New York State Court of Claims

New York State Court of Claims
HENDERSON v. THE STATE OF NEW YORK, # 2021-015-072, Claim No. 135928, Motion No. M-96862

Synopsis

Claimant's motion for summary judgment on his wrongful confinement claim arising from the conduct of a disciplinary hearing was denied where he failed to establish that the outcome of the hearing would have been different without the alleged due process violation.

Case information

UID: 2021-015-072
Claimant(s): MICHAEL JOSHUA HENDERSON
Claimant short name: HENDERSON
Footnote (claimant name) :
Defendant(s): THE STATE OF NEW YORK
Footnote (defendant name) :
Third-party claimant(s):
Third-party defendant(s):
Claim number(s): 135928
Motion number(s): M-96862
Cross-motion number(s):
Judge: FRANCIS T. COLLINS
Claimant's attorney: Michael Joshua Henderson, Pro Se
Defendant's attorney: Honorable Letitia James, Attorney General
By: Douglas R. Kemp, Esq., Assistant Attorney General
Third-party defendant's attorney:
Signature date: July 20, 2021
City: Saratoga Springs
Comments:
Official citation:
Appellate results:
See also (multicaptioned case)

Decision

Claimant, proceeding pro se, moves for summary judgment 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 certain disciplinary rules, and a 30-day penalty of "keeplock" confinement (confinement to his cell) was imposed, together with the loss of certain privileges (Claim, 2). Claimant alleges in both the claim and his affidavit submitted in support of the motion that the Hearing Officer's denial of his request to call his mental health clinicians as witnesses to testify on his behalf constituted a violation of one of the due process safeguards contained in 7 NYCRR parts 252 through 254. Specifically, claimant alleges that his mental health was compromised at the time of the underlying incident and thus, in accordance with 7 NYCRR 254.6 (f), his mental condition should have been considered in determining the appropriate penalty to be imposed.

The law is settled that 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]; Ramirez v State of New York; 175 AD3d 1635, 1636 [3d Dept 2019], lv denied 35 NY3d 902 [2020]; Miller v State of New York, 156 AD3d 1067 [3d Dept 2017]; 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]). The Court of Appeals in Arteaga (72 NY2d at 221), however, made clear that the State is not immune from liability for a violation of due process safeguards embodied in one of the rules or regulations governing the conduct of prison disciplinary hearings (see 7 NYCRR parts 252-254 ).

Here, even if it is assumed that an error in the conduct of the hearing constituted a violation of one of the due process safeguards contained in the governing regulations, claimant failed to make a prima facie showing of his entitlement to judgment as a matter of law (Zuckerman v City of New York, 49 NY2d 557 [1980]). A due process violation " 'merely remove[s] the cloak of absolute immunity and make[s] the State potentially liable, if liability would be imposed under common law tort principles' " (Moustakos v State of New York, 133 AD3d 1268, 1269 [4th Dept 2015], quoting Kilpatrick v State of New York, Ct Cl, Dec. 2001, Patti, J., claim No. 100462, UID No. 2001-013-031).

Under common law tort principles, a cause of action for wrongful confinement is established upon proof of the following elements: "(1) that the defendant intended to confine [claimant], (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 NY 929 [1975]; see also Moustakos, 133 AD3d at1269; Gittens v State of New York, 132 Misc 2d 399, 406 [Ct Cl 1986]). While there is no dispute as to the first three elements, claimant failed to establish in support of the motion that the confinement was not privileged because there is no evidence that the outcome of the hearing would have been different had the claimant been permitted to call the witnesses that he alleges were erroneously denied (see Bottom v State of New York, 142 AD3d 1314 [4th Dept 2016], appeal dismissed 28 NY3d 1177 [2017]; Moustakas, 133 AD3d at 1270; see also Watson v State of New York, 125 AD3d 1064 [3d Dept 2015]).

With respect to claimant's proposed witnesses' testimony regarding his mental health, the applicable rule, 7 NYCRR 254.6 (f), permits consideration of an inmate's "mental condition . . . at the time of the incident, if at issue in accordance with [ 254.6 (b) (1) or (2)]." Claimant asserts that his mental condition was at issue in accordance with 254.6 (b) (1) (i) because he has been diagnosed with Schizophrenia or Schizoaffective Disorder, which is classified as a level 1 disorder by the Office of Mental Health (see claimant's Exhibit E). The purpose for requiring consideration of an inmate's mental condition is to determine whether a reduction in the penalty or dismissal of the charges would be appropriate under the circumstances (see 7 NYCRR 254.6 [f]). Here, claimant failed to demonstrate that either a penalty reduction or dismissal of the charges would have resulted had his mental condition been considered and, thus, failed to demonstrate that his confinement was not privileged. As a result, claimant failed to meet his burden of demonstrating his prima facie entitlement to judgment as a matter of law.

Accordingly, claimant's motion is denied.

July 20, 2021

Saratoga Springs, New York

FRANCIS T. COLLINS

Judge of the Court of Claims

Papers Considered:

1. Notice of Motion dated filed June 3, 2021;

2. Affidavit in Support sworn to May 28, 2021, with Exhibits A and B;

3. Affirmation in opposition dated June 29, 2021, with Exhibits A and B.