New York State Court of Claims

New York State Court of Claims

KALWASINSKI v. THE STATE OF NEW YORK, #2003-032-130, Claim No. 104011, Motion No. M-67380


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:
Mitchell Kalwasinski, pro se
Defendant's attorney:
Hon. Eliot Spitzer, Esq., NYS Attorney GeneralBy: Kathleen M. Resnick, Esq., Assistant Attorney General, Of Counsel
Third-party defendant's attorney:

Signature date:
December 29, 2003

Official citation:

Appellate results:

See also (multicaptioned case)


This claim for loss of personal property allegedly arose in January 2001 at Upstate Correctional Facility. It is alleged that while claimant was visiting with his family, a correction officer entered his cell and destroyed certain personal property, including his legal case files. This action was taken, according to claimant, in retaliation for his filing a number of grievances against this officer over a period of several months.

In response to a series of discovery demands served by claimant, counsel for defendant provided documentary responses on February 12, 2002, June 13, 2002, and November 22, 2002. The Court notes that these responses, copies of which were filed with the Court, are voluminous.

CPLR article 31 mandates "full disclosure of all matter material and necessary in the prosecution or defense of an action" (CPLR §3101[a] ). The test, quite simply, is one of "usefulness and reason" (Allen v Crowell-Collier Publ. Co., 21 NY2d 403, 406 [1968]; Mitchell v Stuart, 293 AD2d 905 [3d Dept 2002]). Trial courts have very broad discretion to control disclosure in the cases before them (CPLR 3104; see, e.g., Vasile v Chisena, 272 AD2d 610 [2d Dept 2000]).

Demands for discovery of documents and things "shall set forth the items to be inspected, copied, tested or photographed by individual item or by category, and shall describe each item and category with reasonable particularity" (CPLR 3120[a][2]). The requests should be sufficiently specific to allow defendant to reasonably identify what information is sought and to conduct a search therefor (see Brathwaite v State of New York, 208 AD2d 231, 236-237 [1st Dept 1995]). Overly broad or unnecessarily burdensome demands may be considered palpably improper (Haller v North Riverside Partners, 189 AD2d 615), and where discovery demands are so "unduly burdensome and prolix as to be oppressive," the appropriate remedy is not judicial pruning but, rather, vacation of the demands in their entirety" (44A NY Jur 2d Disclosure, §329). Although the pleadings and other submissions of a pro se claimant should not be held to the precise standard one would expect of an attorney, they must be intelligible (see, Hodge v State of New York, 213 AD2d 766, 768 [3d Dept 1995]). By the instant motion, claimant seeks further responses in addition to those already provided by defendant. His affidavit in support of the motion does not contain a list of the specific items that he is seeking, nor does it contain a clear indication of the items from previous demands that he contends have not been provided. Claimant's most recent demand appears to be a letter dated January 16, 2003, which refers to a demand served in November 2001. This letter also fails to list the specific items that claimant contends have not been provided. Instead, the letter presents arguments directed toward asserted deficiencies in the State's prior responses, contains inappropriate instructions to defense counsel (e.g., "Please reflect this discovery demand in your next burdensome response."), and makes even more inappropriate accusations ("Said documents were found. Your [sic] just lying. Provide claimant with the 2/14/01 and 2/26/01 documents.")

It is not the Court's responsibility to rework a series of demands and responses in order to determine if there are some items that defendant legitimately could be compelled to produce, nor should the burden be on defense counsel to piece together a long and sometimes unintelligible series of communications to determine which demands that claimant contends are still outstanding.

Claimant's motion is denied. If claimant does not yet have all documentation to which he believes he is entitled, he is advised to serve a new, properly framed demand that specifically identifies the documents and/or items of information that he is seeking; allow defendant to respond; and then, only if necessary, seek assistance from the Court.

December 29, 2003
Albany, New York

Judge of the Court of Claims

The following papers were read on claimant's motion for an order compelling certain disclosure:

1. Notice of Motion and Supporting Affidavit of Mitchell Kalwasinski, pro se, with annexed Exhibits

2. Affirmation in Opposition of Kathleen M. Resnick, Esq., AAG

Filed papers: Claim; Answer