New York State Court of Claims

New York State Court of Claims
BROOKS v. THE STATE OF NEW YORK, # 2019-015-180, Claim No. 127751, Motion No. M-94221

Synopsis

Pro se inmate's inconvenience in having to be transported to the prison in which the claim accrued for a video trial is not an appropriate consideration on a motion for a change of venue.

Case information

UID: 2019-015-180
Claimant(s): WILLIAM HARRIS BROOKS
Claimant short name: BROOKS
Footnote (claimant name) :
Defendant(s): THE STATE OF NEW YORK
Footnote (defendant name) :
Third-party claimant(s):
Third-party defendant(s):
Claim number(s): 127751
Motion number(s): M-94221
Cross-motion number(s):
Judge: FRANCIS T. COLLINS
Claimant's attorney: William Harris Brooks, Pro Se
Defendant's attorney: Honorable Letitia James, Attorney General
By: Glenn C. King, Esq., Assistant Attorney General
Third-party defendant's attorney:
Signature date: August 8, 2019
City: Saratoga Springs
Comments:
Official citation:
Appellate results:
See also (multicaptioned case)

Decision

Claimant, proceeding pro se, moves pursuant to CPLR 510 (3) and CPLR 512 to change the site of his upcoming video trial from Great Meadow Correctional Facility to Orleans Correctional Facility where he currently resides.

Claimant, an inmate in the custody of the Department of Corrections and Community Supervision (DOCCS), seeks damages for the loss and destruction of certain personal property which allegedly occurred in January 2016 during the course of a cell search at Great Meadow Correctional Facility (Great Meadow). Since that time, claimant has been transferred to Orleans Correctional Facility where he currently resides.

In support of his motion for a change of venue, claimant contends that if he is compelled to travel to attend the trial he will be handcuffed and shackled to another inmate for between two and six hours each day, for a period of four to six days while en route to and from Great Meadow.(1) Claimant also indicates, based upon his past experience, that the "in-transit process will expose me to poor prison conditions and treatment[,] e.g.[,] dirty uninhabitable cells and cell blocks, no hot meals, no showers, no recreation and no ability to communicate with the court or to prepare case with proper access to a law library or otherwise" (claimant's affidavit in support, 18).

There are no provisions in the Court of Claims Act governing motions for a change of venue; consequently the relevant provisions of the CPLR apply (see Court of Claims Act 9 [9]; Award Incentives v State of New York, 4 AD2d 985 [3d Dept 1957]; Richards v State of New York, 281 App Div 947 [4th Dept 1953]). CPLR 510 permits the Court to change the place of trial where the county designated for that purpose is improper (CPLR 510 [1]); there is reason to believe an impartial trial cannot be had in the proper county (CPLR 510 [2]) or "the convenience of material witnesses and the ends of justice will be promoted by the change" (CPLR 510 [3]). The party seeking the change bears the burden of proof (Andros v Roderick, 162 AD2d 813 [3d Dept 1990]) and the motion is directed to the Court's discretion (O'Brien v Vassar Bros. Hosp., 207 AD2d 169, 171 [2d Dept 1995]). An application for a discretionary change of venue based on the convenience of material witnesses " 'is addressed to the convenience of nonparty witnesses; that of parties and their employees or agents carries little if any weight' " (Healthcare Professionals Ins. Co. v Parentis, 132 AD3d 1138, 1139 [3d Dept 2015]).

Here, claimant's motion is premised solely on the inconvenience he will endure in the event he is required to be transported for trial, a consideration which provides no basis for a change of venue, particularly when considered in view of the fact the process is the same for all inmates. Pro se inmate claims are generally tried by remote video conference from the prison in which the claims accrued. The procedure is designed to best serve the convenience of material non-party witnesses. Claimant's inconvenience in being transported for trial is not an appropriate consideration (Healthcare Professionals Ins. Co. 132 AD3d at 1139).

Accordingly, the claimant's motion for a change in venue is denied.

August 8, 2019

Saratoga Springs, New York

FRANCIS T. COLLINS

Judge of the Court of Claims

Papers Considered:

  1. Notice of Motion dated July 3, 2019;
  2. Affidavit in Support sworn to June 24, 2019, with Exhibits;
  3. Letter from Glenn C. King, A.A.G. dated July 18, 2019.

1. Claimant separately estimates a total of 14 to 28 days in transit.