New York State Court of Claims

New York State Court of Claims

JOHNSON v. THE STATE OF NEW YORK, #2003-019-536, Claim Nos. 106601, 106878, Motion Nos. M-66431, CM-66520


Claimant's motion to compel discovery is denied. The State's cross-motion for a protective order and supervision of discovery is denied.

Case Information

Claimant short name:
Footnote (claimant name) :

Footnote (defendant name) :

Third-party claimant(s):

Third-party defendant(s):

Claim number(s):
106601, 106878
Motion number(s):
Cross-motion number(s):
Claimant's attorney:
Defendant's attorney:
HON. ELIOT SPITZER, ATTORNEY GENERALBY: Joseph F. Romani, Assistant Attorney General, of counsel
Third-party defendant's attorney:

Signature date:
April 7, 2003

Official citation:

Appellate results:

See also (multicaptioned case)


Claimant, a pro se inmate, moves to compel discovery pursuant to CPLR 3124. The State of New York (hereinafter "State") opposes the motion. The State cross-moves for a protective order and supervision of discovery pursuant to CPLR 3103 and 3104.

The Court has considered the following papers in connection with these motions:
  1. Claim No. 106601, filed September 9, 2002.
  2. Claim No. 106878, filed November 4, 2002.
  3. Notice of Motion No. M-66431. dated February 17, 2003, and filed February 21, 2003.
  4. Affidavit of Johnathan Johnson, in support of motion, sworn to February 18, 2003, with attached exhibits.
  5. Notice of Cross-Motion No. CM-66520, dated March 10, 2003, and filed March 12, 2003.
  6. Affirmation of Joseph F. Romani, AAG, in support of cross-motion and in opposition to motion, dated March 10, 2003, with attached exhibits.
  7. Memorandum of Law in support of cross-motion, dated March 10, 2003.
Claim No. 106601 contains three separate causes of action. First, Claimant alleges that personnel at Southport Correctional Facility (hereinafter "Southport") delayed sending out his legal mail in a federal matter for approximately eight months. Second, Claimant alleges that officers at Attica Correctional Facility (hereinafter "Attica") improperly took his specially issued State sneakers and replaced them with a regular pair. Third, Claimant alleges that the dentist at Attica refused to shave down his teeth.

Claim No. 106878 appears to list several causes of action although they are difficult to ascertain with any specificity, but generally allege that Southport officers removed 15 pornographic magazines and 45 pictures from Claimant's cell; searched his cell without leaving official search slips; and refused to pick up his mail.

Claimant's Motion to Compel (Motion No. M-66431)

Claimant's motion papers are difficult to comprehend, but seem to consist primarily of a summary of the claims, together with a restatement of his discovery demands. Claimant has failed to articulate why any of these documents are material and necessary or how the State's response is inadequate. Nevertheless, the Court has reviewed Claimant's "Disclosure Request for Production of Documents" dated December 16, 2002 and December 20, 2002 and the State's joint letter response thereto dated January 10, 2003. The Court finds that the State's response was proper. Claimant's motion is denied in its entirety.

State's Motion for a Protective Order & Supervision (Motion No. CM-66520)

The State moves for a protective order limiting, conditioning and regulating Claimant's future use of discovery pursuant to CPLR 3103 and for supervision of future discovery pursuant to CPLR 3104. Pursuant to CPLR 3103 (a), "[t]he court may...make a protective order denying, limiting, conditioning or regulating the use of any disclosure device. Such order shall be designed to prevent unreasonable annoyance, expense, embarrassment, disadvantage, or other prejudice to any person or the courts." Additionally, CPLR 3104 permits the court to appoint "one of its judges or a referee [to] supervise all or part of any disclosure procedure."

By way of this cross-motion, the State requests that this Court issue a protective order by requiring that Claimant "[s]eek judicial approval for further discovery motions in light of his general abuse of the discovery process." (State's Memorandum of Law, p 7). The Court declines this invitation. First and foremost the State has not presented any reason to believe that its suggested remedy of requiring Claimant to obtain Court approval for each and every discovery demand will actually prove more efficient than the present situation. It appears that the State is merely requesting that the Court screen these discovery demands which would admittedly save the State time, but not necessarily the Court. This Court is not going to enter a direct dialogue with Claimant as to his discovery demands. Although Claimant's discovery demands are undoubtedly tedious for the State, the Court finds the best method for dealing with them is to continue having the State answer demands, or not, as it deems appropriate. In this Court's view, the State is in a better position than the Court to examine each discovery demand in the first instance, be it in relation to the relevance to the pending claim or as repetitive of prior demands. In the event that Claimant moves to compel in relation to responses he believes are inadequate, the Court will then have a full record from both parties on which to base its decision. As such, the Court will deny the State's request for a protective order.

With respect to the State's request for supervision of disclosure, although a trial court has broad discretion in supervising disclosure such power should be exercised sparingly when complex issues are presented. (Vasile v Chisena, 272 AD2d 610; National Dairy Prods. Corp. v Lawrence Amer. Field Warehousing Corp., 23 AD2d 650; Abramowitz v Voletsky, 47 Misc 2d 626). These Claims do not involve complex issues. In this Court's view, the circumstances of this case do not warrant supervision of disclosure. This Court does not doubt the State's frustration in dealing with this litigant who has a long history of litigation in this and other courts and has been described as "'[a]n extremely litigious inmate who is quite familiar with the legal system and with pleading requirements'." (Johnson v Eggersdorf, 8 Fed Appx 140 [2nd Cir 2001] citing Davidson v Flynn, 32 F.3d 27, 31). Nevertheless, inasmuch as this case does not involve any complex issues, this Court finds that supervision of disclosure is not warranted.

That having been said, the State seems to have overlooked the most obvious of solutions, namely challenging the sufficiency of the pleadings by dispositive motions. (Augat v State of New York, 244 AD2d 835, 837, lv denied 91 NY2d 814 [constitutional tort remedies will not be implied when allegations may be analogized to an existing common-law tort for which there are adequate alternate remedies]; Zulu v State of New York, Ct Cl, May 21, 2001, Patti, J., Claim No. 96973 & 96974; Motion Nos. M-63183 & M-63184, UID No. 2001-013-006[1] [redress for retaliation claims are inmate grievance procedure and Article 78 proceeding]; A. Rabb Alamin/R. Price v State of New York, Ct Cl, April 26, 1999, McNamara, J., Claim No. 98122, p 2 [violation of a regulation or directive does not impliedly create a cause of action for money damages]). The Court will, however, leave it to the State's discretion to bring such dispositive motions as it deems fit.

In view of the foregoing, it is ORDERED, that Claimant's motion to compel discovery, Motion No. M-66431, is DENIED; and the State's cross-motion for a protective order and supervision of disclosure, Cross-Motion No. CM-66520, is DENIED.

April 7, 2003
Binghamton, New York

Judge of the Court of Claims

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