New York State Court of Claims

New York State Court of Claims
ARRIAGA v. THE STATE OF NEW YORK, # 2021-059-062, Claim No. 134161, Motion No. M-96695

Synopsis

Case information

UID: 2021-059-062
Claimant(s): ANTHONY ARRIAGA
Claimant short name: ARRIAGA
Footnote (claimant name) :
Defendant(s): THE STATE OF NEW YORK
Footnote (defendant name) :
Third-party claimant(s):
Third-party defendant(s):
Claim number(s): 134161
Motion number(s): M-96695
Cross-motion number(s):
Judge: MAUREEN T. LICCIONE
Claimant's attorney: Anthony Arriaga, pro se
Defendant's attorney: HON. LETITIA JAMES, ATTORNEY GENERAL
By: Dorothy M. Keogh, Assistant Attorney General
Third-party defendant's attorney:
Signature date: September 29, 2021
City: Hauppauge
Comments:
Official citation:
Appellate results:
See also (multicaptioned case)

Decision

This is a claim by Anthony Arriaga, an incarcerated person who is proceeding pro se (Claimant), against the State of New York (State or Defendant) alleging damages for wrongful confinement and other deprivations during six days of keeplock confinement from October 13, 2019 to October 19, 2019, and on days immediately after his confinement. More particularly, Claimant is alleging that he was confined to keeplock in his cell for six days at Sing Sing Correctional Facility (Sing Sing) without having been served with a misbehavior report in accordance with 7 NYCRR 251-3.1 and 251-5.1 and was deprived of showers, hot water, exercise and several other items during keeplock. He also alleges he was deprived of utensils and supplies during keeplock and for two days thereafter.

Claimant has moved to compel discovery pursuant to CPLR 3124 and for sanctions pursuant to 22 NYCRR 130-1.1 alleging that the State failed to provide information demanded in various document requests made pursuant to CPLR 3120. The State opposes the motion.

The motion papers establish that Claimant made three CPLR 3120 demands for documents and things. With regard to the first demand, Claimant asserts that he is entitled to an award of sanctions because the State falsely and maliciously represented that it was not in possession of the HBA yard and gym phone call logs demanded, while these same documents were received by Claimant pursuant to a subsequent Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) request. The State counters that the FOIL request was for different documents, i.e., "phone call logs for Anthony Arriaga...(October 12-19, 2019)" and "number (amount) of inmate phone calls for each day (October 12-19, 2019)."

The FOIL request was, indeed, for different documents than those listed in Claimant's demand. Moreover, the State has submitted the uncontroverted affidavit of Michael Barnes, the Sing Sing Acting Deputy Superintendent of Security, dated May 14, 2021, establishing that no telephone call logs are kept for the HBA yard or the gym. Since Claimant has failed to establish that Defendant engaged in frivolous conduct within the meaning of 22 NYCRR 130-1.1, the motion for sanctions is denied (see Rojas v Hazzard, 171 AD3d 819 [2d Dept 2019]).

As to his second demand, Claimant contends that five items remain outstanding: (1) HBA yard video recordings; (2) HBB yard video recordings; (3) the HBC logbook; (4) the watch commander's logbook; and (5) the infirmary logbook.

The State's response regarding items (1) and (2) in this second demand is that there are no video recordings for the HBA and HBB yards covering the dates demanded. The State also responded that the demands are for irrelevant information.

Regarding item number (3) above, the State contends this request for HBC logs is not relevant and is overly broad and is burdensome because, as the affidavit of Deputy Superintendent Barnes dated September 14, 2020 indicates at 7, there "are multiple log books maintained in the HBC" such that the log book(s) Claimant is requesting cannot be determined. Notably Claimant did not narrow his demands in light of the Barnes affidavit.

Although the State objects to the requests in items (4) and (5) above as overly broad and irrelevant, it nevertheless provided the requested documents in response to the instant motion; i.e., the watch commander's and infirmary logbook entries for the requested dates.

Apparently believing that HBA and HBB video recordings may have been destroyed, Claimant's third 3120 demand was for three Department of Corrections and Community Supervision (DOCCS) written staff directives: (1) No. 4555 (Video Production and Procedures); (2) No. 4942 (Fixed Video Monitoring Systems); and (3) No. 6930 (Service of Legal Process, Subpoenas and Preservation of Evidence).

Since the State has provided Directive 6930 in its motion papers, this branch of the motion is moot. However, the State objects to the production of Directives No. 4555 and 4942 as not relevant, material or necessary. The State also claims that the two directives are privileged because their disclosure would "present a threat to institutional safety and security, as well as the life (sic) and well-being of incarcerated individuals, staff and public at large" (affidavit of Scott A. Kelly, First Deputy Superintendent and Director of Special Operations and Emergency Management at Sing Sing, sworn to on May 24, 2021 23). Claimant's reply indicates that he has narrowed his request to just the video tape retention requirements set forth in these two Directives and no other provisions.

Applicable Law

"CPLR 3101(a) provides that '[t]here shall be full disclosure of all matter material and necessary in the prosecution ... of an action.' The phrase 'material and necessary' should be interpreted liberally, and the test is one of usefulness and reason" (101CO, LLC v Sand Land Corp, 189 AD3d 942, 943 [2d Dept 2020] citing Allen v Crowell-Collier Publ Co., 21 NY2d 403, 406 [1968] [additional citation omitted]). " 'It is incumbent on the party seeking disclosure to demonstrate that the method of discovery sought will result in the disclosure of relevant evidence or is reasonably calculated to lead to the discovery of information bearing on the claims, and unsubstantiated bare allegations of relevancy are insufficient to establish the factual predicate regarding relevancy' " (id., quoting Crazytown Furniture v Brooklyn Union Gas Co, 150 AD2d 420, 421[2d Dept 1989] [additional citations omitted]). " 'The supervision of discovery, and the setting of reasonable terms and conditions for disclosure, are matters within the sound discretion of the trial court' " (id., quoting Bernardis v Town of Islip, 95 AD3d 1050, 1050 [2d Dept 2012] [additional citation omitted]).

As noted above, the claim herein asserts causes of action for wrongful confinement in keeplock and for deprivation of certain items during keeplock, as well as on the days immediately after the six day keeplock confinement. Claimant has not offered any indications as to how the HBC logs and the videos (and, therefore, their retention) might be relevant or lead to "discovery of information bearing on [his] claims." There are no allegations in the claim regarding an incident which the HBC logs might address. Further, there is nothing in the record regarding what material may be on the videos. Accordingly, Claimant's motion has not provided a "factual predicate for relevancy" for either the HBC log or Directives No. 4555 and No. 4942. Claimant's motion, therefore, is denied.

The Court has considered the parties' remaining contentions, including the State's assertions that the retention periods for video tapes set forth in Directives Nos. 4555 and 4942 are privileged, and finds them unnecessary to this determination.

In accordance with the foregoing, it is

ORDERED that Clamant's motion to compel and for sanctions (motion no. M-96695) is denied.

September 29, 2021

Hauppauge, New York

MAUREEN T. LICCIONE

Judge of the Court of Claims