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; 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).