New York State Court of Claims

New York State Court of Claims

MONAGAS v. THE STATE OF NEW YORK, #2009-010-006, Claim No. 113447, Motion No. M-76335


Synopsis


Claimant’s motion seeking an order directing that Supreme Court records of a civil commitment proceeding be unsealed is denied.

Case Information

UID:
2009-010-006
Claimant(s):
ANTHONY MONAGAS
Claimant short name:
MONAGAS
Footnote (claimant name) :

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

Third-party claimant(s):

Third-party defendant(s):

Claim number(s):
113447
Motion number(s):
M-76335
Cross-motion number(s):

Judge:
Terry Jane Ruderman
Claimant’s attorney:
GARY E. DIVIS, ESQ.
Defendant’s attorney:
HON. ANDREW M. CUOMO
Attorney General for the State of New YorkBy: Jeane L. Strickland Smith, Assistant Attorney General
Third-party defendant’s attorney:

Signature date:
April 2, 2009
City:
White Plains
Comments:

Official citation:

Appellate results:

See also (multicaptioned case)



Decision

The following papers numbered 1-2 were read and considered by the Court, and oral argument was heard on April 1, 2009, regarding claimant’s motion to compel:
Notice of Motion, Attorney’s Good Faith and Supporting Affirmation and Exhibits..1

Attorney’s Affirmation in Opposition and Exhibits.................................................2
Background
This claim arises out of an incident which occurred on December 21, 2006 during claimant’s incarceration at Green Haven Correctional Facility (Green Haven) when claimant was purportedly assaulted by Shawn Davis, another inmate. The claim contends that the State failed to protect claimant from Davis, an inmate with dangerous propensities allegedly known to the State.

Davis was subsequently released from State custody and, by civil commitment proceeding brought by the State in State of New York v Davis, Index No. 051610/2007, Sup Ct, Bronx Co., the State sought to have Davis civilly committed as a dangerous sexual offender. The proceeding was heard before Hon. Alexander Hunter, Jr. and the jury’s determination was that Davis was not a dangerous sexual offender. The records of the proceeding were sealed. By letter dated September 19, 2008, claimant’s attorney sought permission from Justice Hunter to review the County Clerk’s file. Permission was denied on the ground that the records were sealed.
Motion to Compel
Claimant’s attorney now seeks an order from this Court directing that the Supreme Court records of the civil commitment proceeding be unsealed for the purposes of counsel’s review of the summons and complaint and the bill of particulars to determine whether the papers indicate that the State took a position in that proceeding which is consistent with the State’s position in this claim regarding Davis’ dangerous propensities. While claimant is correct that an inconsistent pleading may be admissible against a defendant, provided that it can be shown that the facts alleged were within the pleader’s knowledge or under its direction (see Hirsh v Town of North Hempstead, 177 AD2d 683), the admission is “ ‘open to * * * explanation’ ” and is “ ‘not conclusive’ ” (id. at 684, citing Walsh v New York Cent. & Hudson Riv. R.R. Co., 204 NY 58, 66; Talbot v Laubheim, 188 NY 421). In this matter, however, because the civil court proceeding records have been sealed, claimant cannot establish that the State’s pleadings in that matter are inconsistent with the State’s position here.

In opposition, the State argues that its allegations in the civil commitment proceeding are not statements of fact within its personal knowledge and, therefore, cannot be a basis of an admission with any evidentiary weight. Further, the allegations of the civil commitment proceeding do no necessarily address Davis’ propensity for violence. Rather, the purposes of a civil commitment is to provide meaningful treatment, reduce recidivism, and to protect the public from “sex offenders” who have “mental abnormalities that predispose them to engage in repeated sex offenses” (Mental Hygiene Law §10.01[a][b][c]). Notably, the incident which is the basis of this claim was not sexual and Davis was not found to be a sex offender requiring civil management. Additionally, any knowledge of Davis’s mental health obtained by one State agency, e.g. the Office of Mental Health, is not, by law, imputed to another State agency, e.g. the Department of Correctional Services. Finally, claimant has filed his Note of Issue and Certificate of Readiness and the claim has been scheduled for trial; accordingly, defendant argues that any demand for discovery is untimely and should be denied.

Upon consideration of the papers submitted and the arguments made by counsel, the Court denies claimant’s application for an order compelling disclosure of the sealed records of Davis’ civil commitment proceeding. Pursuant to the statutory scheme, the release of such records is authorized only to “appropriate persons and entities when necessary to protect the public concerning a specific sex offender requiring civil management under article ten of this chapter [Mental Hygiene Law]” (Mental Hygiene Law §§33.13 (c)(9)(vii); 10.17) and to “the attorney general, case review panel, or psychiatric examiners described in article ten of this chapter, when such persons or entities request such information in the exercise of their statutory functions, powers and duties under article ten of this chapter” (Mental Hygiene Law §33.13 [c][9][viii]). Claimant does not fall within the ambit of any of the statutorily prescribed designations authorized for release of such information.

Moreover, claimant does not cite to any supporting authority which would sanction an order of a Court of Claims judge, who does not have jurisdiction over civil commitment proceedings, compelling the disclosure of matters which were sealed by the Supreme Court justice who presided over the civil commitment. Indeed, claimant merely speculates that the State’s pleadings and bill of particulars regarding Davis’ civil commitment proceeding may contain some statements which may be inconsistent with the State’s defense in this matter regarding Davis’ dangerous propensities.[1] This is not a compelling reason to deviate from the statutory mandates of the Mental Hygiene Law.

Accordingly, claimant’s application is DENIED.

April 2, 2009
White Plains, New York

HON. TERRY JANE RUDERMAN
Judge of the Court of Claims




[1].Notably, a jury found that there was insufficient evidence to establish the requirement of civil management; the civil commitment proceeding was not commenced prior to the incident in issue and was unrelated to the facts which are the basis of this claim. Thus, even if the records were accessible, they would be of doubtful relevance and probative value to this proceeding.