New York State Court of Claims

New York State Court of Claims

McKNIGHT v. THE STATE OF NEW YORK, #2004-019-505, Claim No. 107474, Motion No. M-67760


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:
HON. ELIOT SPITZER, ATTORNEY GENERALBY: Joseph F. Romani, Assistant Attorney General, of counsel
Third-party defendant's attorney:

Signature date:
January 13, 2004

Official citation:

Appellate results:

See also (multicaptioned case)


Claimant, an inmate appearing pro se, moves for an order compelling disclosure pursuant to CPLR 3120. The State of New York (hereinafter "State") opposes the motion.

This claim arises from a physical altercation between claimant and another inmate on November 23, 2002 at Elmira Correctional Facility (hereinafter "Elmira") in which claimant suffered a broken left arm. The claim alleges the State was negligent in its supervision of the cell block. Claimant served a discovery demand on defendant on June 19, 2003 and the State responded thereto on June 24, 2003. (State's Exhibits A and B).

By way of this motion, claimant requests that the State produce the following four items for his review and inspection: (1) "Directive 4900 of the State of New York Department of Correctional Services"; (2) "Policy and Procedure for the Elmira Correctional Facility for opening and closing inmate cells"; (3) "Policy and Procedure for supervision of the housing area for Elmira Correctional Facility Number 0001"; and (4) "Department of Correctional Services Employee Manual." (Claimant's Affidavit, ¶ 3). In opposition, the State responds as follows: (1) that Directive 4900 is a so-called "D" directive meaning that it is not disclosed to inmates for security reasons; (2) that no listing for opening and closing cells could be located; (3) no listing for policy number 0001 was found; and (4) that portions of the DOCS employee manual must be redacted due to security concerns. (Affirmation of Joseph F. Romani, AAG, ¶ 5). Moreover, the State asserts that it is entitled to have claimant pay reasonable photocopying costs prior to producing the demanded discovery documents.

This court finds the State's responses to be proper. This court has previously found that Directive 4900, which is entitled "Security in Gate Areas" and details security procedures for screening people and/or vehicles entering a correctional facility, to "[r]elate to the fundamental security mission of correctional facilities; moreover, any relevant information that would be contained in such documents may [be] obtained through...witnesses at trial [citations omitted]." (Tyree v State of New York, Ct Cl, May 6, 2002, Lebous, J., Claim No. 101474, Motion No. M-63202 [UID No. 2002-019-530]).[1] In any event, based upon this record, there is no indication that Directive 4900 is relevant to this claim in the first instance since this claim involves inmate cells inside a facility, rather than people and/or vehicles entering a correctional facility. Further, the State's representation that it could not locate any policy or listing relating to "opening and closing of cells" or "policy number 0001" is also proper.

With respect to claimant's request for the DOCS employee manual, the State indicates that specified portions thereof are security sensitive and must be redacted and that the remaining portions are subject to the aforementioned photocopying charges. Again, the court agrees. The State is permitted to redact security sensitive portions of documents and to request that claimant pay reasonable photocopying costs of the remaining portions of the demanded discovery documents. (Gittens v State of New York, 175 AD2d 530). That having been said, however, in the event an inmate is unable to afford the cost of photocopying it is not unreasonable for the parties to attempt to arrange reasonable alternatives, such as arranging an opportunity for claimant to inspect such records with the understanding that any such arrangements are subject to whatever security restrictions the New York State Department of Correctional Services deems appropriate. Of course, in the event that such inspection is arranged and claimant thereafter wishes to obtain actual photocopies of any document, he will be required to pay reasonable copying costs as discussed herein. Finally, with respect to claimant's suggestion that this court conduct an in camera inspection of the aforementioned materials, the court finds such request premature inasmuch as there is no indication that any of these documents contain material relevant to this claim. As such, based upon this record, the court declines to direct an in camera inspection at this time, but will not foreclose the possibility of revisiting this issue upon an adequate showing after further discovery or at trial.

In view of the foregoing, it is ORDERED, that claimant's motion, Motion No. M-67760, is DENIED.

January 13, 2004
Binghamton, New York

Judge of the Court of Claims

The Court has considered the following papers in connection with this motion:
  1. Claim, filed March 13, 2003.
  2. Notice of Motion No. M-67760, dated November 26, 2003, and filed December 4, 2003.
  3. Affidavit of Ernest McKnight, in support of motion, sworn to November 26, 2003.
  4. Affirmation of Joseph F. Romani, AAG, in opposition to motion, dated December 22, 2003, and filed December 24, 2003, with attached exhibits.

[1]Unreported decisions from the Court of Claims are available via the Internet at