New York State Court of Claims

New York State Court of Claims

BROWN v. THE STATE OF NEW YORK, #2005-033-134, Claim No. 107964, Motion No. M-69731


Synopsis



Case Information

UID:
2005-033-134
Claimant(s):
ISAIAH BROWN
Claimant short name:
BROWN
Footnote (claimant name) :

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

Third-party claimant(s):

Third-party defendant(s):

Claim number(s):
107964
Motion number(s):
M-69731
Cross-motion number(s):

Judge:
James J. Lack
Claimant’s attorney:
Isaiah Brown, Pro Se
Defendant’s attorney:
Eliot Spitzer, New York State Attorney GeneralBy: Saul Aronson, Assistant Attorney General
Third-party defendant’s attorney:

Signature date:
September 1, 2005
City:
Hauppauge
Comments:

Official citation:

Appellate results:

See also (multicaptioned case)



Decision

This claim is brought by Isaiah Brown (hereinafter “claimant”) for negligence by the State of New York (hereinafter “State”) in allegedly losing his property and for defamation by an employee of the State. Claimant is an inmate in Otisville Correctional Facility, Otisville, New York.

Claimant previously moved this Court for an order seeking to compel defendant to comply with claimant’s discovery request (M-68484 and M-69368). Pursuant to its prior decisions filed October 25, 2004 and April 13, 2005, the Court reviewed the objections defendant made to claimant’s discovery requests. The Court sustained the objections raised to claimant’s requests, ruled that defendant’s response was adequate, or granted claimant discovery.

In reviewing the responses to claimant’s three discovery requests, the Court is satisfied that the requests have been sufficiently answered or objected to.

The Court denies the request for criminal records and personnel files of defendant’s employees as improper.

Civil Rights Law §50-a gives great protection to files of correction officers, among others. The statute was designed to prevent unwarranted fishing expeditions into personnel folders (Becker v City of New York, 162 AD2d 488; see also, People v Gissendanner, 48 NY2d 543). The records of a correction officer may be disclosed after an in camera review of them. However, there is a procedure that must be followed before the Court can order the in camera review of the documents. In relevant part, it states:
1. All personnel records, used to evaluate performance toward continued employment or promotion, under the control of any police agency or department of the state or any political subdivision thereof including authorities or agencies maintaining police forces of individuals defined as police officers in section 1.20 of the criminal procedure law and such personnel records under the control of a sheriff's department or a department of correction of individuals employed as correction officers . . . shall be considered confidential and not subject to inspection or review without the express written consent of such police officer . . . except as may be mandated by lawful court order.


2. Prior to issuing such court order the judge must review all such requests and give interested parties the opportunity to be heard. No such order shall issue without a clear showing of facts sufficient to warrant the judge to request records for review.


3. If, after such hearing, the judge concludes there is a sufficient basis he shall sign an order requiring that the personnel records in question be sealed and sent directly to him. He shall then review the file and make a determination as to whether the records are relevant and material in the action before him. Upon such a finding the court shall make those parts of the record found to be relevant and material available to the persons so requesting.

Claimant makes no showing that he seeks these records for anything but a fishing expedition. No evidence is put forth which would initiate the procedures in Civil Rights Law §50-a to obtain the records contained in the personnel folder of the State’s employee.
The Court sustains defendant’s objection to releasing expunged records. Previously, courts have distinguished between records which have been sealed and those that have been expunged. The law allows for records to be sealed for the benefit of a person and thereby segregated from public documents. These documents are capable of being unsealed if a person consents or the law allows. However, the term “expunge” implies that the records are physically destroyed and cancelled from existence for a person’s benefit (see K v K, 126 Misc 2d 624; Matter of Timothy M., 280 AD2d 969).
Accordingly, claimant’s motion to compel discovery[1] is denied.
September 1, 2005
Hauppauge, New York
HON. JAMES J. LACK
Judge of the Court of Claims

[1].The following papers have been read and considered on claimant’s motion: Notice of Motion to Compel Disclosure and for Sanctions dated February 4, 2005 and filed February 10, 2005; Affidavit in Support of Motion to Compel and for Sanctions of Isaiah Brown with annexed Exhibits A-H sworn to February 4, 2005 and filed February 10, 2005; Affirmation in Opposition of Saul Aronson, Esq. with annexed Exhibits A-C dated June 16, 2005 and filed June 16, 2005; Reply Affidavit of Isaiah Brown sworn to June 21, 2005 and filed June 24, 2005.