New York State Court of Claims

New York State Court of Claims

QUEZADA v. THE STATE OF NEW YORK, #2002-019-567, Claim No. 97371, Motion No. M-65116


Upon in camera review of documents, Claimant's motion to compel production of inmates disciplinary histories is granted, while motion to disclose plot plan outlining minimum staffing requirements is denied.

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:
KELLY & RUBIN, LLPBY: Michael F. Rubin, Esq., of counsel
Defendant's attorney:

BY: Joseph F. Romani, Assistant Attorney General,of counsel
Third-party defendant's attorney:

Signature date:
September 6, 2002

Official citation:

Appellate results:

See also (multicaptioned case)


This Court previously granted Claimant's request for an order directing an in camera inspection of documents. (Quezada v State of New York, Ct Cl, June 14, 2002, Lebous, J., Claim No. 97371, Motion No. M-65116). By letter dated August 14, 2002, the State of New York (hereinafter "State") has submitted three sets of documents for in camera review in accordance with said Decision and Order.

On September 13, 1997, Claimant was attacked and slashed in the face with a razor by six or seven other inmates during his incarceration at Elmira Correctional Facility. Inmates Charles Johnson and Shane Ross were both listed on the Unusual Incident Report as being involved in this altercation. Additionally, a document described as the Elmira Correctional Facility Plot Plan (hereinafter "Plot Plan") was identified on the subject of staffing minimums for the date in question. The State has submitted the inmate disciplinary histories for Charles Johnson and Shane Ross, as well as said Plot Plan for this Court's in camera review.

1. Disciplinary Histories of Inmates

Claimant requested these documents in order to obtain information regarding the prior assaultive and violent behavior and tendencies of his assailants. The State's objections include the release of confidential and security sensitive information including, but not limited to, another inmate's enemies list, requests for separation or protective custody, etc. (Affirmation of Joseph F. Romani, AAG dated May 1, 2002, ¶ 7).

In order to be successful in finding the State liable for an inmate on inmate assault, Claimant will be required to establish one of the following: (1) the victim is a known risk and the State failed to provide reasonable protection; (2) the State had notice that the assailant was particularly prone to perpetuating such an assault and failed to take proper precautionary measures; or (3) the State had ample notice and opportunity to intervene and failed to do so. (Sebastiano v State of New York, 112 AD2d 562; Littlejohn v State of New York, 218 AD2d 833; Schittino v State of New York, 262 AD2d 824, lv denied 94 NY2d 752). As such, the propensity of Inmates Johnson and Ross to commit violent acts as demonstrated, if at all, by their disciplinary histories is clearly relevant to the issue of notice to the State. (Wilson v State of New York, 36 AD2d 559). Consequently, these disciplinary histories should be turned over to Claimant by the State as part of the discovery process. That having been said, however, the Court is cognizant of the fact that disciplinary records often contain confidential and/or irrelevant information. As such, the Court will now review the inmates disciplinary histories in order to determine if any portions thereof should be redacted.

A. Inmate Johnson

The State has submitted a computer generated listing of Inmate Johnson's disciplinary record between June 1996 through July 2001. This incident occurred on September 13, 1997 and, as such, the Court finds that the incidents occurring after the date of this incident are irrelevant on the issue of notice and may be redacted. With respect to prior incidents, there are 10 entries noted on the document. The "Inmate Disciplinary History" form is comprised on short-hand entries including, among other things, incident dates, hearing dates, service dates, facility location, as well as a short-hand reference to the resulting charges.[1] Inasmuch as the State has not provided detailed information about any of these prior 10 incidents, this Court cannot exclude any of these prior 10 incidents as irrelevant. The Court directs the State to disclose to Claimant the "Inmate Disciplinary History" of Inmate Johnson with respect to the 10 incidents occurring prior to the date of this incident, although subsequent incidents may be redacted.

B. Inmates Ross

Inmate Ross' disciplinary history contains 7 entries, only 2 of which pre-date this incident. In this Court's view, it appears that these 2 entries may have some relevance to Claimant's allegations although once again minimal information is contained on this form. The Court directs the State to disclose to Claimant the "Inmate Disciplinary History" of Inmate Ross with respect to the 2 incidents occurring prior to the date of this incident, although subsequent incidents may be redacted.

2. Plot Plan

The "Plot Plan" addresses the issue of staffing minimums as it relates to inmate supervision. Claimant previously argued that the Plot Plan is material and relevant since "if minimum staffing requirements were not met, a causal connection could be established between that failure and the claimant's injury." (Affirmation of Michael F. Rubin, Esq. dated April 16, 2002, ¶ 4). The State's objection to disclosure of the Plot Plan is contained in a letter from Kathy Austin, Director of Security information for the Staffing Unit at the Department of Correctional Services. Ms. Austin indicates:
[s]ecurity concerns about this information being released because it lists correction officer and correction supervisory post designations, the areas of supervision covered and the tours the posts are assigned to each area. This information, in the wrong hands, would allow inmates to calculate response time and coverage for emergencies.

The Court finds the State's objections based upon security concerns to be proper in the first instance. Additionally, the Court also notes that Claimant has not established that this information is material and relevant to the case at hand since:
[t]he number of corrections officers who should be present in various areas of a correctional institution...essentially involves the experience and discretion of the Department of Corrections. Indeed, deference to the judgment of correctional facility authorities must be the rule, and a court cannot properly substitute its judgment for that of such authorities.

(Papadopoulous v State of New York, Ct Cl, December 18, 2001, Minarik, J., Claim No. 103653, Motion No. M-64137, quoting Tucker v State of New York, Ct Cl, August 28, 1996, Bell, J., Claim No. 85578).

The Court finds that the Plot Plan is not subject to disclosure.

Accordingly, IT IS ORDERED, that Claimant's motion, Motion No. M-65116, is GRANTED IN PART and DENIED IN PART in accordance with the foregoing; and the State shall produce to Claimant the specified portions of the Inmate Disciplinary Histories within sixty (60) days of the filing of this Decision and Order with the Clerk of the Court.

September 6, 2002
Binghamton, New York

Judge of the Court of Claims

[1]For instance, there are references to "violent conduct", "fighting", and "weapon" without further explanations.