Comments:
Official citation:
Appellate results:
See also (multicaptioned case)

Decision

Claimant, an individual currently incarcerated in a State correctional facility, filed this claim seeking compensation for an allegedly wrongful confinement at Green Haven Correctional Facility (CF) between August 23, 2016 and March 2, 2017. Claimant now moves for summary judgment on the claim. Defendant opposes the motion.

The claim alleges that claimant was confined to his cell on keeplock status on August 23, 2016 and charged in an Inmate Misbehavior Report (IMR) authored by Correction Officer (CO) Keith with violating the disciplinary rule prohibiting the use of controlled substances after two positive urinalysis tests (see Claim No. 131617, 4-5). The claim alleges that at the ensuing Tier III disciplinary hearing, Hearing Officer (HO) Reid denied claimant's request to call as a witness CO Fabby, who had obtained claimant's urine sample (see id. at 6). The claim alleges that CO Fabby "was a material witness," whose testimony would have established that CO Fabby "took the urine sample and not [CO] Keith who authored the [IMR]" and that HO Reid "failed to establish a valid reason or basis for testing petitioner" (id. at 6-7). The claim further alleges that HO Reid violated claimant's right to present evidence on his own behalf by failing to call medical personnel as witnesses to provide evidence as to what medications claimant was taking at the time of the urinalysis test that could have caused a false positive result (see id. at 8-9).(1) The claim alleges that as a result of these errors, HO Reid "failed to conduct the hearing in a fair and impartial manner . . . . which resulted in claimant'[s] wrongful [keeplock] confinement" for 210 days and seeks damages in the amount of $200 for each day of the confinement (id. at 10).

Claimant avers in his affidavit in support of the motion that he commenced a proceeding pursuant to CPLR article 78 in Supreme Court, Albany County, challenging HO Reid's determination, which was transferred to the Appellate Division, Third Department, for a substantial evidence review (see Anderson Affidavit, 6-16). Claimant avers that on May 2, 2018, the Attorney General "conceded to the facts and law of the case, by causing the Director of Special Housing Unit/Inmate Disciplinary Program to rescind and issue another administrative review of the . . . [disciplinary] disposition and penalty rendered against claimant expunging the same from [his] administrative record" (id. at 18).(2) Claimant avers that on May 21, 2018, the Attorney General sent correspondence to the Appellate Division, Third Department "formally conceding on the record of the unwillingness to file an opposing brief because of the subsequent administrative reversal causing the case to be "moot" (id. at 19 [emphasis in original]).(3) Finally, claimant avers that on September 20, 2018, the Appellate Division issued a memorandum and judgment in claimant's favor (see id. at 20).(4)

Claimant argues, based on the foregoing, that he is now entitled to summary judgment on this claim on the ground that "defendant is administratively collaterally estopped to defend against their own judicial admissions in [the] previous special proceeding brought under Article 78" (Memorandum of Points and Authorities, pg. 3 [Statement of Law]). Claimant argues that because the Attorney General caused the disciplinary determination to be reversed in connection with the prior CPLR article 78 proceeding, its answer containing denials of certain allegations in the claim and asserting various defenses lacks merit (see id. at pp. 4-5). Claimant further argues that he is entitled to summary judgment on the claim based on the doctrine of collateral estoppel inasmuch as the Attorney General "was representing the defendant in the previous special proceeding and the issue of liability was conceded to therein with the Assistant Attorney General providing written admissions to the Appellate Division and the claimant for the record" (id. at pg. 5), and that claimant has thus "established a complete bar to defendant's Answer" and is therefore entitled to summary judgment on the claim (id. at pg. 6).

Defendant opposes the motion for summary judgment on the ground that claimant has failed to make out a prima facie case for wrongful confinement inasmuch as he has not shown that the confinement was not privileged (see Gavin Affirmation, 6-8). Defendant further argues that claimant is not entitled to summary judgment on this claim based on the dismissal of his prior CPLR article 78 proceeding because, contrary to claimant's assertions, defendant's position that the proceeding was moot based on the reversal and expungement of the subject disciplinary determination was not a concession that claimant's due process rights were violated, and the dismissal of that proceeding by the Appellate Division, Third Department, on mootness grounds "simply confirm[ed] that . . . claimant received all the relief that he was seeking in his [CPLR] Article 78 proceeding" and contained no substantive rulings (id. at 11). Defendant argues that the "substantive issue of fact" still remains "as to whether the defendant violated claimant's due process rights in the course of [the disciplinary] hearing," and that "claimant has not established that without a due process violation, the outcome of the hearing would have been different," which is "a necessary determination of fact" precluding summary judgment (id. at 11-12).(5)

It is well settled that a "party moving for summary judgment must make a prima facie showing of entitlement to judgment as a matter of law, producing sufficient evidence to demonstrate the absence of any material issue of fact" (Giuffrida v Citibank Corp., 100 NY2d 72, 81 [2003]; see Arias v State of New York, 195 Misc 2d 64, 65 [Ct Cl 2003]). The evidence must be submitted in admissible form and must establish the movant's right to judgment as a matter of law (see Alvarez v Prospect Hosp., 68 NY2d 320, 324 [1986]; Friends of Animals v Associated Fur Mfrs., 46 NY2d 1065, 1067 [1979]). If the movant establishes prima facie entitlement to summary judgment, the burden shifts to the opponent of the motion to establish, by admissible proof, the existence of genuine issues of material fact (Alvarez v Prospect Hosp., 68 NY2d at 324; Zuckerman v City of New York, 49 NY2d 557, 562 [1980]). However, when a movant fails to demonstrate its entitlement to summary judgment as a matter of law in the first instance, the burden does not shift to the opponent, and the motion must be denied (see Winegrad v New York Univ. Med. Ctr., 64 NY2d 851, 853 [1985]; Tiano v Lane, 260 AD2d 908, 908 [3d Dept 1999]).

A movant in a wrongful confinement claim must establish prima facie the elements of that cause of action, namely, that defendant intentionally confined claimant, that claimant was aware of and did not consent to the confinement, and that the confinement was not privileged (see Martinez v City of Schenectady, 97 NY2d 78, 85 [2001]; Broughton v State of New York, 37 NY2d 451, 456-457 [1975], cert denied sub nom. Schanbarger v Kellogg 423 US 929 [1975]; see also Nazario v State of New York, 75 AD3d 715, 718 [3d Dept 2010], lv denied 15 NY3d 712 [2010]). The confinement of an inmate is privileged if it was accomplished in accordance with DOCCS regulations (see Lee v State of New York, 124 AD2d 305, 307 [3d Dept 1986]; Gittens v State of New York, 132 Misc 2d 399, 402 [Ct Cl 1986]), or where there has not been a violation of an inmate's right to due process (see Arteaga v State of New York, 72 NY2d 212, 221 [1988]). In the context of the prison disciplinary process, the doctrine of absolute immunity provides that where defendant's "employees act under the authority of and in full compliance with the governing statutes and regulations (Correction Law  112, 137; 7 NYCRR parts 250-254), their actions constitute discretionary conduct of a quasi-judicial nature for which the State has absolute immunity" (Arteaga , 72 NY2d at 214). Thus, "unless the [correctional] employees exceed the scope of their authority or violate the governing statutes and regulations [relating to the prison disciplinary process], the State has absolute immunity for those actions" (Holloway v State of New York, 285 AD2d 765, 765 [3d Dept 2001]). Not all violations of DOCCS rules governing the disciplinary process will result in the abrogation of the State's absolute immunity, only those that violate an inmate's right to due process (see Arteaga, 72 NY2d at 221).

Claimant's sole argument is that he is entitled to summary judgment based on the dismissal of his previous CPLR article 78 proceeding, which challenged the disciplinary determination that led to the allegedly wrongful confinement that is the subject of this claim. In that proceeding, the Attorney General took the position that the CPLR article 78 proceeding was moot due to the administrative reversal of the disciplinary determination, and the Appellate Division concurred, dismissing the petition on mootness grounds. However, the administrative reversal itself is not sufficient to defeat defendant's immunity in the absence of a showing that defendant violated its own rules and regulations in the course of the disciplinary hearing or some other due process violation (see Myles v State of New York, UID No. 2019-044-560 [Ct Cl, Schaewe, J., Aug. 12, 2019]; Boula v State of New York, UID No. 2019-041-025 [Ct Cl, Milano, J., May 9, 2019 ["Quasi-judicial immunity attaches even if the determination is later reversed administratively"]), and claimant has made no such showing in connection with this motion. The exhibits attached to claimant's motion reflect that the Attorney General gave no reason for the administrative reversal and expungement of the disciplinary determination in its submission in response to the CPLR article 78 proceeding (see Anderson Memorandum, Exhibit D [Mastracco Correspondence, dated May 21, 2018]), nor did the Appellate Division state the reason for the administrative reversal in its Memorandum and Judgment dismissing the CPLR article 78 petition as moot (see id. [Matter of Anderson v Annucci, Case No. 525799, entered Sept. 20, 2018]). Claimant has failed to otherwise establish that the administrative reversal of the disciplinary determination imposing the allegedly wrongful confinement was due to a violation of DOCCS's rules and regulations or any other due process violation, and therefore he has not satisfied his prima facie burden on this summary judgment motion.

Inasmuch as claimant has failed to establish that defendant's agents reversed HO Reid's determination due to a violation of claimant's due process rights or a violation of DOCCS rules implicating due process, and as claimant has otherwise failed to address the elements of the cause of action for wrongful confinement, he has not demonstrated that he is entitled to summary judgment on the claim. Thus, his motion must be denied.

Accordingly, it is

ORDERED, that claimant's motion number M-95521 is DENIED.

September 11, 2020

Saratoga Springs, New York

W. BROOKS DeBOW

Judge of the Court of Claims

Papers considered:

1. Claim No. 131617, filed June 20, 2018;

2. Verified Answer, filed August 9, 2018;

3. Notice of Motion for Summary Judgment, sworn to March 18, 2020;

4. Affidavit of Terrance Anderson Submitted in Support of Motion for Summary Judgment, sworn to March 18, 2020;

5. Statement of Undisputed Material Fact, sworn to March 18, 2020;

6. Memorandum of Points and Authorities, sworn to March 18, 2020, with Exhibits A-D;

7. Affirmation of Elizabeth A. Gavin, AAG, in Opposition to Motion for Summary Judgment, dated July 30, 2020, with Exhibits A-D.


1. According to the claim, it was claimant's position at the disciplinary hearing that he had been improperly subjected to the urinalysis testing in retaliation for a grievance had filed against Superintendent Thomas Griffin (see Claim No. 131617, 7).

2. Claimant appends to his submission a determination by D. Venettozzi, the Director of the DOCCS Inmate Disciplinary Program, that administratively reversed HO Reid's determination on May 2, 2018 (see Anderson Affidavit, Exhibit D [Review of Superintendent's Hearing]).

3. Attached to claimant's submission is correspondence from Supervising Assistant Solicitor General Marcus J. Mastracco to the Clerk of the Appellate Division, Third Department, stating that the determination at issue was administratively reversed and expunged from claimant's disciplinary record and that the $5.00 surcharge had been returned to claimant, and requesting that the "[CPLR article 78] proceeding be dismissed as moot, as [claimant] has been granted all the relief to which he is entitled" (Anderson Affidavit, Exhibit D [Mastracco Correspondence, dated May 21, 2018]).

4. The Appellate Division, Third Department dismissed claimant's petition as moot inasmuch as he had "been granted all the relief to which is entitled" (Anderson Affidavit, Exhibit D [Matter of Anderson v Annucci, Case No. 525799, entered Sept. 20, 2018, at pg. 2]).

5. Defendant also argues that the motion for summary judgment must be denied because the documentary evidence submitted in support of claimant's motion is not in admissible form (see Gavin Affirmation, 9). However, defendant fails to specify why the documents are not inadmissible form, and thus, the motion will not be denied on that basis.