New York State Court of Claims

New York State Court of Claims

JOHNSON v. THE STATE OF NEW YORK, #2009-038-575, Claim No. 116398, Motion No. M-76956


Synopsis

Claimant's motion to compel production of 170 inmate grievances granted, but defendant is not responsible for the cost of photocopying the demanded documents. Defendant to notify claimant of the number of pages to be copied, the per page copying fee, and the total fee to be paid. Upon claimant's payment of the fee, documents should be produced.

Case Information

UID:
2009-038-575
Claimant(s):
JOHNATHAN JOHNSON
Claimant short name:
JOHNSON
Footnote (claimant name) :

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

Third-party claimant(s):

Third-party defendant(s):

Claim number(s):
116398
Motion number(s):
M-76956
Cross-motion number(s):

Judge:
W. BROOKS DeBOW
Claimant’s attorney:
JOHNATHAN JOHNSON, Pro se
Defendant’s attorney:
ANDREW M. CUOMO, Attorney General of the State of New York
By: Michael T. Krenrich, Assistant Attorney General
Third-party defendant’s attorney:

Signature date:
December 4, 2009
City:
Albany
Comments:

Official citation:

Appellate results:

See also (multicaptioned case)



Decision

Claimant, an individual incarcerated at Upstate Correctional Facility (CF), filed this claim asserting two causes of action. The first cause of action seeks money damages upon allegations that defendant is not deciding the Inmate Grievances of claimant and other inmates in a fair, impartial, satisfactory manner. The second cause of action seeks compensation for injuries allegedly caused by defendant’s actions in keeping a light on in claimant’s cell from nightfall to sunrise. Claimant moves to compel defendant’s compliance with his demand for production of documents, filed March 18, 2009, asserting that defendant’s initial response to his demand was inadequate. Defendant opposes the motion, and has also filed a supplemental response in which certain documents are produced.

Claimant’s motion recites four discovery demands to which defendant’s response has been unsatisfactory to claimant, and which are interpreted to mean the following: (1) copies of claimant’s grievance complaints filed at Upstate CF from 2007-2009, including tape recorded testimony of all employees involved in the incidents giving rise to the grievance; (2) copies of the list of grievance complaints pertaining to facility conditions and employee misconduct filed at Upstate CF during 2007-2009 by all inmates; (3) a copy of any policy, regulation or other document that requires the use of night-lights in cells at Upstate CF; (4) a copy of any grievance filed by any inmate pertaining to the use of such night-lights.

Claimant correctly contends that evidence that is material and necessary to the prosecution of an action should be produced in discovery (see CPLR 3101[a]; Allen v Crowell-Collier Pub. Co., 21 NY2d 403, 407 [1968]; Walsh v Liberty Mut. Ins. Co., 289 AD2d 842, 843 [3d Dept 2001]). Manifestly, the substance of the claim must be examined to determine whether a discovery demand seeks documents or information that are relevant to the claim.

Claimant’s causes of action seek money damages for injuries allegedly sustained by claimant as a result of defendant’s actions in deciding inmate grievances and keeping a light on in his cell during nighttime hours. Thus, any grievances by any person other than claimant is not relevant to the claim. Accordingly, claimant’s motion to compel responses to his second and fourth demand, as recited above, will be denied because those demands pertain to other inmates and are therefore not relevant to this claim.

As to claimant’s first demand as recited above, defendant initially objected to the demand for all grievances filed by claimant during 2007-2009 as overbroad, unduly burdensome, irrelevant, and beyond the scope of defendant’s obligations because such documents should be within claimant’s possession (see Response to Claimant’s Disclosure Request for Production of Documents, dated June 29, 2009). However, in response to the motion and in a supplemental response, defendant has nevertheless produced seven of claimant’s grievance files that bear dates in 2007 and 2008 (see Supplemental Response to Claimant’s Disclosure Request for Production of Documents, dated August 11, 2009, exhibits A-G). Defendant has submitted the affidavit of an Inmate Records Coordinator at Upstate asserting that claimant filed 177 inmate grievances during the period of 2007-2009 (see Affidavit of Joanne Clegg, sworn to August 10, 2009). In producing the seven files, defendant does not assert that the remaining 170 are unavailable or not relevant, and it appears that these reoccurring grievances may be relevant to prosecution of the claim, and should therefore be produced. However, defendant is not liable for the costs of photocopying documents that are sought pursuant to a discovery request (see Shell v State of New York, 307 AD2d 761, 762 [4 Dept 2003], lv denied 1 NY3d 505 [2003]; Civil Rights Law §§ 79 [3] and 79-a [3]). Thus, defendant will be directed to produce copies of claimant’s remaining 170 grievances from 2007-2009 upon claimant’s payment of copying fees.[1]

With respect to claimant’s third demand, for documents relating to defendant’s policies regarding the use of cell lights at night, defendant has produced a memorandum addressing that subject matter (see Supplemental Response to Claimant’s Disclosure Request for Production of Documents, dated August 11, 2009, Exhibit I). Inasmuch as claimant has not submitted any response to the Supplemental Response, the motion to compel a response to this discovery demand will be denied as moot.

In sum, it is

ORDERED, that claimant’s motion to compel, M-76956, is GRANTED IN PART, and defendant is directed to produce copies of claimant’s remaining 170 inmate grievances at claimant’s expense, in accordance with the directions set forth in this Decision and Order, and it is further

ORDERED, that claimant’s motion is DENIED in all other respects.

December 4, 2009
Albany, New York

HON. W. BROOKS DEBOW
Judge of the Court of Claims


Papers considered
:


(1) Claim No. 116398, filed February 6, 2009;

(2) Claimant’s Disclosure Requests for Production of Documents, filed March 18, 2009;

(3) Defendant’s Response to Claimant’s Disclosure Request for Production of Documents,

filed June 29, 2009;

(4) Notice of Motion to Compel Disclosure, dated July 7, 2009;

(5) Affidavit of Johnathan Johnson in Support of Motion to Compel Discovery Request, sworn to

July 7, 2009;

(6) Affirmation in Opposition of Michael T. Krenrich, AAG, dated August 11, 2009, with

exhibits A-C;

(7) Affidavit of Joanne Clegg, sworn to August 10, 2009;

(8) Supplemental Response to Claimant’s Disclosure Request for Production of Documents,

filed August 11, 2009, with exhibits A-I.


[1]. Defendant shall locate all of claimant’s grievances for this period of time, and shall notify claimant of the number of pages, the per page fee for copies, and the total fee for copying the demanded files. Upon claimant’s payment of said fees in full, defendant shall produce the copies of claimant’s inmate grievance files and recorded testimony therefrom for the period of 2007-2009. Further, to the extent recorded testimony is in existence, defendant shall inform claimant of the fee for producing a copy thereof.