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Supreme Court to conclude that an error had been made…cont

At some point, the woman obtained assistance from a legal clinic. According to the woman, it was the inquiries made by two of the clinic’s dedicated law students that led the Supreme Court to conclude that an error had been made, and that she had never been arraigned, convicted, and sentenced on the charges that resulted in her alleged conviction. She was then released from custody that same day.

About eight months after her release, she filed an instant criminal claim against the state, essentially alleging that the negligence of state employees had caused her to be imprisoned for more than five years longer than she should have been. More specifically, she alleged that due to the negligence and carelessness of the employees, records were created which erroneously indicated that she had been convicted of robbery in the second degree and sentenced to a term of 1½ to 4½ years of imprisonment, and that based upon the said negligently prepared records, she had been improperly evaluated as a second felony offender, and required to serve a portion of the nonexistent 1½ to 4½ year sentence.

After the discovery had been completed, the woman requested for a decision without trial on the issue of liability, arguing that through a series of failures of care and omissions, court employees had prepared state records that resulted in her imprisonment for crimes of which she had never been convicted, and an increased term of imprisonment for a crime of which she had been convicted. With that regard, she contended that the part clerk’s careless entries on the court file had resulted in the erroneous reporting that she had been convicted of assault in the second degree and sentenced for that offense, and that the sentence clerk’s negligent preparation of a duplicate commitment order, without consulting the court file, had caused the facility to add the nonexistent sentence imposed for her alleged conviction in calculating the total amount of time she was required to serve. She further asserts that the department of correctional services employees had compounded the initial negligence of the court employees with their own failures to properly investigate inquiries concerning her status.

The state however countered by cross-moving the case and requested to dismiss the claim against them. In support of it, the state argued that the claim should be dismissed for a number of reasons, including governmental immunity and lack of a duty of care. The state further asserts that it could not be held liable for the alleged negligence of its employees because the woman’s own conduct was the proximate reason of her extended imprisonment.
As a result, the court of claims denied the woman’s request on the issue of liability, and granted that branch of the State’s cross motion. The court found that the woman had made a showing that some or all of the alleged acts of negligence committed by non-judicial court personnel were ministerial in nature, and thus not protected by governmental immunity. The court further noted that the woman had made a strong showing that the part clerk who entered the incorrect information in her court file had failed to use that degree of care which a reasonably prudent person would have used under the situation. The woman subsequently appeals.

Consequently, the court ordered to modify the previous decision by deleting the provision granting the branch of the state’s cross motion, and substituting a provision denying the said branch. The order is then affirmed, without costs or disbursements.

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