New York State Court of Claims

New York State Court of Claims

RIVERA v. THE STATE OF NEW YORK, #2007-041-020, Claim No. 112168, Motion No. M-73097


Incarcerated claimant’s motion to compel disclosure of aerial photographs of the correctional facility in an inmate-on-inmate assault case is denied.

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:
Defendant’s attorney:
New York State Attorney GeneralBy: Belinda A. Wagner, Assistant Attorney General
Third-party defendant’s attorney:

Signature date:
May 23, 2007

Official citation:

Appellate results:

See also (multicaptioned case)


Claimant moves pursuant to CPLR 3124 to compel defendant to provide aerial photographs of Clinton Correctional Facility, where claimant is presently incarcerated, for the alleged purpose of “trying to establish the location where the inmate-on-inmate assault occurred in the North Yard in Clinton Correctional Facility.” The claim alleges that defendant failed to adequately observe claimant and fellow inmates, resulting in an assault upon claimant by an unidentified inmate. In particular, claimant alleges that defendant “was negligent by officers being absent from their yard post, where claimant was seriously injured while in the facility prison yard.” In seeking production of aerial photographs of the facility, claimant alleges that he “was assaulted in an area next to a guard post that can only be identified by the showing of aerial photographs of the North Yard.”

Defendant refused to provide claimant with any aerial photographs, asserting that production of any such photographs would “have an impact upon security concerns.” In opposition to claimant’s motion, defendant provides the affidavit of the Superintendent of the Clinton Correctional Facility, in which the Superintendent states that “possession or access to any aerial photograph, map or chart of the North Yard at Clinton Correctional Facility or any secured area inside the said facility would pose a threat to the safety and security of the facility.”

According to claimant, in rejecting claimant’s demand for the aerial photographs, the defendant offered to stipulate that the North Yard “contained four wall towers containing armed officers and additional unarmed manned posts.” Further, defendant provided a response to claimant’s interrogatories in which the defendant acknowledged that “[n]ot all posts are manned at all times.” In the response to claimant interrogatories, the defendant further acknowledged that “there may be times when a particular inmate will not be under a ‘continuous clear view.’” The Court has “broad discretion in managing disclosure, and absent an abuse of discretion or unreasonable interference with the disclosure of relevant and necessary material,” that discretion will not be disturbed (Czarnecki v Welch, 23 AD3d 914, 915 [3d Dept 2005]).

It is equally clear that “[w]hile disclosure provisions are to be liberally construed, the trial court is vested with broad discretion to supervise discovery and determine what is ‘material and necessary’ under CPLR 3101 (a)” (Mora v RGB, Inc., 17 AD3d 849, 851 [3d Dept 2005]).

The standard of materiality is “one of usefulness and reason,” with the goal of “sharpening the issues and reducing delay and prolixity” (Allen v Crowell-Collier Publ. Co., 21 NY2d 403, 406 [1968]).

Security within a correctional facility is a proper basis for denial of access to “sensitive” or confidential facility records (Lowrance v State of New York, 185 AD2d 268, 269 [2d Dept 1992]; see Public Officers Law § 87 [2] [f], which permits a state agency to deny access to records where disclosure could endanger the life or safety of any person; Matter of Beyah v Goord, 309 AD2d 1049, 1052 [3d Dept 2003], which exempted from disclosure “[correction facility] employee staffing records, [that] ‘if disclosed would endanger the life or safety of any person’ (Public Officers Law § 87 [2] [f]), by revealing the postings of correction officers throughout the facility”).

The Court finds that the defendant has established that production of the aerial photographs would raise legitimate security concerns at the Clinton Correctional Facility and further finds that, under the circumstances of this relatively simple and straightforward claim, the aerial photographs are neither material nor necessary to prosecution of the claim.

Claimant’s own testimony can demonstrate where, in the prison yard, the assault occurred and whether “a security post existed in the area at that time.” Written requests for disclosure or oral depositions are also available to establish those elements of the claim and further offer sufficient means to reveal whether the assault upon claimant was witnessed, or was capable of being witnessed, by any of defendant’s correction officers.

The claimant’s motion is denied.

May 23, 2007
Albany, New York

Judge of the Court of Claims

Papers Considered:

  1. Claimant’s Notice of Motion to Compel Discovery, filed March 27, 2007;
  2. Claimant’s Affidavit in Support of Motion to Compel Discovery, sworn to March 22, 2007;
  3. Affirmation in opposition of Belinda A. Wagner, dated April 11, 2007 and filed on April 12, 2007, with annexed exhibits;
  4. Affidavit of Dale A. Artus, sworn to March 30, 2007.