William Ramos alleges in Claim Number 112096 that on or about November 11,
Defendant’s agents at Green Haven
Correctional Facility used excessive force when removing him from his cell for a
search, and damaged or destroyed his property. He indicates that correction
Officer E. Wood and Officer J. Thompson, and a third, unidentified correction
officer were the ones responsible for the alleged assault and for the
destruction of his personal property. The Claim was filed in the Office of the
Chief Clerk of the Court of Claims on March 17, 2006.
In his Notice of Motion Seeking Discovery and Inspection Claimant asks for the
disciplinary records, any prior record of staff misconduct, prior written
complaints of physical abuse and/or use of excessive force upon inmates, and any
prior written complaints, with respect to Officer E. Wood, Officer J. Thompson
and Officer Mrs. J. Thompson. He also seeks a copy of any cell search order
form authorizing a search of his cell without the presence of a supervising
officer, a copy of the watch commander’s log book entry that authorized a
cell search of Claimant’s cell on December 11, 2005; copies of photographs
taken of Claimant on December 11, 2005; and a copy of a misbehavior report
written by Officer E. Wood relative to the December 11, 2005 incident and any
disposition of same.
Defendant has produced what records are in its possession relative to a
disciplinary action that led to a search of Claimant’s cell, but indicates
that there is no unusual incident report or cell search form on file.
[Affirmation in Opposition by Mary B. Kavaney, ¶5]. Copies of what records
of disciplinary hearings and grievances it possesses have been produced and a
copy is appended to the Affirmation. [ibid. Exhibit 3]. Defendant has
also attached a copy of a letter dated January 17, 2006 from the Inmate Records
Coordinator indicating that the aforestated documents are enclosed, and
confirming that no unusual incident report or cell search form is on file.
[ibid. Exhibit 2].
Defendant also indicates that it possesses copies of certified medical records
that will be provided to Claimant upon payment of $21.75, representing 87 pages
at $.25 per page. [ibid. ¶6].
With regard to all other items requested, Defendant opposes their production as
privileged or as not discoverable.
The Court notes that if any photographs were taken of Claimant on December 11,
2005 he is entitled to copies of same. He is also entitled to log book entries
for the relevant period. Defendant is directed to advise Claimant in writing
with a copy to the Court whether or not any photographs were taken and, if so,
is further directed to provide Claimant with the cost of copying same in the
same writing within thirty (30) days of the date of filing of this Decision and
Order. The existence of any log book entries and the cost of photocopying same
shall be confirmed in writing within the same time frame.
Claimant’s requests concerning the personnel records and disciplinary
histories of the correction officers are exempt from disclosure pursuant to
Civil Rights Law §50-a(1). [See also Public Officers Law §96].
Civil Rights Law §50-a requires that an interested party - here, the
correction officers - be given an opportunity to be heard. Moreover, Claimant
has simply not established a factual basis sufficient to order the production of
the personnel files that might contain such information, and, accordingly, this
request is denied. The Court notes that such production would be for in
camera inspection by the Court in any event, upon a proper showing of
materiality and relevance. As noted by one court considering this first step in
considering disclosure, “. . . [Claimant must] make a good faith showing
of facts which make it reasonably likely that the file will contain information
bearing on the merits of the action, and that [the] request is not merely a
desperate grasping at a straw . . . (citation omitted).” Wunsch
v City of Rochester, 108 Misc 2d 854, 857 (Sup Ct, Monroe County, 1981).
Claimant’s motion to compel discovery [M-71780], submitted while the
initial motion for discovery [M-71601] was still pending, essentially reiterates
the same requests concerning the personnel records, and provides some tangential
legal authority that is not persuasive.
Accordingly, Claimant’s motion for discovery [M-71601] is denied in part
and granted in part as set forth above. Claimant’s motion to compel
[M-71780] is in all respects denied.