New York State Court of Claims

New York State Court of Claims

MEDINA v. STATE OF NEW YORK, #2009-039-112, Claim No. 109178


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):

James H. Ferreira
Claimant’s attorney:
Anthony Medina, pro se
Defendant’s attorney:
Hon. Andrew M. Cuomo
Attorney General of the State of New York
By: Michael C. RizzoAssistant Attorney General
Third-party defendant’s attorney:

Signature date:
January 30, 2009

Official citation:

Appellate results:

See also (multicaptioned case)


In a claim filed with the Court on April 12, 2004, claimant alleged that while an inmate at Clinton Correctional Facility in Clinton County, New York, prison officials turned off the electricity in his cell for a period of nine consecutive days, failed to provide him with legal supplies and law books, and confiscated certain items of personal property in retaliation for a confrontation between claimant and a correction officer and for grievances filed by claimant against the prison law library. Issue was joined and discovery ensued. The Court has previously considered and decided two motions arising during the discovery phase (see Medina v State of New York, Ct Cl, August 4, 2008, UID No. 2008-039-089, Claim No. 109178, Motion No. M-73412 [Ferreira, J.]; Medina v State of New York, Ct Cl, February 28, 2007, UID No. 2007-039-009;Claim No. 109178, Motion No. M-72619 [Ferreira, J.]).

Claimant, who is currently incarcerated at Southport Correctional Facility in Chemung County, was notified on or about August 15, 2008 that his claim was scheduled for trial on October 23, 2008 at Clinton Correctional Facility, with the Court presiding over the trial via video conferencing technology at a court facility in Saratoga Springs, New York.[1] On or about September 17, 2008, the Court received a letter from claimant requesting that the trial venue be moved from Clinton to Southport because of the burdens on him and prejudice to his case by traveling to Clinton. Defendant opposed claimant’s request on various grounds, including that the alleged incident occurred at Clinton and that relevant DOCS witnesses were at Clinton or in that general location. By letter dated September 24, 2008, the Court denied claimant’s requests for a venue change and special video accommodations at Southport.

By letter dated September 30, 2008, claimant explained further that medical issues related to his eyesight and a scheduled optometrist appointment prevented him from traveling to Clinton for the October 23, 2008 trial. Claimant requested that in the event the trial was to take place at Clinton, “a magnifier to enable me to read documents and introduce exhibits in a prompt fashion” be available. The Court subsequently reached out to counsel for the defendant, who arranged for use of a magnifying glass by claimant at trial.

On October 23, 2008, claimant failed to appear at Clinton for the trial. Defendant appeared and moved to dismiss for want of prosecution. In support of its motion, defendant relied on a written statement dated October 20, 2008 from a DOCS Sergeant S. Post stating that DOCS was prepared to transport claimant to Clinton for the trial, but that claimant refused to travel because he was not allowed to take certain legal materials with him. Defendant also argued that the trial date had been set months before and that defense witnesses were available and ready to proceed. In response to a query from the Court, defendant stated that a magnifying glass had been made available for claimant’s use at trial, and that claimant had offered no medical reason for not traveling, such as poor eyesight, at the time of the scheduled transport to Clinton. Defendant also stated that claimant failed to produce any medical documentation supporting a claim that he could not travel. The Court reserved on its decision.

Following the date of the trial, the Court received a letter from claimant. The letter was dated October 20, 2008, three days prior to the date of trial, and notarized on October 27, 2008, four days after the date of trial. In the letter, claimant contends that he was barred from bringing to Clinton “records and relevant documents” and “prescribed medication and medical documents.” He also asserted that Clinton was not equipped to hold a trial for persons with “severe vision impairment.” Claimant then requested that the trial be rescheduled, and that he be allowed to bring “all documents relative to this case, any relevant law book, all prescription medication, and any medical documentation regarding a[n] ailment and any accommodation prescribed therefor.”

Court of Claims Act § 19 (3) provides that “[c]laims may be dismissed for failure to appear or prosecute or be restored to the calendar for good cause shown, in the discretion of the court.” 22 NYCRR § 206.15 of the Uniform Trial Rules for the Court of Claims provides further that “[w]henever a note of issue has been filed and the claimant is not ready for trial or fails to appear for a scheduled trial date, or if the assigned judge has directed that the claim be ready for trial by a particular date and the defendant is ready to proceed with the trial but the claimant is not so ready, the assigned judge, upon motion by the defendant or upon his ... own motion, may dismiss the claim unless sufficient reason is shown why such claim should not be tried at that time.” A motion to dismiss pursuant to Court of Claims Act § 19 (3) lies within the sound discretion of the Court of Claims (see Shabazz v State of New York, 191 AD2d 832 [1993], lv to appeal dismissed in part, denied in part 82 NY2d 736 [1993], rearg denied 82 NY2d 837 [1993], cert denied 114 S Ct 1858 [1994]; see also Dickan v State of New York, 16 AD3d 760 [2005]; Santiago v State of New York, Ct Cl, April 7, 2000, UID No. 2000-015-504, Claim No. 96310, [Collins, J.]).

Upon applying these principles to the instant facts, the Court finds that sufficient reason to postpone the trial was not shown, and the claim should be dismissed. Claimant had at least sixty days notice of the trial date. He failed to timely provide the Court with information to support his failure to appear and provided no information to corroborate his medical concerns regarding his vision. On the day of his anticipated travel to Clinton, information presented by defendant to the Court regarding claimant’s refusal to travel did not reference medical problems. Rather, defendant provided the Court with a memorandum dated October 20, 2008 from DOCS Sergeant Post, which reflects a disagreement between the DOCS officers assigned to prepare inmates for transport and claimant regarding materials claimant could take with him to Clinton. The disagreement culminated in claimant’s refusal to be transported to the location of his trial. Absent claimant’s appearance on the day his trial was scheduled to commence, or an offer of sufficient proof prior to the commencement of trial which would warrant postponement, the Court is unable to conclude that the claim should not have been tried on October 23, 2008. With respect to claimant’s letter to the Court also dated October 20, 2008, the Court notes that neither medical documentation of claimant’s alleged vision problems, nor evidence demonstrating that the facility was not equipped to convene a trial for someone with his alleged disability, accompanied the letter.

Finally, it bears mention that the trial was appropriately scheduled at the place where the alleged incident occurred and where relevant witnesses could be made available to appear. Moreover, on the date of trial, defendant was prepared to proceed and witnesses on defendant’s behalf had arranged their schedules to be available for examination. Defendant had also accommodated the Court’s and claimant’s request for a “magnifier” to assist claimant at trial. Certainly, claimant could have appeared and made any argument he perceived as necessary or relevant in support of a further postponement of the trial.

Accordingly, for the aforementioned reasons, it is hereby:

ORDERED that Claim No. 109178 is dismissed in its entirety.

January 30, 2009
Albany, New York

Judge of the Court of Claims

[1].The claim was originally scheduled for trial at Clinton Correctional Facility on July 20, 2007, but was adjourned without date.