New York State Court of Claims

New York State Court of Claims
CIAPRAZI v. THE STATE OF NEW YORK, # 2010-015-127, Claim No. 116389, Motion No. M-77512, Cross-Motion No. CM-77669

Synopsis

Claimant's motion for an order resolving liability in his favor pursuant to CPLR 3126 was denied. Defendant's cross-motion for a protective order regarding interrogatories was granted to the extent defendant's responses were deemed adequate.

Case information

UID: 2010-015-127
Claimant(s): ROBERTO CIAPRAZI
Claimant short name: CIAPRAZI
Footnote (claimant name) :
Defendant(s): THE STATE OF NEW YORK
Footnote (defendant name) :
Third-party claimant(s):
Third-party defendant(s):
Claim number(s): 116389
Motion number(s): M-77512
Cross-motion number(s): CM-77669
Judge: FRANCIS T. COLLINS
Claimant's attorney: Roberto Ciaprazi, Pro Se
Defendant's attorney: Honorable Andrew M. Cuomo, Attorney General
By: Stephen J. Maher, Esquire
Assistant Attorney General
Third-party defendant's attorney:
Signature date: March 25, 2010
City: Saratoga Springs
Comments:
Official citation:
Appellate results:
See also (multicaptioned case)

Decision

Claimant, an inmate proceeding pro se, moves for an Order pursuant to CPLR 3126 resolving the issue of liability in favor of the claimant as the result of defendant's alleged failure to properly respond to interrogatories dated June 1, 2009 or, in the alternative, compelling the defendant to provide responsive answers to interrogatories numbered "2" through "16"pursuant to CPLR 3124. Defendant opposes the motion and cross-moves for a protective order on the grounds that the interrogatories were either adequately answered or objectionable.

Claimant alleges the following as the basis for his claim:

"2. This claim is for the conduct of employees of the State of New York in misinterpreting a state statute, resulting in the denial of my international prison transfer to Romania that I sought pursuant to the Strasbourg Convention on the Transfer of Sentenced Persons ("Convention")."

Claimant alleges that he is a Romanian citizen imprisoned in the State of New York for a term of 25 years to life (claim, 3). He alleges that an order of deportation was entered against him in 1998. Since that time, claimant submitted several requests for a transfer to the U.S. Department of Justice, which referred his requests to the Department of Correctional Services (DOCS) for resolution (claim, 4-6). According to the claim, the Deputy Commissioner and Counsel for DOCS denied his requests on the ground that "Correction Law 5 (4) renders ineligible for transfer the prisoners with a maximum sentence of life imprisonment . . ." (claim, 7). Claimant commenced a proceeding pursuant to CPLR article 78 challenging the Deputy Commissioner's decision (claim, 11) in which the Supreme Court "ruled that Correction Law 5 (4) does not render me ineligible for transfer based on the maximum sentence of 'life' I serve, and described [the Deputy Commissioner's] interpretation of that statute as being 'arbitrary and capricious and based on an error of law' " (claim, 12). While the claimant alleges that the Appellate Division sustained the judgment (claim, 13), review of the decision on appeal reveals that, in fact, the judgment was modified to make clear that while the Supreme Court did not err in determining that claimant was not ineligible for transfer under the provisions of Correction Law 5 (4), his eligibility for transfer had not been affirmatively determined as required by Correction Law 71 (1-b) and regulations promulgated thereunder (see 7 NYCRR 130.1, et seq.). By Order, Decision and Judgment of the Supreme Court dated January 13, 2010, claimant's further challenge to DOCS' denial of his request for a transfer to Romania was denied.

With this background, the Court will turn to the issues presented on the instant motions. Claimant served defense counsel with 16 interrogatories on June 1, 2009. Defense counsel advised claimant that it needed more time to respond to the interrogatories and served its response to interrogatories on August 24, 2009.

Sanctions may be appropriate where a party "refuses to obey an order for disclosure or wilfully fails to disclose information which the court finds ought to have been disclosed" (CPLR 3126). While the nature and degree of the sanction is a matter within the court's discretion, sanctions are inappropriate absent a clear showing that the failure to comply with discovery was willful, contumacious or the result of bad faith (Gillen v Utica First Ins. Co., 41 AD3d 647 [2007][absent clear showing that failure to answer interrogatories was in bad faith, denial of motion to strike the defendant's answer was a provident exercise of discretion]; Negro v St. Charles Hosp. & Rehabilitation Ctr., 44 AD3d 727 [2007][failure to disclose which was the result of disorganization and ineptitude of plaintiff's counsel did not warrant striking the complaint]; cf. O'Brien v Clark Equip. Co., 25 AD3d 958 [2006][prolonged willful failure to provide certain discovery warranted sanctions). The law favors the resolution of disputes on the merits and the drastic remedy of striking a pleading or resolving liability in favor of one party against another is appropriate "only where the moving party conclusively demonstrates bad faith or willful, contumacious conduct by the nondisclosing party" (O'Connor v Syracuse Univ., 66 AD3d 1187, 1191 [2009]). No such conduct has been shown in the instant matter. Indeed, review of the interrogatories and the defendant's answers thereto reveal that notwithstanding its well-founded objections to these interrogatories, defendant provided answers, under oath, to the extent it was able pursuant to CPLR 3133 (a) and (b).

For example, interrogatory number "2" requested the particular measures that DOCS has undertaken for the "rehabilitation and reintegration into foreign societies" of deportable foreign prisoners. Although the defendant objected to this interrogatory as "irrelevant, over-broad, unduly burdensome, and requiring expert opinion outside the scope of CPLR Section 3130 and 3101", it nonetheless responded, detailing the claimant's program participation and work assignments. In fact, the Court agrees that this interrogatory is irrelevant to the issues in this case and not calculated to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence.

The Court similarly finds that those interrogatories relating to the claimant's rehabilitation and reintegration into Romanian society (interrogatories numbered 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 and 16) are palpably improper in that they are either irrelevant or overbroad and burdensome (see Jefferson v State of New York, 60 AD3d 1215 [2009]). The Court likewise finds the balance of claimant's interrogatories (interrogatories numbered 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15) palpably improper in that they call for opinions and interpretations, or "seek material not only irrelevant to the causes of action alleged but also information which cannot conceivably lead to relevant evidence" (Vancek v International Dynetics Corp., 78 AD2d 842, 842-843 [1980]).

Accordingly, claimant's motion is denied and the defendant's cross- motion for a protective order is granted to the extent that the defendant need not further respond to claimant's interrogatories.

March 25, 2010

Saratoga Springs, New York

FRANCIS T. COLLINS

Judge of the Court of Claims

The Court considered the following papers:

  1. Notice of motion dated November 17, 2009;
  2. Affidavit of Roberto Ciaprazi sworn to November 19, 2009;
  3. Notice of cross-motion dated January 11, 2010;
  4. Affirmation of Stephen J. Maher dated January 11, 2010 with exhibit;
  5. Affidavit of Roberto Ciaprazi sworn to January 16, 2010;
  6. Letter of Stephen J. Maher dated January 15, 2010 together with the Decision/Order/Judgment dated January 13, 2010;

7. Interrogatories dated June 1, 2009;

8. Defendant's Response To Interrogatories sworn to August 19, 2009.