New York State Court of Claims

New York State Court of Claims
HINDS v. STATE OF NEW YORK, # 2021-032-053, Claim No. 133008, Motion No. M-96302

Synopsis

Defendant's motion for summary judgment granted. Defendant established that it did not intent to confine claimant, who was held for four days in facilities operated by the New York City Department of Corrections.

Case information

UID: 2021-032-053
Claimant(s): CHRISTOPHER HINDS
Claimant short name: HINDS
Footnote (claimant name) :
Defendant(s): STATE OF NEW YORK
Footnote (defendant name) :
Third-party claimant(s):
Third-party defendant(s):
Claim number(s): 133008
Motion number(s): M-96302
Cross-motion number(s):
Judge: JUDITH A. HARD
Claimant's attorney: The Law Office of Rene Myatt
By: Rene Myatt, Esq.
Defendant's attorney: Hon. Letitia James, Attorney General
By: Felice V. Torres, AAG
Third-party defendant's attorney:
Signature date: June 25, 2021
City: Albany
Comments:
Official citation:
Appellate results:
See also (multicaptioned case)

Decision

The instant claim was filed on April 29, 2019 seeking damages for injuries sustained as the result of claimant's allegedly wrongful confinement. Defendant now moves for summary judgment. Claimant opposes the motion.

The claim alleges that in 2014 claimant was convicted of robbery in the second degree and sentenced to four and a half years incarceration and five years of postrelease supervision. Claimant was released from incarceration on November 29, 2017. In April 2018, the Appellate Division reversed claimant's conviction and remanded his case to Queens Supreme Court for a new trial. On November 27, 2018, claimant pleaded guilty to robbery in the second degree. On January 25, 2019, claimant was sentenced to three and a half years incarceration and two and a half years of postrelease supervision -- a sentence agreed to by both claimant and the prosecution prior to his sentencing.

Although claimant had already satisfied a prison term of 4 and a half years, claimant was taken into custody by the New York City Department of Corrections (NYC DOC) after his sentencing on January 25, 2019. Claimant's defense attorney, Christopher Healy, expected the NYC DOC to complete some administrative processing and release claimant later that same afternoon. Claimant was not released that date, prompting Healy to call the NYC DOC. The NYC DOC informed Healy that the New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision (DOCCS) needed to take claimant into its custody and process his sentence before his release.

On January 29, 2019, Healy requested that claimant's sentencing judge issue a cut slip to the NYC DOC to have claimant released. The judge issued the cut slip and claimant was released from the NYC DOC's custody on January 29, 2019.

The claim seeks damages for claimant's wrongful confinement from January 25, 2019 through January 29, 2019 (Exhibit A).

FACTS

Claimant testified at an examination before trial that during the time he was incarcerated after sentencing, he was first held at Vernon C. Bain Correctional Center and then subsequently moved to Riker's Island (Exhibit C, p. 38).

Diana Holford, a Sentencing Review Coordinator in the Office of Sentencing Review for the DOCCS (Exhibit E, p. 8), testified at an an examination before trial that her review of claimant's file revealed that the NYC DOC had physical custody of claimant in January 2019 and there is no record of the State having custody of claimant during that year (id. at 26).

Holford testified that either the Inmate Records Office at a correctional facility or the Office of Sentencing Review is responsible for recalculating an inmate's time (Exhibit E, p. 16). The State would be responsible for recalculating claimant's sentence because it is more than 1 year in length (id. at 17). She testified that "[i]n order for us to do the calculation, we would have to have the resentence commitment from the court" (id. at 18). She further testified that, under Criminal Procedure Law (CPL) 430.20, claimant did not need to be returned to custody in order for the State to perform a recalculation (id. at 18-19). Instead, section 430.20 "allows for the judge at sentencing to [s]tate that [claimant's] supervision should be continued or restarted and then that commitment would come up to us and we would recalculate his dates and . . . notify the community supervision part of our department . . ." (id. at 19). If claimant's attorney or another person involved with claimant's case had contacted the Office of Sentencing Review prior to claimant's sentencing, Holford or someone in her office could have sent a document to the judge explaining that claimant could be released pursuant to CPL 430.20, which is the usual procedure followed in claimant's circumstances (id. at 20-21). She testified that, in her experience, the inmate's attorney is "always" the one to contact her office for such a document (id. at 31). She could not recall any time that someone from the NYC DOC or a judge called her office for the CPL 430.20 resentencing document (id.). When such a document is requested from her office, it is handled expeditiously, usually the same day of the request (id. at 32-33). Without such a letter, claimant would need to be returned to custody to await his resentencing calculation (id. at 21). Holford's office did not receive a certified copy of the resentence commitment until sometime in February 2019, at which time a recalculation of claimant's sentence was performed (id. at 25-26).

Christopher Healy is an attorney for the Legal Aid Society and represented claimant during his resentencing on January 25, 2019 (Exhibit G, p. 7 [Transcript of the Examination Before Trial of Christopher Healy]). At the resentencing, Healy requested that claimant remain in the courtroom while the NYC DOC performed claimant's resentencing calculation (id. at 9-10). The judge left the courtroom to inquire of the NYC DOC whether claimant could remain in the courtroom. He then returned and informed Healy and claimant that the NYC DOC required claimant to be taken into custody and that he would be released later that day (id.). As of Sunday, January 27, 2019, Healy saw on the NYC DOC's website that claimant was still in custody (id. at 11-12). On Monday, January 28, 2019, Healy spoke with an officer at the NYC DOC who told him that claimant was being held for the DOCCS and that the DOCCS would need to recalculate claimant's sentence (id. at 12). Healy contacted the resentencing judge on January 29, 2019 and the judge issued a cut slip that same day (id. at 13).

LAW AND DISCUSSION

Summary judgment is a drastic remedy which should not be granted unless it is clear that there are no triable issues of fact (Andre v Pomeroy, 35 NY2d 361, 364 [1974]). The Court's function on a motion for summary judgment is not to resolve issues of fact, but to determine whether issues of fact exist (see Barr v County of Albany, 50 NY2d 247, 254 [1980]). The proponent of a motion for summary judgment must establish a prima facie entitlement to judgment as a matter of law, tendering sufficient evidence to demonstrate the absence of any material issues of fact (Alvarez v Prospect Hosp., 68 NY2d 320, 324 [1986]). Once the proponent of a motion for summary judgment has set forth such a prima facie entitlement to judgment as a matter of law, the burden shifts to the opponent of the motion to produce evidentiary proof, in admissible form, sufficient to establish the existence of material issues of fact which require a trial of the action (id.; Winegrad New York Univ. Med. Ctr., 64 NY2d 851, 853 [1985]; Zuckerman v City of New York, 49 NY2d 557, 562 [1980]). In determining a motion for summary judgment, the Court must examine the proof in the light most favorable to the party opposing the motion (Robinson v Strong Mem. Hosp., 98 AD2d 976, 976 [4th Dept. 1983]). A motion for summary judgment shall be supported by affidavit, by a copy of the pleadings and by other available proof, such as depositions and written admissions (CPLR 3212 [b]). Failure to make a prima facie showing requires denial of summary judgment, regardless of the sufficiency of the opposing papers (Winegrad v New York Univ. Med. Ctr., 64 NY2d at 853).

To establish a claim of wrongful confinement, "claimant [is] required to show that (1) defendant intended to confine him, (2) he was conscious of the confinement, (3) he did not consent to the confinement, and (4) such confinement was not otherwise privileged" (Cass v State of New York, 134 AD3d 1207, 1208 [3d Dept. 2015], lv dismissed 27 NY3d 972 [2016] [internal quotation marks and citations omitted]; accord Miller v State of New York, 124 AD3d 997, 998 [3d Dept. 2015]).

Here, defendant has established that the State did not intend to confine claimant. The record establishes that claimant was held in New York City, not State facilities, from January 25, 2019 through January 29, 2019 (Exhibit C, p. 38). It is well-settled that the Court of Claims lacks jurisdiction over the City of New York and its agencies and employees (DeSouza v Support Collection Unit, Child Support, UID No. 2012-040-087 [Ct Cl, McCarthy, J., Oct. 25, 2012]; Lyons v State of New York, UID No. 2004-030-904 [Ct Cl, Scuccimarra, J., Feb. 18, 2004]).(1) Claimant has not submitted any evidence to establish that the State intended to confine claimant after his resentencing, or any document establishing that the State ordered claimant's confinement. Moreover, Holford testified that the State cannot recalculate an inmate's sentence until they receive a resentence commitment from the Court (Exhibit E, p. 18).

Claimant attempts to rely on Healy's testimony that an unnamed correction officer from the NYC DOC told him that claimant was being held for DOCCS (Exhibit G, p. 12), to establish a question of fact. Defendant argues that the Court cannot rely on such a statement as it constitutes inadmissible hearsay. "Out-of-court statements offered for the truth of the matters they assert are hearsay and may be received in evidence only if they fall within one of the recognized exceptions to the hearsay rule, and then only if the proponent demonstrates that the evidence is reliable" (Bank of New York Mellon v Gordon, 171 AD3d 197, 202 [2d Dept. 2019] [citations omitted]). Here, the statement of the unnamed correction officer clearly constitutes hearsay and therefore cannot be relied upon by claimant to establish a question of fact. However, even if the Court considered the statement, claimant failed to establish that the unnamed correction officer had personal knowledge of the specific circumstances of claimant's case, nor did claimant provide the Court with any documentary evidence establishing that the State ordered claimant's confinement.

Based upon the foregoing, defendant's motion for summary judgment (M-96302) is granted. Claim number 133008 is dismissed.

June 25, 2021

Albany, New York

JUDITH A. HARD

Judge of the Court of Claims

Papers Considered:

1. Notice of Motion, dated December 17, 2020; and Affirmation in Support, affirmed by Felice V. Torres, AAG on December 17, 2020, with Exhibits A through G annexed thereto.

2. Affirmation in Opposition, affirmed by Rene Myatt, Esq. on January 25, 2021, with Exhibit A annexed thereto.

3. Reply Affirmation, affirmed by Felice V. Torres, AAG on January 27, 2021.

1. Unpublished decisions and selected orders of the Court of Claims are available at http://vertumnus.courts.state.ny.us/claims/maclaw.html.