New York State Court of Claims

New York State Court of Claims
BARNES v. THE STATE OF NEW YORK, # 2010-015-203, Claim No. 116742, Motion No. M-78878

Synopsis

Claimant's motion to compel discovery was granted in part and otherwise denied.

Case information

UID: 2010-015-203
Claimant(s): JESSIE J. BARNES
Claimant short name: BARNES
Footnote (claimant name) :
Defendant(s): THE STATE OF NEW YORK
Footnote (defendant name) :
Third-party claimant(s):
Third-party defendant(s):
Claim number(s): 116742
Motion number(s): M-78878
Cross-motion number(s):
Judge: FRANCIS T. COLLINS
Claimant's attorney: Jessie J. Barnes, Pro Se
Defendant's attorney: Honorable Eric T. Schneiderman, Attorney General
By: Michael C. Rizzo, Esquire
Assistant Attorney General
Third-party defendant's attorney:
Signature date: January 4, 2011
City: Saratoga Springs
Comments:
Official citation:
Appellate results:
See also (multicaptioned case)

Decision

Claimant, a pro se inmate, moves pursuant to CPLR 3124 and 3126 for an Order "precluding defendant from presenting claims or defenses" with regard to certain allegations in the claim for failure to comply with discovery.

The claim alleges that beginning on or about March 6, 2008, and for several months thereafter, the claimant was subjected to abuse while an inmate at Great Meadow Correctional Facility. Specifically, claimant alleges that he was not provided with his personal property within 72 hours of his admission to the special housing unit (SHU) on March 6, 2008; that a false misbehavior report was written on March 14, 2008; that on March 17, 2008 he was humiliated and harassed by correction officers, who forced him to carry his own draft bags while his hands were chained to his waist; that his property was searched outside his presence in violation of the policies set forth in Directives 4910 and 4933; that he was deprived of a sheet and blanket from approximately April 12, 2008 through April 23, 2008; that from March through June 2008 his grievances were not properly processed; that claimant was arbitrarily placed on a restricted diet "on April 18, and 27, 2008" (claimant's Exhibit A, Claim, 34); that he was deprived of his right to a fair hearing; that a false misbehavior report was written on March 22, 2008; that he was deprived of dinner on March 22, 2008 and lunch on April 1, 2008; that a false misbehavior report was issued on April 1, 2008; that he was assaulted by correction officers on April 1, 2008 or April 8, 2008; that a false misbehavior report was issued on April 1, 2008 or April 8, 2008; that on either April 1, 2008 or April 8, 2008 officers "maliciously and sadistically placed claimant behind glass for over 40 consecutive days " (claimant's Exhibit A, Claim, 48); that on April 12, 2008 he was restrained in handcuffs behind his back for seven hours; that on May 12, 2008 he informed a correction officer that his bible was not packed and, after being coaxed out of his cell, he was "maliciously and sadistically beat, kicked, punched, stomped and struck all about his body and face" by correction officers (claimant's Exhibit A, claim, 61); and, finally, that he is imprisoned beyond his maximum expiration date of June 16, 2008.

On March 18, 2010 claimant served a "Notice Of Demands For Disclosures" containing discovery demands "a" through "n" and a request for an in camera review of certain correction officers' personnel records in demands delineated "1" through "7". In its response to claimant's discovery demands on April 29, 2010 the defendant objected to demands "b", "c", "d", "g", "i", "k", "l", "m" and "1"-"7". Regarding the remaining items of discovery demanded, the defendant indicated that a search was underway and, with respect to claimant's demand "j", that DOCS directives are available in the facility's law library. Claimant's preclusion motion is directed at the defendant's alleged failure to respond to demands "a", "d", "e", "f", "h", "i", "j", "l" and "m".

CPLR 3101 provides for the disclosure of all items "material and necessary in the prosecution or defense of an action". While these words have been liberally construed, " '[u]nder our discovery statutes and case law, competing interests must always be balanced; the need for discovery must be weighed against any special burden to be borne by the opposing party'" (Kavanagh v Ogden Allied Maintenance Corp., 92 NY2d 952, 954 [1998], quoting O'Neill v Oakgrove Constr., 71 NY2d 521, 529 [1988], rearg denied 72 NY2d 910 [1988]; see also Andon v 302-304 Mott St. Assoc., 94 NY2d 740, 747 [2000]). It is therefore incumbent upon the party seeking disclosure "to demonstrate how the requested materials are relevant to the issues in the matter" (citation omitted), (Davis v Cornerstone Telephone Co., LLC, 78 AD3d 1263, 1264 [quotation and citation omitted]; Vyas v Campbell, 4 AD3d 417, 418 [2004]).

Subsequent to the filing of the instant motion, defendant served a supplemental response to claimant's discovery demands in which it responded to those demands as to which it had previously indicated a search was underway. While defendant appears to be in substantial compliance with most of these discovery demands, a few of its responses are incomplete, as follows:

Claimant's demand:

"(a) Any correspondence records to and from claimant and superintendents at Great Meadows or Attica Correctional Facilities and their designees from March 1, 2008 - July 16, 2008;"

Defendant's response:

"(A). The Superintendent's office has no correspondence on file from claimant at Great Meadow Correctional Facility. Copies of correspondence to the Superintendent at Attica Correctional Facility are attached hereto as Exhibit 1."

To the extent defendant limited its response to this demand only to correspondence received from the claimant, it is improper. Claimant's demand requested correspondence to and from the claimant and the Superintendents at Great Meadow and Attica Correctional Facilities, and their designees from March 1, 2008 through July 16, 2008. A further response to this demand is therefore necessary.

Claimant's demand:

"(e) All grievance files and records for J. Barnes 06B0929 from March 1, 2008 - July 16, 2008;"

Defendant's response:

"(E). Copies of all grievances of claimant from March 1, 2008 through July 16, 2008 are attached hereto as Exhibit 2."

Defendant once again limited its response to this demand to copies of "all grievances of claimant" while the demand requested "[a]ll grievance files and records for J. Barnes" for the period indicated therein. No objection to this demand having been raised a further response is required, to include any documents produced in response to claimant's grievances during the period stated in the demand.

To the extent claimant seeks to preclude the defendant from presenting certain evidence at trial, the Court does not find the imposition of such a sanction appropriate in this case (see CPLR 3126). The law is clear that "the remedy of preclusion is reserved for those instances where the offending party's lack of cooperation with disclosure was willful, deliberate, and contumacious" (Kumar v Kumar, 63 AD3d 1246, 1248 [2009] [quotations and citations omitted]). No such facts warrant the sanction of preclusion here (cf. Gibbs v St. Barnabas Hosp., 16 NY3d 74 [2010]).

Regarding those demands to which the defendant timely objected, the instant motion seeks relief related to the following requests for material:

"(d) Any germane logg [sic] book entries pertinent to claimant from March 1, 2008 - July 16, 2008 . . ."

"(i) Any unusual incident or use of force report records from March 1, 2008 . . ."

"(l) Any B-1-gallery or other videotapes from March 2008 - May 12, 2008 which is [the] subject of this claim"

"(m) Disclose a copy of record listing full names & titles and dates of all its department of correctional service agents or outside agencies that were in physical possession of all videotapes . . ."

Defendant objected to these demands on the ground that they are "over broad, unduly burdensome, irrelevant and palpably improper" (claimant's Exhibit D, Response To Claimant's Demand For Disclosure; defendant's Exhibit 1, Supplemental Response To Claimant's Demand For Disclosure). The Court agrees that these demands are vague and over broad in that they seek information unrelated to the events in issue or fail to limit the material sought to a period of time implicated by the claim (see Jefferson v State of New York, 60 AD3d 1215 [2009]; Taji Communications, Inc. v Bronxville Towers Apts. Corp., 48 AD3d 551 [2008]). Accordingly, no further response to these demands is required.

Defendant's supplemental response to claimant's demand "j" indicating that DOCS Directives demanded by the claimant may be obtained from the facility law library is appropriate. Lastly, to the extent claimant's motion seeks to compel disclosure of materials pertaining to all State and Federal court actions involving the incidents which are the subject of the instant claim, no demand for this information was submitted in support of the instant motion and, in any event, such a demand does not appear reasonably calculated to lead to the disclosure of relevant information.

Based on the foregoing, claimant's motion is granted to the limited extent of requiring the defendant to provide further responses to claimant's demands denominated "a" and "e" and is otherwise denied.

January 4, 2011

Saratoga Springs, New York

FRANCIS T. COLLINS

Judge of the Court of Claims

The Court considered the following papers:

  1. Notice of motion dated September 30, 2010;
  2. Affidavit of Jessie J. Barnes sworn to September 30, 2010 with exhibits;
  3. Affidavit of Michael C. Rizzo sworn to October 25, 2010 with exhibits.