3. Affirmation of Reynolds E. Hahn, Esq., dated May 8, 2007, with attached
exhibits. In his underlying claim filed on March 27, 2006, Claimant alleges a
cause of action for failure to prevent an assault upon him by another inmate.
The incident occurred in the kitchen at Groveland Correctional Facility
(“Groveland”) at 3:30 a.m. on November 21, 2004. Claimant asserts
that he was attacked by another inmate named Nathan Stuckey. Apparently, Mr.
Stuckey threw a pot of hot oil on Claimant’s head and face. Claimant
suffered burns to his head and face and hearing loss in his left ear. According
to Claimant, Defendant knew that Mr. Stuckey had mental problems and presented a
danger to other inmates prior to the incident.
With this motion, Claimant seeks an order compelling Defendant to: 1) turn over
unredacted versions of the incident report and witness statements (those already
produced by Defendant concealed the identification of inmate witnesses to the
incident); and 2) furnish to the Court for in camera inspection a
complete copy of the mental health records of Claimant’s assailant Nathan
With regard to the names and other identifying features of the inmate witnesses
to the incident, I must balance Defendant’s concerns about disclosing such
information with Claimant’s need for it in presenting his case. Defendant
has identified a limited privilege relating to the need to keep inmate informant
information confidential and to preserve prison security (see Cirale v 80
Pine St. Corp., 35 NY2d 113; Lowrance v State of New York, 185 AD2d
268). As for Claimant’s need for this information, to the extent that
Claimant desires this information for purposes of demonstrating what occurred on
the day of the incident, that aspect of the claim is not disputed by Defendant.
Defendant has conceded that Claimant was attacked without provocation by inmate
Nathan Stuckey and that Claimant suffered the alleged injuries as a result of
the attack. Accordingly, factual information from the inmate witnesses as to
the circumstances of the assault is not a necessary component of
To the extent that Claimant requires the identification of the inmate witnesses
for purposes of acquiring further information relative to their perspective on
Claimant’s mental health, it’s difficult to imagine that such
testimony could be relevant. The issue at hand is not whether Mr. Stuckey
suffered from a mental illness, but rather, whether Defendant had prior notice
that Mr. Stuckey was so dangerous that he should not have been permitted in the
general inmate population. Defendant maintains a record, called an inmate
disciplinary history, which reflects all known infractions of prison
disciplinary rules, including instances of violence. These records would reveal
any instances of institutional violence in which Mr. Stuckey has been involved.
In its opposition to this motion, Defendant has indicated that it has no
objection to producing, for in camera inspection, Mr. Stuckey’s
Classification History which, according to Defendant, includes “inmate
Stuckey’s medical and mental health status, Crime and Sentence
Information, Reception/Classification System Legal Date Computation, Personal
Characteristics Sheet, Test Results and Evaluation, Classification Analysis,
Description of Pattern of Criminal Behavior and Disciplinary History”
(Defendant’s Opposing Affirmation, para. 9). I, therefore, find no
compelling reason to direct the disclosure of this information.
With regard to Claimant’s request for Mr. Stuckey’s mental health
records, Mental Hygiene Law § 33.13(c) provides that, with certain
exceptions, records maintained by the Office of Mental Health or the Office of
Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities "shall not be released by the
offices or its facilities to any person or agency outside of the offices."
However, as relevant here, the records may be released “pursuant to an
order of a court of record requiring disclosure upon a finding by the court that
the interests of justice significantly outweigh the need for confidentiality . .
. .” The statute also provides, in subdivision (f), that disclosure under
any of the exceptions "shall be limited to that information necessary in light
of the reason for disclosure."
I do not doubt that Mr. Stuckey’s mental health records may potentially
contain non-medical factual information that would be useful and relevant.
However, I find that the best source for the information Claimant desires is his
assailant’s disciplinary history, which is among the documents Defendant
has agreed to produce for in camera inspection. Accordingly, in light of
Defendant’s offer to produce Mr. Stuckey’s Classification History,
the public interest in preserving the confidentiality of the other records
Claimant requests outweighs Claimant’s need for the information.
Accordingly, it is hereby
ORDERED, that Defendant shall, within 45 days of the filed date of this
decision and order, produce for in camera review an unredacted copy of
inmate Stuckey’s Classification History. This shall be accompanied by a
second copy of those same documents reflecting any redactions Defendant would
propose prior to production of the documents to Claimant, and it is
ORDERED, that Claimant’s motion to compel is in all other respects