New York State Court of Claims

New York State Court of Claims
SANTANA v. THE STATE OF NEW YORK, # 2018-041-029, Claim No. 126530, Motion No. M-91228

Synopsis

In claim alleging that defendant failed to protect claimant from assault by fellow inmates, claimant's motion to compel production of defendant's inmate security-related correctional facility policy and procedures manual and directives, along with inmate-assailants' relevant disciplinary records, is granted.

Case information

UID: 2018-041-029
Claimant(s): RICCO SANTANA
Claimant short name: SANTANA
Footnote (claimant name) :
Defendant(s): THE STATE OF NEW YORK
Footnote (defendant name) :
Third-party claimant(s):
Third-party defendant(s):
Claim number(s): 126530
Motion number(s): M-91228
Cross-motion number(s):
Judge: FRANK P. MILANO
Claimant's attorney: ADAMS & COMMISSIONG LLP
By: Martin E. Adams, Esq.
Defendant's attorney: HON. ERIC T. SCHNEIDERMAN
New York State Attorney General
By: Joan Matalavage, Esq.
Assistant Attorney General
Third-party defendant's attorney:
Signature date: April 4, 2018
City: Albany
Comments:
Official citation:
Appellate results:
See also (multicaptioned case)

Decision

Claimant moves for an order compelling production of certain records and documents related to three alleged assaults upon the inmate-claimant by fellow inmates at Clinton Correctional Facility occurring on February 28, March 30 and May 21, 2015, respectively. The disclosure demanded includes inmate disciplinary records and inmate security-related correctional facility policy and procedures manual and directives.

Defendant has provided to claimant its Directives 4933 and 4948 in response to the claimant's motion. Defendant has also produced its Facility Operations Manual for Protective Custody Admissions and the requested inmate-assailants' disciplinary records to the Court, for in camera review.

Defendant seeks a confidentiality agreement/order with respect to any of the contested records ordered disclosed by the Court, based upon, according to defendant's attorney, "[c]laimant's own acknowledgment that the fights at issue had to do with gang activity within the prison setting.".

The Court has "broad discretion in managing disclosure, and absent an abuse of discretion or unreasonable interference with the disclosure of relevant and necessary material," that discretion will not be disturbed (Czarnecki v Welch, 23 AD3d 914, 915 [3d Dept 2005]).

It is equally clear that "[w]hile disclosure provisions are to be liberally construed, the trial court is vested with broad discretion to supervise discovery and determine what is 'material and necessary' under CPLR 3101 (a)" (Mora v RGB, Inc., 17 AD3d 849, 851 [3d Dept 2005]).

The standard of materiality is "one of usefulness and reason," with the goal of "sharpening the issues and reducing delay and prolixity" (Allen v Crowell-Collier Publ. Co., 21 NY2d 403, 406 [1968]).

"The party seeking to prevent disclosure has a heavy burden, especially where the materials sought are relevant" (Marten v Eden Park Health Servs., 250 AD2d 44, 46 [3d Dept 1998]). It is the party opposing discovery who has the burden to prove that the particular items sought are exempt or immune from disclosure (Salzer v Farm Family Life Ins. Co., 280 AD2d 844, 845 [3d Dept 2001]).

With respect to the particular nature of the claim, Wilson v State of New York (36 AD2d 559, 559-560 [3d Dept 1971]), instructs that in a claim alleging the State's failure to protect an inmate from assault by a fellow inmate:

"Evidence of the attacker's prior behavior . . . would be material and necessary to the prosecution of this claim . . . since the State's duty is measured by the risks reasonably to be foreseen . . . However, CPLR 3101 (subd. [b]) provides that, if a party objects, as the Attorney-General has done here, 'privileged matter shall not be obtainable' . . . In addition to privileges recognized by statute . . . a common-law privilege prevents disclosure of official information where the disclosure is either forbidden by statute . . . or would prove harmful to the public interest."

With those principles in mind the Court has carefully reviewed the Facility Operations Manual for Protective Custody Admissions and the inmate-assailants' disciplinary records provided by defendant.

Defendant is ordered to provide the Facility Operations Manual for Protective Custody Admissions to claimant's attorney.

Defendant is further ordered to provide to claimant's attorney redacted disciplinary records of the inmate-assailants. Defendant is directed to redact references to inmate-assailant disciplinary charges except charges involving "fighting," "violent conduct" and "gangs" occurring prior to May 20, 2015.

The records and documents reviewed in camera are returned to defendant for disclosure as directed in this Decision and Order.

It is further ordered that the material disclosed pursuant to this Decision and Order is to be used solely for the purpose of this claim, to the extent necessary for the litigation of the claim, and it shall be further disclosed only to parties, counsel, personnel employed to assist counsel, experts, court personnel, court reporters and/or monitors. No further dissemination of the material disclosed pursuant to this Decision and Order is permitted except upon further order of the Court.

April 4, 2018

Albany, New York

FRANK P. MILANO

Judge of the Court of Claims

Papers Considered:

1. Claimant's Notice of Motion, filed October 17, 2017;

2. Affirmation of Martin E. Adams, dated October 17, 2017, and attached exhibits;

3. Affidavit of Joan Matalavage, sworn to November 1, 2017, and attached exhibits;

4. The Court's Letter, dated January 9, 2018;

5. Letter from Joan Matalavage, dated January 30, 2018, enclosing documents and records for review in camera.