New York State Court of Claims

New York State Court of Claims
BEST v. THE STATE OF NEW YORK, # 2021-038-547, Claim No. 134651, Motion No. M-96884

Synopsis

Claimant's motion to renew/reargue denied. Claimant failed to demonstrate that the Court overlooked or misapprehended any matter of fact or law, or any new facts or change in the law, with respect to the Court's previous Decision and Order granting defendant's cross motion to dismiss the claim.

Case information

UID: 2021-038-547
Claimant(s): TIMOTHY BEST
Claimant short name: BEST
Footnote (claimant name) :
Defendant(s): THE STATE OF NEW YORK
Footnote (defendant name) :
Third-party claimant(s):
Third-party defendant(s):
Claim number(s): 134651
Motion number(s): M-96884
Cross-motion number(s):
Judge: W. BROOKS DeBOW
Claimant's attorney: TIMOTHY BEST, Pro se
Defendant's attorney: LETITIA JAMES, Attorney General
of the State of New York
By: Anthony Rotondi, Assistant Attorney General
Third-party defendant's attorney:
Signature date: August 2, 2021
City: Saratoga Springs
Comments:
Official citation:
Appellate results:
See also (multicaptioned case)

Decision

Claimant, an individual formerly incarcerated in a State correctional facility, filed this claim alleging violations of his rights under the New York State Constitution and Correction Law 24 when defendant's employees failed to grant him conditional release from his incarceration at the Ulster County Jail.(1) By Decision and Order dated December 22, 2020 and filed January 4, 2021, the Court granted defendant's cross motion to dismiss the claim, holding that the Court lacked jurisdiction over the claim insofar as it alleged violations of claimant's rights under the federal constitution, that the claim failed to comply with the substantive pleading requirements of Court of Claims Act 11 (b), and that defendant was immune from liability with respect to the causes of action sounding in negligence and state constitutional tort (see Best v State of New York, UID No. 2020-038-589 [Ct Cl, DeBow, J., Dec.2 2, 2020]). Claimant now moves to renew and reargue the Court's December 22, 2020 Decision and Order. Defendant opposes the motion, which will be denied for the reasons that follow.

The claim alleged that claimant was deprived of his "rights to life and liberty without the due process of law and . . . to equal protection of law" under the New York State Constitution and that his rights under Correction Law 24 were violated when defendant's agents - namely, Department of Corrections and Community Supervision (DOCCS) Acting Commissioner Anthony J. Annucci and "Ms. Taylor Vogt Internal Operations" - "enforc[ed] a local conditional release program that allow[ed] the release of felon[y] inmates and no release of misdemeanor inmates" such as claimant (Best Affidavit, attachments [Claim No. 134651, 2]). The claim alleged that claimant "applied for but never recieved [sic] or was considered for local conditional release because [he] was [a] misdemeanor offender rather than a felony offender" (id.). The claim alleges that as a result, claimant "was forced to complete 160 days of incarceration" at the Ulster County Jail (id. at 5).

As noted above, the Court granted defendant's cross motion to dismiss the claim, holding in its Decision and Order that it lacked jurisdiction over any federal constitutional causes of action asserted in the claim (see Best, supra at pg. 3), that the claim was jurisdictionally defective inasmuch as it failed to allege the time when the claim arose, as required by Court of Claims Act 11 (b) (see id. at pp. 5-6), and that with respect to the causes of action for negligence and state constitutional tort, defendant was immune from liability in denying claimant's application for conditional release because the decision required the exercise of discretion (see id. at pp. 6-8).

Claimant now moves for leave to renew and reargue the prior cross motion, arguing that "[t]he Court overlooked the fact that it made its decision based on its opinion ONLY and with no law of evidence" and that he "was counting on the Court to allow [his] claim to continue," which "would have given [him] time to investigate the fact that defendant[] and . . . DOCCS . . . ONLY release felonies [sic] offenders rather than misdemeanor offenders" on local conditional release from the Ulster County Jail (Best Affidavit, 4, 6 [emphasis in original]). Claimant further argues that the Court "fail[ed] to know and/or review Ulster County Jail records," which would have shown "that there has been no inmate at Ulster County Jail who has been released on . . . local conditional release," that the Court did not allow claimant the opportunity "to bring such evidence during discoveries [sic]," and that the Court had no evidence when it issued its December 22, 2020 Decision and Order that defendant was not engaging in a pattern of releasing only felony inmates and not misdemeanor inmates from the Ulster County Jail on local conditional release (id. at 7). Claimant argues that "defendants cannot be entitled to immunity for discretionary decisions when defendants have . . . made no efforts to act in a discretionary fashion" (id. at 8). Claimant further argues that because defendant "had time to investigate this matter" and is "familiar with the facts and circumstances" of this claim, it should be aware of the accrual date stated in the claim and his motion for a default judgment (id. at 10; see id. at 12).

Defendant argues in opposition that the motion must be denied because claimant has failed to meet his burden with respect to a motion for leave to reargue or for leave to renew as set forth in the CPLR. Specifically, defendant argues that, to the extent the motion seeks leave to reargue, claimant has "failed to demonstrate that the Court overlooked or misapprehended matters of fact or misapplied existing law" and "merely reiterates his arguments in the prior motion" (Rotondi Affirmation, 5), and that, to the extent the motion seeks leave to renew, claimant "has not presented new facts not offered on the prior motion or a change in the law that would change the prior determination" (id. at 6).

Turning first to that branch of claimant's motion that seeks leave to reargue, the CPLR provides that "[a] motion for leave to reargue . . . shall be based upon matters of fact or law allegedly overlooked or misapprehended by the court in determining the prior motion, but shall not include any matters of fact not offered on the prior motion" (CPLR 2221 [d] [2]). Claimant's argument that the Court based its decision "on its opinion ONLY" (Best Affidavit, 4 [emphasis in original]), is not a matter of fact or law that was overlooked and, in any event, it is clear from the face of the December 22, 2020 Decision and Order that the Court relied on the relevant statutory and case law, the parties' written submissions, and the exhibits appended thereto, including the claim itself and a December 18, 2019 letter from Taylor Vogt of DOCCS Internal Operations. Claimant's additional argument that he would have had the opportunity to investigate his claim that misdemeanor offenders are never granted conditional release from the Ulster County Jail had the Court not dismissed his claim does not constitute a matter of fact or law that the Court overlooked or misapprehended. Likewise, claimant's argument that the Court failed to review the Ulster County Jail records "to know that there has been no inmate at Ulster County Jail who has been released on the false claims of local conditional release" (Best Affidavit, 7) is unavailing inasmuch as no such evidence was before the Court when it rendered its Decision and Order granting defendant's cross motion to dismiss, as claimant readily concedes (see id. [arguing that the Court did not give claimant "the chance to bring such evidence during discoveries (sic)"]). Finally, to the extent claimant argues that he included an accrual date in his claim (see id. at 10), the Court did not overlook that fact, and indeed concluded that despite the fact that an accrual date was alleged in the claim, claimant had failed to allege the time when the claim arose, as required by Court of Claims Act 11 (b) (see Best, supra at pg. 5-6). In sum, claimant has failed to demonstrate any matter of fact or law that the Court overlooked or misapprehended in rendering its December 22, 2020 Decision and Order, and his motion for reargument must be denied.

Turning next to that branch of the motion that seeks leave to renew, a motion for leave to renew "shall be based upon new facts not offered on the prior motion that would change the prior determination or shall demonstrate that there has been a change in the law that would change the prior determination" (CPLR 2221 [e] [2]), and it must also "contain reasonable justification for the failure to present such facts on the prior motion" (CPLR 2221 [e] [3]). Here, claimant has failed to allege any change in the law that would alter the Court's December 22, 2020 Decision and Order, and to the extent claimant argues that the Court's dismissal of his claim prevented him from investigating his allegation that the Ulster County Jail does not grant misdemeanor inmates local conditional release and that the Court failed to review the Ulster County Jail records on the prior motion, as discussed above, those arguments do not present any new facts not offered on the prior motion. Moreover, even if claimant had presented new facts not offered in connection with the previous motion, he has wholly failed to provide a reasonable justification for his failure to present those facts on the prior motion, as required by the CPLR. For the foregoing reasons, claimant's motion for renewal must be denied.

Accordingly, it is

ORDERED, that claimant's motion number M-96884 is hereby DENIED.

August 2, 2021

Saratoga Springs , New York

W. BROOKS DeBOW

Judge of the Court of Claims

Papers considered:

1. Notice of Motion to Reargue and Renew, dated May 12, 2021;

2. Affidavit of Timothy Best in Support of Claimant's Notice of Motion to Reargue and Renew, sworn to May 12, 2021, with attachments;

3. Affirmation of Anthony Rotondi, AAG, in Opposition to Motion to Reargue and Renew, dated June 24, 2021;

4. Decision and Order in Best v State of New York, UID No. 2020-038-589 (Ct Cl, DeBow, J., Dec. 22, 2020).


1. The claim alleged that it accrued at "Ulster County Correctional Facility," but the address included with the claim indicated that claimant was incarcerated at the Ulster County Jail in Kingston, New York, at the time of the events alleged in the claim (see Claim No. 134651, 3).