New York State Court of Claims

New York State Court of Claims

WILLIAMS v. THE STATE OF NEW YORK, #2005-032-005, Claim No. 108088, Motion Nos. M-69514, CM-69536


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:
Rahsaan Williams, Pro Se
Defendant's attorney:
Hon. Eliot Spitzer, NYS Attorney GeneralBy: Michael C. Rizzo, Assistant Attorney General, Of Counsel
Third-party defendant's attorney:

Signature date:
February 8, 2005

Official citation:

Appellate results:

See also (multicaptioned case)


Claimant moves this Court for an order compelling defendant to comply with his supplemental request for discovery. In opposing this relief, defendant cross-moves for a protective order.

In this negligence action, claimant seeks damages for injuries he sustained in September 2002, after he was assaulted by another inmate. Claimant alleges that his injuries were the result of a month-long "cutting spree" at the Clinton Correctional Facility. In June 2004, the Court denied claimant's request to compel defendant to provide certain statements by Department of Correctional Services officials regarding the cutting spree as such statements did not exist, and no party is to create a document that does not currently exist (see General Elec. Co. v Macejka, 252 AD2d 700, 701 [3d Dept 1998], lv dismissed 92 NY2d 1012 [3d Dept 1998]). In August 2004, claimant served defendant with a supplemental request for discovery seeking: (1) a copy of the transcript from claimant's September 2002 disciplinary hearing; and (2) unusual incident reports pertaining to other inmates being cut or stabbed at Clinton Correctional Facility from June 2002 through September 2002 - the month claimant was assaulted. In January 2005, defendant provided claimant with a copy of the transcript, but objected to claimant's request for the unusual incident reports as overbroad, unduly burdensome, irrelevant and palpably improper inasmuch as such release would compromise facility security and violate inmate medical privacy.

Initially, inasmuch as defendant has provided claimant with the requested transcript, that part of claimant's motion is denied as moot (see e.g. Mars Associates, Inc. v Facilities Development Corp., 111 AD2d 581 [3d Dept 1985]). Turning to the remaining issue, claimant has modified his request and now seeks unusual incident reports pertaining to inmate assaults for only a two-month period - August 2002 through September 2002. As stated in the Court's June 2004 Decision and Order, given that claimant alleges inadequate security during a month-long spree in September 2002, records concerning inmate assaults for the month in question and one month prior are neither irrelevant nor overbroad, as such information bears directly on an issue to be determined at trial. Further, defendant fails to indicate how claimant's modified request for the two-month period is unduly burdensome by failing to giving any indication of the effort involved to obtain the records or the magnitude of the request.[1]

Next, while defendant admits that it did not timely seek a protective order (see CPLR 3122), the Court may reach the merits of this request where the discovery request is palpably improper and involves privileged matter (see Carp v Marcus, 116 AD2d 854, 855 [3d Dept 1986]). A discovery request is palpably improper if it seeks confidential or private information that is not relevant to the issues in the case (see Saratoga Harness Racing Inc. v Roemer, 274 AD2d 887, 889 [3d Dept 2000]). Here, the Court determines that an in camera inspection is appropriate to determine what material contained in the unusual incident reports is palpably improper, i.e., involving private or confidential information, including information that is medical in nature or would compromise facility security. To facilitate the Court's review, defendant is directed to submit two copies of each report, a redacted copy indicating the information it seeks to protect from disclosure and an unredacted copy. Such submissions shall be made within 45 days of filing of this Decision and Order. After reviewing these documents, the Court will issue further directions indicating what, if any, portion of the documents in question should be provided to claimant.

Accordingly, claimant's motion is denied as to his request for the transcript from his disciplinary hearing. Defendant is to produce, for in camera inspection by the Court, the unusual incident reports for Clinton Correctional Facility for the period August 2002 through September

2002, in the manner herein directed. Pending such submissions, the remaining portion of claimant's motion and defendant's cross-motion are held in abeyance.

February 8, 2005
Albany, New York

Judge of the Court of Claims

The following papers were read on claimant's motion and defendant's cross motion:

1. Notice of Motion filed December 29, 2004;

2. Affidavit of Rahsaan Williams sworn to December 22, 2004; Exhibit A annexed;

3. Notice of Cross Motion filed January 5, 2005;

4. Affidavit of Michael C. Rizzo, Esq., AAG sworn to January 4, 2005; Exhibits A-D annexed;

5. Response to Claimant's Supplemental Request for Discovery filed January 5, 2005;

6. Affidavit of Rahsaan Williams dated January 8, 2005; Exhibit A annexed;

Filed papers: Claim; Answer

[1]The Court notes that defendant did not offer a reply to its cross motion to address the modification of claimant's request for the unusual incident reports.