New York State Court of Claims

New York State Court of Claims

SEAGER v. THE STATE OF NEW YORK, #2005-019-574, Claim No. 107835, Motion No. M-70384


Synopsis


Claimant's motion for an order compelling disclosure, after an in camera inspection of submitted documents, is granted in part and denied in part.

Case Information

UID:
2005-019-574
Claimant(s):
MICHAEL T. SEAGER
Claimant short name:
SEAGER
Footnote (claimant name) :

Defendant(s):
THE STATE OF NEW YORK
Footnote (defendant name) :

Third-party claimant(s):

Third-party defendant(s):

Claim number(s):
107835
Motion number(s):
M-70384
Cross-motion number(s):

Judge:
FERRIS D. LEBOUS
Claimant's attorney:
LAW OFFICES OF ROBERT A. DURR, ESQ.BY: Rory A. McMahon, Esq., of counsel
Defendant's attorney:
HON. ELIOT SPITZER, ATTORNEY GENERALBY: Joseph F. Romani, Assistant Attorney General, of counsel
Third-party defendant's attorney:

Signature date:
October 13, 2005
City:
Binghamton
Comments:

Official citation:

Appellate results:

See also (multicaptioned case)



Decision

Claimant previously moved for an order compelling the defendant to provide additional responses to his discovery demands. By way of Decision and Order, this court directed the defendant State of New York (hereinafter "State") to submit to the court the documents at issue for an in camera inspection. (Seager v State of New York, Ct Cl, August 1, 2005, Lebous, J., Claim No. 107835, Motion No. M-70384 [UID No. 2005-019-554]).[1] In accordance with said Decision and Order, the State has now supplied the discovery documents for the court's in camera inspection in the manner directed, namely one copy in unredacted form and the second copy redacted in a manner which the State believes presents information relevant to this claim while removing privileged or irrelevant information.

As a brief review, claimant alleges that he was sexually assaulted on June 8, 2002 by another inmate identified as Fred Meyers, # 95-A-8522, while incarcerated at Elmira Correctional Facility and that this inmate was known by the State to have violent and/or sexually violent propensities.


The court has completed an in camera review of the following documents provided by the State pursuant to the prior Decision and Order: (1) confidential sources regarding inmate Meyers' alleged attack on claimant; (2) inmate Meyers' disciplinary history and corresponding inmate misbehavior reports; and (3) information relative to an incident involving inmate Meyers' threat of another inmate named Hobbs. Before proceeding, however, the court notes that in determining whether the submitted documents are material and relevant to this claim, this court is mindful that this alleged assault, while sexual in nature, was an act of violence in the first instance and, as such, this court considers any prior assaultive behavior on the part of inmate Meyers to be material and relevant and subject to disclosure whether the conduct was sexual in nature or not. (Baldwin v State of New York, Ct Cl, December 13, 2001, Read, P.J., Claim No. 103154, Motion M-64036 [UID No. 2001-001-086]).


1. Confidential sources regarding inmate Meyers' attack on claimant


The State was directed "[t]o produce for an in camera review the statements and/or reports made by or regarding the two sources that allegedly confirmed the subject attack." (Seager, p 3). The State has produced four separate single page memorandums.


The first memorandum is from Sgt. Volker to Capt. Wenderlich dated July 3, 2003 and the second memorandum is from Sgt. Backer to Capt. Wenderlich dated June 30, 2003. Both of these memorandums contain the names of facility staff who purport to have unnamed confidential sources regarding the subject attack. Although the State objects to the disclosure of these memorandums or, at a minimum, requests redaction of the names of the facility staff members, the court notes that the State has already produced both of these memoranda in unredacted form as part of prior discovery. (Defendant's Reply to First Set of Discovery Demands filed March 22, 2004, Exhibits B & D). Accordingly, the court finds there is no need to address the disclosure of these documents.


The third and fourth memoranda are from the two facility staff members already disclosed in the two prior memoranda. In the first instance, the court finds the third and fourth memoranda are material and relevant and should be disclosed. With respect to any proposed redactions, the State has again removed the names of the two facility staff members in the proposed redacted versions. However, the court finds that since the State already revealed the names of these two facility staff members in its prior discovery responses there is no need to direct any redactions. (Defendant's Reply to First Set of Discovery Demands filed March 22, 2004, Exhibits B & D). Consequently, the court directs that all four of these memoranda should be disclosed to claimant without any redactions.


2. Inmate Meyers' inmate disciplinary history and inmate misbehavior reports

Next, the court directed the State "[t]o produce Inmate Meyers' inmate disciplinary history for an in camera review, as well as the corresponding inmate misbehavior reports for any incident listed thereon that is violent and/or sexual in nature." (Seager, p 4). The State has submitted Inmate Meyers' inmate disciplinary history which is four pages long and contains 31 entries dating from December 24, 1995 through June 13, 2002. From those 31 entries the State has submitted 16 corresponding inmate misbehavior reports for the incidents which involve violent conduct.


The court has reviewed all 31 entries on inmate Meyers' inmate disciplinary history and the 16 corresponding inmate misbehavior reports and finds that there are four incidents involving violent behavior by inmate Meyers toward other inmates. These four incidents involving inmate Meyer's fighting with other inmates occurred on April 12, 1996; June 1, 1998; November 4, 1999; and February 4, 2001.[2] The court finds these four incidents are material and relevant to this claim and should be disclosed. However, the court finds that the remaining entries on inmate Meyers' disciplinary history contain non-violent incidents such as the use of obscene and/or abusive language toward correction officers; various property complaints; and refusing direct orders which are not material and relevant to this claim and need not be disclosed.


Consequently, the court finds that inmate Meyers' disciplinary history should be disclosed to claimant in redacted form with only the four incidents noted above included and the remaining entries redacted. Additionally, the State should disclose the four corresponding inmate misbehavior reports for each of those incidents which may be redacted so as to delete the names and identification numbers of other inmates.



3. Inmate Meyers' threat of inmate Hobbs and/or any other persons

Finally, this court directed "[t]he State to produce for an in camera review, the inmate misbehavior reports pertaining to inmate Meyers' threat of inmate Hobbs and/or any other persons." (Seager, p 3). Although the State did not submit any misbehavior reports involving inmate Meyers and inmate Hobbs, it has submitted two sets of documents, namely a packet of documents relating to inmate Meyer's administrative segregation hearing (seven pages), as well as the transcript of the Tier 3 administrative segregation hearing (cover letter plus five page transcript). In the first instance, the court notes that interspersed throughout these two sets of documents are documents and references relating to this claim since the administrative segregation order was apparently a result of both this incident and the Hobbs' incident.


Generally, a review of these documents reveals that the incident involving inmate Meyers and inmate Hobbs do not involve any violent conduct. As such, the court finds that to the extent these documents relate to the Meyers-Hobbs incident they are not material and relevant to this claim. With respect to inmate Meyer's administrative segregation hearing packet, all but one page relates to the Meyers-Hobbs incident and thus is not material and relevant here.[3] The page relating to this incident is a form entitled "administrative segregation recommendation" (page 4) and has already been produced by the State in a prior discovery response without any redactions. (Defendant's Reply to First Set of Discovery Demands filed March 22, 2004, Exhibit C). In sum, the administrative segregation packet need not be produced since the Meyers-Hobbs information is not material and relevant to this incident and the "administrative segregation recommendation" form (page 4) has already been disclosed.


With respect to the transcript of inmate Meyers' administrative segregation hearing, the court finds this transcript is material and relevant to the extent it discusses this claim and should be disclosed, but finds that it should be redacted to remove references to the Meyers-Hobbs incident. The court has prepared a redacted version of the administrative segregation transcript and will transmit the same to the State under separate cover upon the filing of this Decision & Order for disclosure to claimant.


The Chief Clerk of the Court is directed to seal and preserve both sets of documents (redacted and unredacted) provided to the court for this in camera inspection in the event of possible appellate review, together with the court's redacted version of the administrative segregation hearing transcript.


Accordingly, in view of the foregoing, it is ORDERED that claimant's motion, No. M-70384, is GRANTED IN PART and DENIED IN PART in accordance with the foregoing. The State is directed to provide the aforementioned discovery documents to claimant within 45 days of the date of filing of this Decision and Order.


October 13, 2005
Binghamton, New York

HON. FERRIS D. LEBOUS
Judge of the Court of Claims


The court has considered the following papers in connection with this motion:
  1. Claim, filed June 6, 2003.
  2. Verified Answer, filed July 10, 2003.
  3. Claimant's Demand for Verified Bill of Particulars, filed February 27, 2004.
  4. Claimant's First Set of Discovery Demands, filed February 27, 2004.
  5. Defendant's Bill of Particulars, filed March 22, 2004.
  6. Defendant's Reply to First Set of Discovery Demands, filed March 22, 2004.
  7. Letter from Rory A. McMahon, Esq. to the Court, dated September 22, 2004, and received September 23, 2004.
  8. Letter from the Court to Mr. McMahon, dated September 27, 2004.
  9. "Motion for Court to Compel Discovery Motion for Court to Conduct In Camera Review of Inmate Fred Meyers Department of Corrections File", Motion No. M-70384, of Rory A. McMahon, Esq., dated July 8, 2005, and filed July 11, 2005, with attached exhibits.
  10. Affirmation of Joseph F. Romani, AAG, in opposition to motion, dated July 18, 2005, and filed July 21, 2005.
  11. DECISION AND ORDER, Lebous, J., Claim No. 107835, Motion No. M-70384, filed August 11, 2005.
  12. Documents submitted to the court by the State for the court's in camera review.

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

[2]The court finds that the entry on inmate Meyer's disciplinary history noted as "violent conduct" on March 24, 2001 did not, as best the court can determine, involve violent conduct as detailed on the related inmate misbehavior report.

[3]For purposes of clarification, the court finds the remaining pages of inmate Meyer's administrative segregation hearing packet relate to the Meyers-Hobbs incident of June 13, 2002.