New York State Court of Claims

New York State Court of Claims
SCHUNK v. THE STATE OF NEW YORK, # 2021-053-539, Claim No. 135825, Motion Nos. M-96567 M-96757

Synopsis

A pro se incarcerated individual filed a claim and amended claim alleging that the actions of the Erie County District Attorney in unfairly prosecuting him caused him to plead guilty to kidnapping. The claim alleges wrongful imprisonment, defamation and violation of his constitutional rights. The State's pre-answer motion to dismiss the claim for lack of subject matter jurisdiction is granted as the District Attorney is a local officer and does not act as a State officer or employee.

Case information

UID: 2021-053-539
Claimant(s): MATTHEW SCHUNK
Claimant short name: SCHUNK
Footnote (claimant name) :
Defendant(s): THE STATE OF NEW YORK
Footnote (defendant name) :
Third-party claimant(s):
Third-party defendant(s):
Claim number(s): 135825
Motion number(s): M-96567
M-96757
Cross-motion number(s):
Judge: J. DAVID SAMPSON
Claimant's attorney: MATTHEW SCHUNK, Pro Se
Defendant's attorney: HON. LETITIA JAMES
New York State Attorney General
BY: Carlton K. Brownell, III, Esq.
Assistant Attorney General
Third-party defendant's attorney:
Signature date: August 12, 2021
City: Buffalo
Comments:
Official citation:
Appellate results:
See also (multicaptioned case)

Decision

On January 7, 2021, Claimant, a pro se inmate, filed a claim seeking to recover for the actions of the Erie County District Attorney in prosecuting him for a crime he allegedly did not commit. Mr. Schunk then filed an amended claim with the Clerk of the Court on April 12, 2021. Claimant alleges that the actions of the District Attorney in unfairly prosecuting him caused him to plead guilty to kidnapping in 2018. According to Mr. Schunk, he has been wrongfully imprisoned and defamed, and his constitutional rights have been violated.

The defendant has filed pre-answer motions to dismiss the claim and the amended claim for lack of subject matter jurisdiction.(1) For reasons stated below, the Court will grant the motions.

CPLR 3211 (a) (2) provides that a party may move for judgment dismissing a cause of action on the ground that the court lacks subject matter jurisdiction. Defendant argues that the Court lacks subject matter jurisdiction over the claim because it seeks redress for the actions of the District Attorney, who is a local officer, and this Court has limited jurisdiction with the power to adjudicate claims only against State actors (see NY Const, art VI, 9; Court of Claims Act 9; Public Officers Law 2). The Court agrees. In Fisher v State of New York, 10 NY2d 60, 61 (1961), the Court of Appeals held that while a District Attorney prosecutes crimes in the name of the People of the State of New York, "he does not act as a State officer or employee in any such sense as would make the State liable for his wrongdoing." "Furthermore, the State is not subject to liability in the Court of Claims for the consequences of official acts of a district attorney, under a theory of respondeat superior because he is not an officer or employee of the State" (Fuller v State of New York, 11 AD3d 365, 366 [1st Dept 2004]). The Court finds that it lacks subject matter jurisdiction over the claims because they seek redress for the actions of non-State actors. As such, the Court will grant Defendant's motions to dismiss the claim and the amended claim.

Based upon the above, it is hereby

ORDERED, that defendant's motions to dismiss the claim and the amended claim are granted.

August 12, 2021

Buffalo, New York

J. DAVID SAMPSON

Judge of the Court of Claims

The Court has reviewed the following documents:

1. Motion to Dismiss (motion No. M-96567), dated February 24, 2021, filed February 26, 2021;

2. Affirmation in Support of Motion to Dismiss of Carlton K. Brownell, III, dated February 24, 2021, with attached exhibits;

3. Correspondence from Matthew Schunk, dated February 20, 2021, filed March 9, 2021, with attachments;

4. Correspondence from Matthew Schunk, dated March 6, 2021, filed March 10, 2021;

5. Correspondence from Matthew Schunk, dated March 17, 2021;

6. Correspondence from Matthew Schunk, dated March 28, 2021, filed April 5, 2021;

7. Notice of Motion to Dismiss (motion No. M-96757), dated April 20, 2021, filed April 23, 2021;

8. Affirmation in Support of Motion to Dismiss of Carlton K. Brownell, III, dated April 20, 2021, with attached exhibits;


1. While an amended claim supersedes a claim, such that a motion to dismiss the amended claim would, if granted, dismiss the entire claim, Mr. Schunk's amended claim was filed while the motion to dismiss the initial claim was pending. In addition, it appears to have been unclear to defendant's counsel that although both claims involve the same perceived wrong, that the Clerk's Office would designate the second claim, which does not reference the initial claim or include the word amended, as an amended claim.