New York State Court of Claims

New York State Court of Claims

SALDANA v. THE STATE OF NEW YORK , #2003-030-541, Claim No. 103172, Motion No. M-65471


After in camera review of files maintained by Office of the Inspector General only report of claimant's own interview, and photographs of area wherein alleged assault by correction officers occurred may be disclosed.

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:
Defendant's attorney:
Third-party defendant's attorney:

Signature date:
May 19, 2003
White Plains

Official citation:

Appellate results:

See also (multicaptioned case)


Juan Saldana, the Claimant herein, alleges in Claim Number 103172 that he was assaulted and battered by three correction officers at Green Haven Correctional Facility (hereafter Green Haven) on July 28, 2000. By Decision and Order of the Court the Defendant was directed to produce, for in camera inspection, a copy of the report of the Inspector General relating to the incident that is the subject of this Claim. [Saldana v State of New York, Claim No. 103172, Motion No. M-65471, Waldon, J. October 25, 2002]. Defendant was further directed to submit whatever objections it wished to assert regarding disclosure of specific portions of the report.

The Court has had an opportunity to review the report provided, as well as Defendant's objections, and the relevant authority for ascertaining whether any portion of the Inspector General's report may be disclosed to Claimant, an inmate still within the custody of the New York State Department of Correctional Services (hereafter DOCS). See, Cirale v 80 Pine St. Corp., 35 NY2d 113, 117 (1974); Lowrance v State of New York, 185 AD2d 268 (2d Dept 1992); Tyree v State of New York, (Ct Cl), Lebous, J., May 6, 2002, UID #2002-019-530, ; Lamm v State of New York, (Ct Cl), Fitzpatrick, J., May 31, 2001, UID #2001-081-87,; Lamm v State of New York, (Ct Cl), Fitzpatrick, J., November 26, 2002, UID #2002-018-195,; Leonido v State of New York, (Ct Cl), O'Rourke, J., February 2, 2001, UID #2000-017-613,; La Valle v State of New York, 185 Misc 2d 699 (Dutchess Co Sup Ct 2000). The report contains 344 pages, and includes transcripts of witness interviews, reports of interviews, internal memoranda, reports of complaint progress, correspondence, photographs, and computerized tour of duty logs.

In accordance with Lowrance v State of New York, supra, at 269, an inmate in a correctional facility is not generally entitled to disclosure of a report developed by the Inspector General's office in connection with an investigation of allegations against correction officers pursuant to the public interest privilege, " ‘...applicable when the public interest would be harmed if the material were to lose its cloak of confidentiality.....' " Cirale v 80 Pine St. Corp., 35 NY2d 113, 117 (1974). The privilege is a qualified one, applicable depending on whether "...the 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, supra, at 268, 269.

Defendant has specifically requested that the following materials contained in the report not be given to Claimant:

1. All Social Security numbers as well as any other specific identifying data of people to prevent identity theft and protect the safety of law enforcement personnel and their families.

2. Photographs of DOCS staff which, if disseminated amongst the prison population, could threaten security.

3. Reports of all interviews and transcripts of all interviews, except for the report on the interview of claimant himself.

4. Any evaluation or recommendation by the Inspector General's office.

5. All attorney/client communications.

6. All reports of complaint progress and index sheets.

7. All DOCS letterheads.

In this case, the Inspector General's report contains numerous documents either already supplied or available from other sources - Claimant's ambulatory health record, for example, and internal memoranda such as report of inmate injury forms - that need not be discussed at length here. More importantly, Lowrance v State of New York, supra, specifically stated that the claimant therein was not entitled to the contents of the Inspector General's file, including "...several interviews with Correction Officers and inmates, together with notes, conclusions and the recommendations of the investigator." It is true, that most of the individuals interviewed by the Inspector General are known to Claimant, in that they are named in his Claim or have otherwise been disclosed pursuant to prior discovery requests. Nonetheless, the court finds that the controlling precedent as stated in Lowrance v State of New York, supra, under circumstances such as these is to prohibit such disclosure given the policy considerations behind the creation of the office of the Inspector General, [See, Executive Law §6; 9 NYCRR §§4.103 and 5.39; Lamm v State of New York, (Ct Cl), Fitzpatrick, J., May 31, 2001, UID #2001-081-87, ;[1] as well as the security interests of a given correctional facility. With respect to reports of interviews and transcripts of question and answer proceedings, these are the product of compulsion. The testimony is compelled with the understanding that the witness may be subject to discipline, but with the further understanding that statements made are otherwise not to be disclosed. [See, generally, Civil Service Law §§75, 76; and Article 33 of the Agreement between the Professional, Scientific and Technical Services Unit and Public Employees Federation (PEF) concerning "interrogation" of an employee.] If the results of such investigations were to be disclosed by a mere request - not supported by any showing of necessity - the chilling effect upon the willingness of both those under investigation and other witnesses to come forward and speak frankly to investigators would negate the purpose of such an internal investigation.

The Court is not unmindful that other decisions have allowed disclosure of portions of the Inspector General's file to inmates in circumscribed fashion. See, e.g., Tyree v State of New York, supra; Lamm v State of New York, supra; Leonido v State of New York, supra. Nonetheless, the Court finds that the public interest in preserving the confidentiality of investigations conducted by the office of the Inspector General, as well as security concerns surrounding disclosure of information to individuals in the custody of DOCS, outweighs any entitlement Claimant may have to disclosure under general principles of materiality and relevance.

Moreover, this does not preclude Claimant's ability to avail himself of other discovery devices, such as, for example, interrogatories [See, Civil Practice Law and Rules §§3130, 3131, 3132, 3133], or depositions of the individuals involved upon motion. See, Civil Practice Law and Rules §§3106(c); 3107.

Accordingly, copies of the following materials shall be provided to Claimant upon his written request to the Attorney General, and his payment of the costs for photocopying same:
1. Photographs of area wherein the alleged assault occurred, at pages 53-63 of the report.
2. Report of Interview of Juan Saldana dated January 4, 2001, at pages 97-98 of the report.

Claimant is directed to make his request, in writing, within twenty (20) days of the filing date of this decision. Defendant is directed to advise Claimant, in writing, of the costs of photocopying within twenty (20) days of receipt of the Claimant's request. Thereafter, Claimant shall remit payment within twenty (20) days, and Defendant shall provide the documents requested forthwith.

All other materials are either not material or relevant to the prosecution of his claim, previously produced, or otherwise protected by privilege.

So Ordered.

May 19, 2003
White Plains, New York

Judge of the Court of Claims

[1] Judge Fitzpatrick stated: "The purpose of the office, according to both executive orders, is to investigate complaints in an effort to prevent fraud, abuse, and corruption in State agencies, departments and divisions."