New York State Court of Claims

New York State Court of Claims
JEAN-LAURENT v. THE STATE OF NEW YORK, # 2010-009-009, Claim No. 117066, Motion Nos. M-77258, M-77328

Synopsis

Claimant's motion for poor person relief was denied. His motion to compel discovery was granted in part.

Case information

UID: 2010-009-009
Claimant(s): PHILLIP JEAN-LAURENT
Claimant short name: JEAN-LAURENT
Footnote (claimant name) :
Defendant(s): THE STATE OF NEW YORK
Footnote (defendant name) :
Third-party claimant(s):
Third-party defendant(s):
Claim number(s): 117066
Motion number(s): M-77258, M-77328
Cross-motion number(s):
Judge: NICHOLAS V. MIDEY JR.
Claimant's attorney: PHILLIP JEAN-LAURENT, Pro Se
Defendant's attorney: HON. ANDREW M. CUOMO
Attorney General
BY: Thomas M. Trace, Esq.,
Senior Attorney
Of Counsel.
Third-party defendant's attorney:
Signature date: March 29, 2010
City: Syracuse
Comments:
Official citation:
Appellate results:
See also (multicaptioned case)

Decision

Claimant has brought a motion (M-77258) seeking poor person relief, followed by a second motion (M-77328) seeking to compel the defendant to produce certain items set forth in his previously served "Demand for Production of Documents and Things".

For purposes of judicial economy, these motions will be considered together herein.

The following papers were considered by the Court in connection with these motions:

Notice of Motion for Poor Person Relief, Affidavit in Support (M-77258) 1,2

Notice of Motion to Compel Production of Documents and Things, Affidavit in Support (M-77328). 3,4

Affirmation in Opposition (M-77258/M-77328), with Exhibits 5

Filed Papers: Claim.

In his filed claim, claimant seeks damages for the loss of certain items of his personal property which allegedly occurred when he was transferred from Mid-State Correctional Facility to Downstate Correctional Facility (Downstate), and then to Livingston Correctional Facility. This process of transferring claimant began in December 2008. Claimant also alleges that during this time he suffered mental anguish, emotional distress and embarrassment when he was denied the right to adequate clothing and denied the right to religious exercise when he was subjected to a strip search in the presence of female correction staff, and that he was also denied certain programing which was required for him to be awarded good time.(1)

Claimant has now brought these two motions seeking poor person relief and an order to compel the production of documents.

MOTION TO COMPEL PRODUCTION OF DOCUMENTS (M-77328)

The Court has reviewed the ten demands set forth in claimant's Demand for Production (Exhibit C to Item 5) as well as defendant's response to these demands (Exhibit D to Item 5). The Court has also reviewed the further responses made by the defendant to these demands set forth in the Affirmation of Thomas M. Trace, Senior Attorney, submitted in opposition to this motion (Item 5).

Following such review, it is readily apparent to this Court that the vast majority of claimant's demands are clearly overly broad and burdensome. Furthermore, many of these demands are totally irrelevant to the issues raised by claimant in his claim.

For example, in Demand No. 1, claimant has demanded the records of every non-food package received during the course of claimant's imprisonment; in Demand No. 2, claimant has demanded every personal property transfer record completed during the course of his imprisonment; and in Demand No. 7, claimant has demanded every State shop clothing distribution record on claimant from December 22, 2008 to March 5, 2009. On their face, the Court finds such demands to be overly burdensome and not relevant to the issues at hand.

Along these same lines, the Court finds that Demand No. 3 (demanding every log entry maintained at Downstate documenting claimant's transfer to Rikers Island), Demand No. 4 (demanding every log entry regarding officers assigned to the receiving room at Downstate on January 12, 2009 and February 23, 2009), and Demand No. 6 (demanding information about every prisoner received by Downstate from Rikers Island on January 12, 2009 and February 23, 2009) are all overly broad, burdensome, and irrelevant to the issues raised in this claim.

Furthermore, the Court finds that Demand No. 8 (demanding all dates on which claimant signed up for sick call and to identify the health care provider who attended claimant) is not relevant to any of the allegations raised in this claim. Similarly, the Court finds that Demand No. 9 (demanding any and all video tapes capturing the manner in which newly admitted prisoners are processed and searched at Downstate) is immaterial and would not lead to any admissible evidence in this claim.

The Court does find, however, that Demand No. 5 (demanding every log entry and/or other documents, forms or receipts used to record the transfer and/or mailing of claimant's property between Mid-State, Downstate, and Livingston Correctional Facilities) is certainly relevant to the issues raised in this claim. Although defendant's attorney suggested in his original response (Exhibit D to Item 5) that claimant could seek such records from the Inmate Records Coordinator upon payment of a fee, this Court nevertheless directs defendant to provide claimant with copies of any such documents in its possession pertaining to the transfer of claimant's personal property between these three facilities, between December 2008 and March 2009.

The Court has reviewed Demand No. 10 (demanding every directive, instruction, memorandum, policy and regulation and employee manual regarding searches by female officers) and the Court finds that this demand is also relevant to the issues raised in this claim. Although defendant's attorney has again suggested that claimant may obtain such documents from the facility law library upon payment of the fee for copying costs, the Court hereby directs that defendant produce to claimant a copy of any such document in its possession regarding searches conducted by female officers.

MOTION FOR POOR PERSON RELIEF (M-77258)

At the outset, this Court notes that the filing fee required for this claim has previously been determined pursuant to Court of Claims Act 11-a(1) by an Order of Presiding Judge Richard E. Sise, dated and filed July 30, 2009.

Since there are no other costs in this Court, the only relief available under CPLR 1102 that claimant can be seeking is the assignment of an attorney, who would serve without compensation. The decision to assign counsel is a matter of jurisdictional discretion, and such an assignment is not an absolute right in civil litigation (Matter of Smiley, 36 NY2d 433). The primary cause of action asserted by claimant, sounding in bailment, is the type of claim that is typically handled by inmates without the benefit of an attorney. Furthermore, after reviewing all of the allegations set forth in the claim, the Court finds that this case does not warrant the exercise of discretion in assigning counsel under the standards of Matter of Smiley, supra.

Accordingly, based upon all of the foregoing, it is

ORDERED, that Motion No. M-77328, claimant's motion to compel discovery, is DENIED in part, and GRANTED in part; and it is further

ORDERED, that defendant shall produce to the claimant, within 60 days from the filing date of this Decision and Order, responses to Demands No. 5 and 10 as set forth in claimant's "Demand for Production of Documents and Things"; and it is further

ORDERED, that Motion No. M-77258, claimant's motion seeking poor person relief, is hereby DENIED.

March 29, 2010

Syracuse, New York

NICHOLAS V. MIDEY JR.

Judge of the Court of Claims


1. In his claim, claimant also seeks damages on the basis that he was denied adequate medical and dental care, but his claim contains no allegations to support such a cause of action.