New York State Court of Claims

New York State Court of Claims

TYREE v. THE STATE OF NEW YORK , #2002-019-530, Claim No. 101474, Motion No. M-63202


Synopsis


Upon in camera review, Claimant's motion to compel production of inmate grievance complaints and DOCS directives is denied; and motion to produce copy of Inspector General's file is granted in part and denied in part.

Case Information

UID:
2002-019-530
Claimant(s):
GARLAND TYREE
Claimant short name:
TYREE
Footnote (claimant name) :

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

Third-party claimant(s):

Third-party defendant(s):

Claim number(s):
101474
Motion number(s):
M-63202
Cross-motion number(s):

Judge:
FERRIS D. LEBOUS
Claimant's attorney:
GARLAND TYREE, PRO SE
Defendant's attorney:
HON. ELIOT SPITZER, ATTORNEY GENERAL
BY: Carol A. Cocchiola, Assistant Attorney General,of counsel
Third-party defendant's attorney:

Signature date:
May 6, 2002
City:
Binghamton
Comments:

Official citation:

Appellate results:

See also (multicaptioned case)


Decision

This Decision & Order addresses this Court's in camera review of various documents submitted by the State in response to Claimant's prior motion to compel discovery. (Tyree v State of New York, Ct Cl., May 2, 2001, Lebous, J., Claim No. 101474, Motion No. M-63202).


The Court has considered the following papers in connection with this motion:
1. DECISION AND ORDER, Ct Cl., Lebous, J., Claim No. 101474, Motion No. M-63202, filed May 2, 2001.
2. Letter from Carol A. Cocchiola, AAG to Court, dated and received August 23, 2001, with enclosed copies of Directives 4900 and 4091 for in camera review.
3. Letter from Carol A. Cocchiola, AAG to Court, dated September 5, 2001, enclosing original investigation file from the Office of the Inspector General for in camera review.
4. Letter from Carol A. Cocchiola, AAG to Court, dated and received February 4, 2002, with enclosed affidavit for in camera review.
5. Letter from Garland Tyree to Court, dated February 13, 2002 and received February 19, 2002.
6. Letter from Carol A. Cocchiola, AAG to Court, dated and received March 8, 2002.
7. Letter from Carol A. Cocchiola, AAG to Court, dated and received April 3, 2002.
8. Letter from Garland Tyree to Court, dated April 7, 2002, and received May 2, 2002.

By way of background, this underlying Claim alleges that Claimant was assaulted by State correction officers on October 3, 1999 while incarcerated at Southport Correctional Facility (hereinafter "Facility"). Claimant's original motion to compel sought the State's compliance with three Demands for Discovery and Inspection dated January 10, 2000, August 9, 2000, and December 21, 2000, respectively. This Court, among other things, directed the State to submit three categories of documents for an in camera inspection or, in the alternative, an affidavit from someone with personal knowledge of the relevant record-keeping process if no such documents existed. (Id.). The State has submitted several letters addressing this in camera review dated August 23, 2001, February 4, 2002, and April 3, 2002, respectively. Each of the three categories of documents will be discussed separately hereinbelow.


1). Grievance Complaints

Claimant sought inmate grievance complaints emanating from Claimant's incident on October 3, 1999. In response, the State has submitted an affidavit from the Inmate Grievance Program Supervisor at the Facility (hereinafter "Supervisor"). The State supplied the Supervisor with the names of four inmates, other than Claimant, named in the Inspector General's file as being involved to some degree in the incident of October 3, 1999. The Supervisor avers that he conducted a search of the relevant files and found no complaints filed by any of these other inmates. As such, Claimant's motion to compel a response to question 9 of Claimant's Second Demand for Discovery and Inspection is DENIED.


2). Directives 4900 and 4091

This Court directed the State to submit Department of Correctional Services Directives 4900 and 4091 for an in camera inspection. (Tyree v State of New York, supra, Ct Cl., May 2, 2001, Lebous, J., Claim No. 101474, Motion No. M-63202). Directive 4900 is designated "Security in Gate Areas" and details security procedures for screening people and/or vehicles entering a correctional facility. Directive 4091 is entitled "Log Books" and reviews the circumstances in which entries are to be made in a facility log book. In this Court's view, these directives "[r]elate to the fundamental security mission of correctional facilities; moreover, any relevant information that would be contained in such documents may [be] obtained through other documents produced pursuant to this decision and order or through a witness or witnesses at trial." (Guzman v State of New York, Ct Cl., April 4, 2000, Marin, J., Claim No. 96524, Motion No. M-60665; see also, Brown v State of New York, Ct Cl., November 5, 2001, Collins, J., Claim No. 103284, Motion M-63858). As such, Claimant's motion to compel disclosure of Directives 4900 and 4091 is DENIED for the reasons stated hereinabove.[1]


3). Inspector General's File

Claimant seeks to compel the disclosure of the Inspector General's office investigative file into the October 3, 1999 incident. The subject Inspector General's file is comprised of approximately 75 numbered pages; various unnumbered pages; photographs; and a videotape. The State's objections to the disclosure of this file are primarily contained in a letter dated April 3, 2002. Although Claimant has not seen the file, he advised the Court that the State's security concerns are negated by his expected release from prison in the Spring of 2002. (Claimant's letter dated February 13, 2002).


Generally, disclosure of an Inspector General's investigation file is subject to the public interest privilege which balances whether "[t]he State's interest in maintaining the integrity of its internal investigations and protecting the confidentiality of sources who provide sensitive information within a prison context, outweighs any interest of the claimant in seeking access to the file (Cirale v 80 Pine St. Corp., supra, at 117)." (Lowrance v State of New York, 185 AD2d 268, 269). It is well-settled, however, that the privilege will not apply when there is no confidential informant involved, or the information is already known to the parties, or the State has failed to explain how disclosure would implicate legitimate security concerns. The Court must balance these issues to determine whether there will be a chilling effect on such future investigations. (Matter of Klein v Lake George Park Commn., 261 AD2d 774; LaValle v State of New York, 185 Misc 2d 699, 702; Lamm v State of New York, Ct Cl., May 31, 2001, Fitzpatrick, J., Claim No. 99321, Motion No. M-62596; Leonido v State of New York, Ct Cl., February 2, 2001, O'Rourke, J., Claim No. 99960, Motion No. M-59804).


For purposes of identification, the State has separated this Inspector General's file into 9 different sections, 3 of which it contends are not subject to disclosure. The Court will first address those items to which the State has objections and will refer to those sections as Objection Packets #1, #2 and #3.[2] The State's objections to the disclosure of these items are as follows:
[t]he State continues to object to disclosure of the remaining items, which are either contained on internal Inspector General forms, are generated in order to assign or refer the case, or are confidential based on the manner in which they were obtained. The State maintains that disclosure of these items is not necessary for the prosecution of the claim, and would hamper the investigative process conducted by the Inspector General in these cases.

(Cocchiola letter dated April 3, 2002). Unfortunately, the State does not explicitly relate any of these specific objections to the specific documents in the Inspector General's file and, as such, the Court will relate the objections to the documents as best it can. Nor does the State fully articulate how these objections implicate the public interest privilege considerations noted hereinabove. Nevertheless, upon reviewing these portions of the Inspector General's file, the Court finds as follows:


Objection Packet #1:

The Court upholds the State's objection to the two page "Report of Complaint Progress", because it contains references to certain documents that are not being disclosed and, in any event, is not material and relevant to the prosecution of this claim. With respect to the remaining items, however, the State does not contend that the documents contain information involving a confidential informant nor does the State explain how disclosure would implicate any of the public interest privilege considerations. Moreover, it appears that these documents contain information already known to both parties. Additionally, the State's remaining arguments, including the objection based upon disclosure of internal forms, are also without merit. As such, the "Fax Transmittal Form" (1 page); "Fax Transmittal Form" dated 10/30/00 (1 page); To/From Memo dated 10/30/00 (1 page); and an unsigned draft affidavit of Sandy Ray (2 pages) are all subject to disclosure.


Objection Packet #2:

The Court upholds the State's objection to the 2 page "Index Sheet", because it contains references to certain documents that are not being disclosed and, in any event, is not material and relevant to the prosecution of this claim. For the same reasons noted above in relation to Packet #1, the Court finds the remaining documents are entitled to disclosure including the "Investigative Report" (2 pages) with appropriate redactions of personal identifying information permitted; "Receipt of Complaint" dated 10/4/99 (1 page); "Receipt of Complaint" dated 10/4/99 (duplicate/1 page); and the "Receipt of Complaint" dated 10/6/99 (1 page).


Objection Packet #3:

The Court finds that the 3 pages consisting of the documents numbered 14, 15 and 16 are not subject to disclosure due to the legitimate security concerns noted on the face of document #14. With respect to the Inspector General's letter dated October 15, 1999 (page # 12, 1 page) and the "Complaint Intake Form" dated 10/10/99 (page #13; 1 page), both are subject to disclosure for the reasons stated hereinabove in relation to Packet #1. The State may, however, redact the unrelated internal file numbers listed on page #12.


Remaining Items #1-6

The State does not object to the disclosure of the remaining portions of the Inspector General's file, subject to certain information being redacted and upon proper payment for photocopying from Claimant. The Court has reviewed these items and finds that the requested redactions are proper as outlined hereinbelow. Consequently, the Court finds that the portions of the Inspector General's file listed below may be disclosed subject to the following: (1) Claimant makes proper advance payment to the State for associated photocopying charges, and (2) the State redacts the information as noted. For purposes of clarity, the Court quotes directly from the State's letter response dated April 3, 2002, in listing those items to be disclosed:
Item #1. Correspondence between Prisoners' Legal Services of New York, and the Commissioner of the Dept. of Correctional Services (DOCS), or the Superintendent or Deputy Superintendent of Southport Correctional Facility, including the conclusions as to claimant's investigation, as long as the documents are redacted to delete references to other inmate's unrelated complaints.

Item #2. Correspondence addressed to Inspector Todd from Roxanne Purcell Tyree, claimant's mother, including letters she included from claimant to her.

Item #3. Inmate Misbehavior Reports, Use of Force Report, "To/From's", Unusual Incident Report, and memoranda, marked with numbers 17 through 51, excluding the Employee Accident/Injury Reports (marked with page numbers 30-35) and redacting the reports as to employee social security numbers....

Item #4. Tier III hearing packet documents, marked with numbers 52 through 59;

Item #5. Report of Strip Search or Strip Frisk, Ambulatory Health Records, Restraint Order Authorization, Restraint Order Renewal, Deprivation Order, and Handcuff Retention Strap Authorization, marked with numbers 60 through 68;

Item #6. DOCS identification Polaroids (3); Polaroids from 10/3/99 (4); and video tape.

(Cocchiola letter dated April 3, 2002).


Accordingly, Items #1-6 are subject to disclosure by the State upon proper payment for photocopying costs. Additionally, the State is permitted to redact confidential information such as social security numbers, birth dates, addresses, etc. and medical information pertaining to DOCS employees and/or non-party inmates.


Conclusion

In sum, as to those portions of the Inspector General's file that the State has not objected to disclosure, or that the Court has directed disclosure, the State is entitled to the advanced payment of reasonable copying costs of said documents. (Gittens v State of New York, 175 AD2d 530). Claimant may, if he so chooses, obtain copies of any permitted item upon proper payment to the State. To facilitate this matter, Claimant is directed to advise the Assistant Attorney General in writing of those portions of the Inspector General's file identified herein, including the photographs and videotape, that he would like photocopied. The State should promptly advise Claimant as to the cost of photocopying the selected documents and/or items. Claimant should then forward the proper payment for such photocopying to the Assistant Attorney General. Of course, the parties may make any other arrangements that they deem advisable, but should make every effort to work out the particulars without the need for further Court intervention.


Consequently, for the reasons stated above, upon an in camera review of documents and items specified in this Court's prior Decision and Order, it is ORDERED that Claimant's motion to compel, Motion No. M-63202, is GRANTED IN PART and DENIED IN PART, as follows:

(1) Claimant's motion to compel the disclosure of Inmate Grievance Complaints is DENIED; (2) Claimant's motion to compel disclosure of Directives 4900 and 4091 is DENIED; and (3) Claimant's motion to compel the disclosure of the Inspector General's file is GRANTED IN PART and DENIED IN PART in accordance with the foregoing.


May 6, 2002
Binghamton, New York

HON. FERRIS D. LEBOUS
Judge of the Court of Claims




[1]Claimant's letter dated April 7, 2002, attempts to seek reconsideration of this Court's prior Decision & Order relative to additional Directives. The Court declines to treat this letter as a motion. (22 NYCRR § 206.9; CPLR Article 22).
[2]The Court will refer to the individual documents by title when to do so will not reveal the item's substantive contents.