New York State Court of Claims

New York State Court of Claims
CODRINGTON v. STATE OF NEW YORK, # 2020-015-049, Claim No. 131751, Motion No. M-95018

Synopsis

Claimant's motion for the assignment of counsel was denied.

Case information

UID: 2020-015-049
Claimant(s): ROGER CODRINGTON, 17A3736
Claimant short name: CODRINGTON
Footnote (claimant name) :
Defendant(s): STATE OF NEW YORK
Footnote (defendant name) : The caption has been amended sua sponte to reflect the only properly named defendant.
Third-party claimant(s):
Third-party defendant(s):
Claim number(s): 131751
Motion number(s): M-95018
Cross-motion number(s):
Judge: FRANCIS T. COLLINS
Claimant's attorney: Roger Codrington, Pro Se
Defendant's attorney: Honorable Letitia James, Attorney General
By: Albert D. DiGiacomo, Esq., Assistant Attorney General
Third-party defendant's attorney:
Signature date: May 6, 2020
City: Saratoga Springs
Comments:
Official citation:
Appellate results:
See also (multicaptioned case)

Decision

Claimant, an inmate in the custody of the Department of Corrections and Community Supervision, seeks damages for personal injuries allegedly sustained on April 23, 2018 when his finger tip was severed in a large metal door and medical personnel failed to provide appropriate treatment. By this motion he seeks the assignment of counsel on the basis he is a layman and suffers from mental illness.

Initially, the instant motion is procedurally defective as there is no affidavit of service indicating service upon the County Attorney as required by CPLR 1101 (c).

Moreover, this is not a proper case for the discretionary assignment of counsel under CPLR 1102. In Matter of Smiley (36 NY2d 433 [1975]), the Court of Appeals held there is no constitutional or statutory requirement that indigents be assigned private counsel in civil litigation. In so holding, the Court recognized that unlike a defendant in a criminal proceeding, most civil litigants are not facing a "risk of loss of liberty or grievous forfeiture" (id. at 437). While the Court in Smiley made clear that civil litigants have no absolute right to assigned counsel, it recognized that "[t]he courts have a broad discretionary power to assign counsel without compensation in a proper case" (id. at 441; see also CPLR 1102). Such a case is one in which an individual is faced with a grievous forfeiture or loss of a fundamental right implicating his or her liberty interests (DeLeon v State of New York, 52 AD3d 1282 [4th Dept 2008]; Planck v County of Schenectady, 51 AD3d 1283 [3d Dept 2008]; Wills v City of Troy, 258 AD2d 849 [3d Dept 1999], lv dismissed 93 NY2d 1000 [1999]). The instant action seeking money damages fails to implicate claimant's fundamental rights so as to warrant the assignment of counsel. Moreover, attorneys' fees in such actions are generally paid on a contingency fee basis thereby permitting indigents to obtain the services of an attorney without the need for the assignment of counsel under CPLR 1102.

Based on the foregoing, the claimant's motion is denied.

May 6, 2020

Saratoga Springs, New York

FRANCIS T. COLLINS

Judge of the Court of Claims

Papers Considered:

1. Undated Notice of Motion filed December 5, 2019;

2. Affirmation in opposition dated February 24, 2020, with Exhibits A and B.