New York State Court of Claims

New York State Court of Claims

AYALA v. THE STATE OF NEW YORK, #2001-029-059, Claim No. 95531, Motion No. M-63082


Synopsis


At the trial preparation conference claimant made a motion to have the deposition transcript of a non-party witness, who is incarcerated in a state correction facility, read into evidence with requiring his appearance at trial. Requested denied; being incarcerated does not make the witness unable to attend trial.

Case Information

UID:
2001-029-059
Claimant(s):
ORLANDO AYALA
Claimant short name:
AYALA
Footnote (claimant name) :

Defendant(s):
THE STATE OF NEW YORK
Footnote (defendant name) :

Third-party claimant(s):

Third-party defendant(s):

Claim number(s):
95531
Motion number(s):
M-63082
Cross-motion number(s):

Judge:
STEPHEN J. MIGNANO
Claimant's attorney:
Michael J. O'Connor, Esq.
Defendant's attorney:
Hon. Eliot Spitzer
Attorney General of the State of New YorkBy: John M. Healey, Assistant Attorney General
Third-party defendant's attorney:

Signature date:
February 28, 2001
City:
White Plains
Comments:

Official citation:

Appellate results:

See also (multicaptioned case)



Decision


At the trial preparation conference (hereinafter TPC) held on January 8, 2001, claimant made an application to have the deposition transcript of a non-party witness, who is incarcerated in a state correctional facility, read into evidence without requiring his appearance at trial. The State objected and the Court gave the parties until January 31, 2001 to submit memoranda of law regarding this issue.

Claimant asserts that the testimony of inmate Richie Acosta is important to his case. Mr. Acosta's deposition was taken at Fishkill Correctional Facility. Claimant relies on CPLR 3117 (a) (3) (iii) which provides for the use of a non-party's deposition if "the witness is unable to attend or testify because of age, sickness, infirmity or imprisonment". Claimant's counsel asserts that, based on his prior experience, the State would demand payment of approximately $1,000.00 in order to have Mr. Acosta appear to testify at trial. This is apparently the cost of transporting Mr. Acosta to Court from the facility at which he is incarcerated, as well as the cost of his security escort. Counsel further asserts that claimant has funds of only $2.13 and thus cannot afford to have Mr. Acosta transported for trial.

In opposition, the State asserts that Mr. Acosta's imprisonment does not render him unable to attend the trial. The State points out that the Court has authority to order it to produce the witness at trial pursuant to CPLR § 2302 and Correction Law § 72 (2).

Civil Rights Law § 79 (3) (a) recognizes the right of inmates to maintain lawsuits and specifically provides that the State will not be liable for any expense related to the action, including, but not limited to, the expense of transporting the inmate to, or lodging or guarding the inmate at any place other than in a state correctional facility.

Civil Rights Law § 79 (3) (b) provides that when an inmate had been given permission to proceed as a poor person the cost of transporting, guarding and lodging the inmate shall be a State charge but the Court may direct that the inmate repay the costs out of any recovery received by the inmate. Claimant herein has not been granted poor person status.

In an action involving non-inmate parties it was held that where a Court has ordered that a prison inmate be produced for trial pursuant to CPLR § 2302 (b), the only costs imposed in connection with the production of such witness are the standard witness fee and travel expenses imposed by CPLR § 2303 and § 8001 and not the actual cost of producing the inmate witness (Matter of State of New York Depart. of Correctional Servs. (C.S.E.A.), 142 Misc 2d 380). Civil Rights Law § 79 had no application in that matter because the statute refers only to actions or suits in which an inmate is a party. This distinction between costs levied against inmates and non-inmates for the identical action raises a substantial equal protection issue in the Court's mind.

Even more on point are the decisions of this Court which are accorded stare decisis status in this matter. In an action in which an inmate was a party and he sought to produce an inmate as a witness at trial, the Court stated,

"[i]f inmate litigants - but not free citizens - are required to pay, either in advance of trial or out of the proceeds of any award, the full, actual costs of securing the presence of relevant witnesses who are incarcerated, there would be a significant, and very unequal, impact on the ‘truth-seeking' process"(Word v State of New York, Claim No. 87174, Motion No. M-57525, filed 6/18/98. King, J.).


The Court directed that the inmate witness be produced at trial and required claimant to advance to the State, not the witness only, the statutory witness and travel fees (see also, Humphrey v State of New York, Claim No. 90231, Motion No. M-58322, filed 10/23/98, Bell, J.).

As the statutory witness and travel fees are considerably less than the approximately $1,000.00 claimant's counsel asserts the State will require for transporting the witness to trial, we find that Mr. Acosta's imprisonment does not make him "unable to attend" the trial as provided by CPLR 3117 and thus, claimant's request to read the deposition transcript into evidence at trial without requiring the witness' appearance is denied. Upon proper application of claimant, the Court will consider whether a subpoena to compel Mr. Acosta's attendance at trial is proper pursuant to the appropriate statute.

The following papers were read on claimant's motion:

Papers Numbered

Affidavit of Claimant, Affirmation of Counsel
and Exhibits Attached 1


Letter from Assistant Attorney General
in Opposition 2


February 28, 2001
White Plains, New York

HON. STEPHEN J. MIGNANO
Judge of the Court of Claims