New York State Court of Claims

New York State Court of Claims

STOVER v. STATE OF NEW YORK, #2002-018-140, Claim No. 103856, Motion No. M-64337


Synopsis


Claimant's motion to compel disclosure granted in part after in camera inspection of various discovery documents.

Case Information

UID:
2002-018-140
Claimant(s):
RODNEY STOVER
Claimant short name:
STOVER
Footnote (claimant name) :

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

Third-party claimant(s):

Third-party defendant(s):

Claim number(s):
103856
Motion number(s):
M-64337
Cross-motion number(s):

Judge:
DIANE L. FITZPATRICK
Claimant's attorney:
DOUGLAS KAPLAN, ESQUIRE
Defendant's attorney:
ELIOT SPITZER
Attorney General of the State of New York
By: G. LAWRENCE DILLON, ESQUIREAssistant Attorney General
Third-party defendant's attorney:

Signature date:
May 13, 2002
City:
Syracuse
Comments:

Official citation:

Appellate results:

See also (multicaptioned case)



Decision
Claimant brings this motion seeking to compel disclosure. Defendant opposes the disclosure but has produced various documents for in-camera inspection.

The claim arises from an assault between claimant and another inmate within the confines of Mid-State Correctional Facility. Claimant alleges that he was violently assaulted by fellow inmate, Raymond Johnson, on December 1, 2000, on the second of three handball courts in the recreation yard at the correctional facility. Claimant asserts that Mr. Johnson attacked another inmate, named Shulman, on November 29, 2000, and thus Mr. Johnson has a history of assaults and the State should have removed him from the general population.

To support his claim, claimant seeks production of various documents by a Notice For Discovery and Inspection, dated July 20, 2001 and served upon the defendant. Specifically, claimant requested:

a) Names and addresses of any and all witnesses to the occurrence and its immediate antecedent and aftereffects. This includes any witnesses who will or may testify that the incident happened differently and any and all witnesses to positioning, and immediate post-incident statements and/or interaction;

b) Any incident reports and investigation prepared by defendant and relating to the subject incident;

c) Any incident reports and investigation pertaining to any assault by Johnson on Andrew Shulman and Mark Selvick;

d) All disciplinary records, including any complaints, records of past assaultive behavior or prison infractions, pertaining to assailant, Raymond Johnson;

e) Copies of any keep-apart orders, "enemies lists" segregation orders or other documentation pertaining to Johnson, including any documentation relating to placement in SHU or in maximum security (or other level) facility.

The defendant has provided the documents that were requested in the Notice to Produce for
in camera inspection. For clarity, the Court will refer to the exhibit letters and description provided in defendant's responding papers. The documents produced for in camera inspection as described by defendant are as follows:
Exhibit A: Letter from Oneida County District Attorney to Marcy Town Court Justice dated October 24, 2001.

Exhibit B: State Police Investigation Documents


Exhibit D[1]
: Disciplinary Hearing Packet
(1) ab Inmate Misbehavior Report;
(2) ab Case Data Worksheet
(3) ab Hearing Record Sheet
(4) ab Disciplinary Hearing Disposition Rendered form;
(5) ab Requested Inmate Witness Refusal to Testify;
(6) ab "To/From" Memoranda from Correction Officer (hereinafter CO) Ambrose, CO Kostolecki, CO Allie;
(8) ab Transcript of disciplinary hearing

Exhibit E: Separate list for Mr. Johnson and the history of each matter;

Exhibit F: Disciplinary History for R. Johnson with a list of Unusual Incident Reports.


Defendant generally objects to the specified demands and opposes production of the documents on the grounds that the items requested are either privileged or attorney work products and subject to a protective order. Defendant argues more specifically that the State Police documents and the letter from the Oneida District Attorney's Office to the Marcy Town Court (Exhibits A and B) are excluded from disclosure under CPLR 3101(g) as those documents were "prepared by a police or peace officer for a criminal investigation or prosecution." (Dillon Affirmation ¶ 7) The argument is also made that the disclosure of those documents poses a possible breach of security at the correctional facility, because the materials contain confidential information. The same risks exist for the release of the names of the confidential informants and inmates on Mr. Johnson's "enemies" list, (Exhibit E), potentially jeopardizing the safety of those other inmates. Defendant requests that if the lists are released, the individuals names be redacted, leaving only the information regarding the reason the individuals are listed in the first place.

Defendant also argues that Mr. Johnson's prior disciplinary history (Exhibit F) is not relevant, and the release of the information contained therein poses a risk of harm to all of the inmates listed in those documents.

Certainly, in determining whether the documents and information requested should be disclosed, the Court must remain cognizant of the unique issues posed by the correctional facility setting. Concern for the safety of other inmates and the security of the correctional facility and the correctional system are very relevant concerns which must be balanced against claimant's need for the information demanded and the broad mandate of CPLR 3101, which provides that: "There shall be full disclosure of all matter material and necessary in the prosecution or defense of an action, regardless of the burden of proof..." (CPLR 3101(a))

Exhibit A, is not precluded from disclosure by CPLR 3101(g). CPLR 3101(g) provides in relevant part that, "...there shall be full disclosure of any written report of an accident prepared in the regular course of business operations or practices of any person, firm, corporation, association or other public or private entity, unless prepared by a police or peace officer for a criminal investigation or prosecution and disclosure would interfere with a criminal investigation or prosecution." Exhibit A is not a written report of an accident, it is a letter to the town court judge from the district attorney requesting that all charges pending against Raymond Johnson be dismissed as the result of a lack of witness cooperation. After reviewing the letter there does not appear to be any reason it cannot be disclosed.

Exhibit B, the State Trooper's Investigative Documents were prepared as part of a criminal investigation. These documents are also not precluded from disclosure under CPLR 3101(g) because there is no indication that the release of the documents would interfere with a criminal investigation or prosecution. Any criminal prosecution ended after the district attorney requested dismissal of the felony charges. (Exhibit A) The Court has reviewed the documents provided, including the investigation "continuation sheet," which provides an on-going chronology of the actions taken by the State Police investigator assigned to the case,.a statement from one witness and a letter from the alleged perpetrator, Raymond Johnson. There are also "Inmate Information" documents on the two witnesses. These documents provide the location, status and legal dates for each inmate; this information is available on the Internet. The Court finds that these documents should be released to claimant.

Exhibit D should also be disclosed to claimant, except for the "Report of Inmate Injury" for Raymond Johnston. The balance of the information contained in Exhibit D is relevant to the issues raised by the claim, and there is nothing in the documents which would breach security or endanger other inmates.

Exhibit E should be disclosed, however, the names of the inmate "enemies" and their DIN numbers should be redacted, except for name and DIN number for claimant.

Exhibit F should also be disclosed to claimant. The information contained therein is material to the pending action.

Accordingly, claimant's motion is GRANTED in part in accordance with the foregoing. Defendant is directed to provide the items produced
in camera as restricted above to claimant's counsel within 45 days of the date this order is entered with the Clerk of the Court.

May 13, 2002
Syracuse, New York

HON. DIANE L. FITZPATRICK
Judge of the Court of Claims


The Court has considered the following documents in determining this motion:

Notice of Motion...........................................................................................1

Affidavit of Douglas Kaplan, Esquire, in support, with all exhibits

attached thereto..................................................................................2


Affidavit in Opposition of G. Lawrence Dillon, Esquire,

Assistant Attorney General, with exhibits attached thereto...............3

[1] Defendant provided to claimant with the responding motion papers Exhibit C, which is claimant's statement to the State Police on December 2, 2000.
[2] In defendant's responding documents, Report of Inmate Injury was also numbered item (6), but will be referred to as item D(7) for purposes of this decision.