New York State Court of Claims

New York State Court of Claims

BUTLER v. THE STATE OF NEW YORK, #2008-015-057, Claim No. 114672, Motion No. M-74942


Synopsis


Claimant's motion to compel discovery granted in part and denied in part.

Case Information

UID:
2008-015-057
Claimant(s):
MICHAEL G. BUTLER
Claimant short name:
BUTLER
Footnote (claimant name) :

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

Third-party claimant(s):

Third-party defendant(s):

Claim number(s):
114672
Motion number(s):
M-74942
Cross-motion number(s):

Judge:
FRANCIS T. COLLINS
Claimant’s attorney:
Michael G. Butler, Pro Se
Defendant’s attorney:
Honorable Andrew M. Cuomo, Attorney General
By: Kent B. Sprotbery, EsquireAssistant Attorney General
Third-party defendant’s attorney:

Signature date:
July 21, 2008
City:
Saratoga Springs
Comments:

Official citation:

Appellate results:

See also (multicaptioned case)



Decision

Claimant, an inmate proceeding pro se, moves for an order compelling the defendant to comply with its Demand To Produce dated March 3, 2008. Claimant alleges the following as the basis for his claim:
"Wrongful confinement: . . .

Claimant was keep-locked on 08-07-07, hearing started 8-13-07, adjourned and delayed until 9/18/07 due to the fact, on 9-4-07 Hearing Officer went on vacation for 14 days. Further on 8-15-07 C.O. Barden [a witness] went on vacation for 32 days [thereby] creating a [sic] illegal seizure and due-process infringment [sic] protected by both the 4th and 14th amendments. The hearing (must) be completed in 14 days. The extension was requested 44 day's [sic] after claimant was placed in keep-locked-status [sic], far beyond the 14 day requirement. see, chapter V"
Claimant's Demand to Produce requested the following:
"1. Transcript(s) of hearing, tape # side 1- side 2 of tape 1

2. The chain of custody, who handles urine, etc...etc...

3. All and any paper work, which would include investigation, memos, conclusions, etc... etc...

4. The time table for how long urine can be kept out of freezer before testing

5. All and any of the temperature settings and calibrations of all the equipment that was used

6. How long does it take to complete a hearing, and when is a [sic] extension to be given out or asked for."
CPLR 3101 provides for the disclosure of all items "material and necessary in the prosecution or defense of an action". While these words have been liberally construed, " '[u]nder our discovery statutes and case law, competing interests must always be balanced; the need for discovery must be weighed against any special burden to be borne by the opposing party' " (Kavanagh v Ogden Allied Maintenance Corp., 92 NY2d 952, 954 [1998], quoting O'Neill v Oakgrove Constr., 71 NY2d 521, 529 [1988], rearg denied 72 NY2d 910 [1988]; see also Andon v 302-304 Mott St. Assoc., 94 NY2d 740, 747 [2000]). It is therefore incumbent upon the party seeking disclosure to demonstrate that the discovery sought " 'is reasonably calculated to lead to the discovery of information bearing on the claims' " (Vyas v Campbell, 4 AD3d 417, 418 [2004], quoting Crazytown Furniture v Brooklyn Union Gas Co., 150 AD2d 420, 421 [1989]).

By letter dated March 13, 2008 the defendant raised several objections to the aforementioned demands. With regard to the first demand for a copy of the hearing transcript, the defendant objected on the ground that "defendant is under no obligation to provide the same..." Inasmuch as the claimant's demand for a copy of the hearing transcript is reasonably calculated to lead to the discovery of information bearing on his claim, the defendant is required to produce it upon receipt from the claimant of the reasonable cost of the transcript (see Shell v State of New York, 307 AD2d 761 [2003], lv denied 1 NY3d 505 [2003]; Gittens v State of New York, 175 AD2d 530 [1991] [State is not liable for the cost of inmate litigation]).

Defendant objected to demands numbered "2", "3", and "5" on the grounds that they are overly broad and insufficiently specific so as to be burdensome and potentially require the production of privileged information. The Court agrees. In addition, the claimant failed to establish, as was his burden, how the materials demanded would lead to the discovery of information bearing on his claim.

Defendant objected to demand numbered "4" on the ground that "it calls for opinions with a particular expertise and consequently is outside the scope of defendant's disclosure obligation ..." The Court agrees. Additionally, the claimant failed to establish how the materials demanded would lead to the discovery of information bearing on his claim.

Defendant objected to demand numbered "6" on the ground that "it calls for opinions and is speculative..." The Court agrees.

Based on the foregoing, claimant's motion is granted to the limited extent of requiring the defendant to produce a copy of the hearing transcript upon payment of the reasonable cost of same and is otherwise denied. Defendant is hereby ordered to advise claimant of the reasonable cost of the hearing transcript within 14 days of the filing of this Decision and Order and to provide the claimant with a copy of the transcript within 14 days following the date payment is received.



July 21, 2008
Saratoga Springs, New York

HON. FRANCIS T. COLLINS
Judge of the Court of Claims


The Court considered the following papers:
  1. Notice of motion dated March 17, 2008;
  2. Affidavit of Michael G. Butler sworn to May 8, 2008 with exhibit;
  3. Reply of Kent B. Sprotbery dated May 30, 2008.