New York State Court of Claims

New York State Court of Claims

TYREE v. THE STATE OF NEW YORK, #2000-013-037, Claim No. 101474, Motion No. M-61097


An inmate's motion for in camera inspection and production of personnel records of correction officer is denied pursuant to Civil Rights Law §50-a.

Case Information

Claimant short name:
Footnote (claimant name) :

Footnote (defendant name) :

Third-party claimant(s):

Third-party defendant(s):

Claim number(s):
Motion number(s):
Cross-motion number(s):

Claimant's attorney:
Defendant's attorney:
Attorney General of the State of New York
BY: EARL F. GIALANELLA, ESQ. Assistant Attorney General
Third-party defendant's attorney:

Signature date:
December , 2000

Official citation:

Appellate results:

See also (multicaptioned case)


On September 20, 2000 the following papers were read on Claimant's motion for in camera inspection:[1]

1. Notice of Motion

2. Verified Affirmation and Annexed Exhibits

3. Affidavit in Support of Poor Person Relief

4. Affirmation in Opposition

5. Reply to Defendant's Affirmation in Opposition and Annexed Exhibits
6. Affirmation in Opposition filed June 12, 2000
7. Affidavit of Dana Gridley
8. Letter to the Court dated June 6, 2000 from Claimant

An incident occurred in the visitors' room of the Southport Correctional Facility (Southport) on October 3, 1999. Thereafter, five correction officers restrained Claimant and forcefully escorted him from the visitors' room to D-Block. In this action, Claimant charges: (1) that the officers used excessive force; and (2) that a supervising sergeant and a Southport nurse were negligent in not stopping the alleged assault.

In the instant motion, Claimant seeks in camera inspection and production of the "psychiatric," "misconduct," and "criminal" records of the officers and the sergeant. He claims these documents are critical to the success of his case. He maintains that they are relevant (1) to demonstrate that the employee's had some "pre-existing propensities for violence;" (2) to show that it was negligent for Defendant to let employees with violent track records supervise inmates; and (3) to prove "motive, opportunity, intent, preparation, plan, knowledge, identity or absence of mistake or accident." Relying upon Civil Rights Law §50-a, Defendant objected to the production of the documents.

In an interim order filed on May 15, 2000, I concluded that the first and third bases listed above were insubstantial and would not justify production. I also denied in camera inspection of the personnel records of the sergeant and four of the officers because Claimant had given me no reason to believe that there would be relevant factual information in the individuals' files.

I concluded that Claimant had made a showing that there might be relevant information in the personnel file of Officer Gridley. Claimant submitted two Department of Correctional Services memoranda describing another inmate restraint situation at Southport where Officer Gridley was apparently accused of knocking out an inmate's teeth. He also averred that Officer Gridley had a reputation for being violent and had participated in the use of force at another facility that resulted in the death of an inmate. Claimant's accounts of these incidents did not appear to be based upon first-hand knowledge, but I concluded that if the incidents formed the predicate for a finding of misconduct, then they could support Claimant's argument that it was negligent for Defendant to let Officer Gridley supervise and discipline inmates (see, Cox v New York City Housing Auth., 105 AD2d 663, 664; see also, Colon v Wal-Mart Stores, 182 Misc 2d 921, 926-927). As required by Civil Rights Law §50-a, I directed that Claimant's papers be served upon Officer Gridley and that Officer Gridley and Defendant be given an opportunity to respond to the specific allegations found in Claimant's April 12, 2000 reply. I then adjourned the motion to June 21, 2000.

In opposition to Claimant's application, the State of New York submitted an affidavit from Officer Gridley, who averred that he was involved in the earlier restraint incident at Southport, but did not strike the inmate in the mouth with a baton as alleged by Claimant and was not disciplined as a result of that incident. Officer Gridley also indicated that he has never been involved in any incident with an inmate where a death resulted. Additionally, Officer Gridley asserts that in 15 years as a correction officer he has never been disciplined or reprimanded for using excessive force on an inmate.

On June 9, 2000, I received a letter from Claimant in which he asked for additional time to gather evidence to support his motion for in camera inspection. Claimant asserted that he would be finished with his investigation and would be represented by Prisoner's Legal Services of New York by mid-July. To accommodate Claimant's request, I adjourned this motion to September 20, 2000. Claimant never responded to Officer Gridley's affidavit and submitted no further information in support of his application.

Based upon the parties' submissions, I conclude that Claimant has not made a clear showing of facts sufficient to warrant my review of Officer Gridley's personnel records (see, Civil Rights Law §50-a[2]; see also, People v Gissendanner, 48 NY2d 543, 551). He has not persuaded me that the records are actually relevant to an issue in the pending proceeding (Matter of Daily Gazette Co. v City of Schenectady, 93 NY2d 145, 154-155). Accordingly, Claimant's motion is denied (see, People v Henry, 242 AD2d 877, lv denied 91 NY2d 834).

December , 2000
Rochester, New York

Judge of the Court of Claims

Claimant also asked for permission to proceed as a poor person. I denied his request in an interim order filed on May 15, 2000.