New York State Court of Claims

New York State Court of Claims

DOE v. THE STATE OF NEW YORK, #2003-028-513, Claim No. 105483, Motion No. M-66053


Synopsis



Case Information

UID:
2003-028-513
Claimant(s):
JOHN DOE Because this claim involves a victim of a sexual offense, the caption has been amended to give the Claimant a fictitious name in order to protect his identity. The Chief Clerk is directed to seal the file in Claim No. 105483 pursuant to Civil Rights Law § 50-b (see, Civil Rights Law §§ 50-b [1], 50-c [private right of action for wrongful disclosure of victim of sexual offense]).
Claimant short name:
DOE
Footnote (claimant name) :
Because this claim involves a victim of a sexual offense, the caption has been amended to give the Claimant a fictitious name in order to protect his identity. The Chief Clerk is directed to seal the file in Claim No. 105483 pursuant to Civil Rights Law § 50-b (see, Civil Rights Law §§ 50-b [1], 50-c [private right of action for wrongful disclosure of victim of sexual offense]).
Defendant(s):
THE STATE OF NEW YORK
Footnote (defendant name) :

Third-party claimant(s):

Third-party defendant(s):

Claim number(s):
105483
Motion number(s):
M-66053
Cross-motion number(s):

Judge:
RICHARD E. SISE
Claimant's attorney:
DAVIDSON, FINK, COOK,
KELLY & GALBRAITH, LLPBY: Fernando Santiago, Esq.
Defendant's attorney:
HON. ELIOT SPITZER, ATTORNEY GENERAL
BY: Frederick H. McGown, III, Esq.Assistant Attorney General
Third-party defendant's attorney:

Signature date:
March 5, 2003
City:
Albany
Comments:

Official citation:

Appellate results:

See also (multicaptioned case)



Decision

The following papers were read on Claimant's motion for an order compelling the Defendant to disclose certain medical and investigative materials relating to Claimant:

1) Notice of Motion and Supporting Affirmation of Fernando Santiago, Esq., with annexed Exhibits A-D (Santiago Affirmation) filed November 15, 2002;

2) Supporting Affidavit of John Doe (Doe Affidavit) filed November 21, 2002 with annexed Exhibit A;

3) Claimant's Memorandum of Law.


Opposition Papers: NONE.

This Claim arises from the alleged wrongful placement of Claimant, at the time 15 years old, into a state prison facility. Claimant alleges, inter alia, that as a result of his placement he was a victim of sexual assault.

Following the service of disclosure demands, which included requests for Claimant's medical and psychiatric records, and Defendant's investigative files, the Defendant asserted that Civil Rights Law § 50-B precluded release of any investigative reports and Executive Law § 501-c precluded release of Claimant's Division for Youth[1] records. This application ensued by which Claimant seeks "the psychological, psychiatric and/or medical records" of Claimant in the possession of the State of New York and the Office of Children and Family Services and all investigative materials concerning the incident in question (see, Santiago Affirmation ¶¶ 8 and 11; and Exhibit A [Demands 14 and 15] ). Defendant has failed to offer any opposition.

This Court embraces the principle that "[t]here shall be full disclosure of all matter material and necessary in the prosecution or defense of an action" (CPLR 3101 [a]) and that "open and far-reaching pretrial discovery" is generally favored (DiMichel v South Buffalo Ry. Co., 80 NY2d 184, 193, rearg denied sub nom Poole v Consolidated Rail Corp., 81 NY2d 835, cert denied 510 US 816). The reach of the CPLR, however, is tempered by the public policy concerns regarding a youth's privacy interests, and those of a victim of sexual assault, evinced in the Civil Rights Law and the Executive Law. It bears noting that on the instant application, the party seeking disclosure is the intended beneficiary of the cited provisions of law.

Beginning with Civil Rights Law § 50-b, Claimant correctly notes that § 50-b(2)(c) permits the victim to authorize release of documents such as police reports upon the victim's "written consent" (Id.). The Court finds that Claimant, here the alleged victim, has satisfied this aspect of the statute by submitting a notarized authorization with his moving papers directing release of such records to his attorney (see, Doe Affidavit, Exhibit A). Thus, the protections of

§ 50-b have been waived by the Claimant.

Pursuant to Executive Law § 501-c records maintained by the former division for youth are "deemed confidential" and are to be safeguarded from disclosure (see, Executive Law

§ 501-c[1][a]). The confidentiality created by this provision, however, is not absolute and may yield upon a finding by this Court, in an exercise of its discretion, that "such records are required for trial...or other proceeding" (Executive Law § 501-c[1][a][ii]; see also, Social Service Law § 372 ). In this Court's view, discovery of records relating to the Claimant are required as relevant and necessary for proper and complete case preparation.

Notwithstanding the foregoing, while Claimant's request is on its face seeking only records that relate to him, it is quite possible that certain records may relate information regarding other youth that would be confidential. Similarly, investigative records may contain information that is not appropriately disclosed. Accordingly, in camera inspection of the subject records is required (see, Quillen v State of New York ,191 AD2d 31; see also, Matter of U.S. Pioneer Elec. Corp. [Nikko Elec. Corp.], 47 NY2d 914, 916).

Claimant's motion is GRANTED and the Defendant shall, within 45 days of the date of filing of this decision and order, deliver to the Court for in camera inspection all records responsive to Claimant's demands and as set forth herein.

March 5, 2003
Albany, New York

HON. RICHARD E. SISE
Judge of the Court of Claims




[1] Chapter 436 of the Laws of 1997 transferred the functions, powers and duties of the Division for Youth to the Office of Children and Family Services, an autonomous office within the Department of Family Assistance, the successor agency to the Department of Social Services.