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Brad H. v. City of New York

Other Lower Courts

June 26, 2001

Brad H. et al., on Behalf of Themselves and All Others Similarly Situated, Plaintiffs,
City of New York et al., Defendants.

Page 471


Debevoise & Plimpton, New York City (Christopher K. Tahbaz, Kristen K. Sauer, Faune P. Devlin and Caroline H. Luckenbach of counsel), Urban Justice Center, New York City (Douglas Lasdon, Raymond H. Brescia and Heather Barr of counsel), and New York Lawyers for the Public Interest, Inc., New York City (John A. Gresham of counsel), for plaintiffs.

Michael D. Hess, Corporation Counsel of New York City (Jeffrey S. Dantowitz of counsel), for defendants.


Richard F. Braun, J.

This is a class action for a declaratory judgment and injunctive relief. This Court certified a class of inmates incarcerated in the jails of defendant City of New York (City) who are treated for mental illness while therein and entitled to a discharge plan upon their release; and preliminarily enjoined defendants from violating Mental Hygiene Law § 29.15 and 14 NYCRR 587.1 et. seq. as to discharge planning for plaintiff class members, and to provide plaintiff class members with adequate discharge planning in compliance with those provisions (185 Misc.2d 420 [Sup Ct, N.Y. County 2000]). The Appellate Division, First Department, unanimously affirmed for the reasons stated below (276 A.D.2d 440 [2000]). On March 1, 2001, the Appellate Division denied the motion by defendants for leave to appeal to the Court of Appeals.

Plaintiffs have moved for various items of discovery in support of their separate, still pending motion to have this Court hold defendants in contempt of court for their failure to comply with this Court's order granting plaintiffs the preliminary injunction. Contrary to defendants' argument, plaintiffs are correct in their contention that they have made out a prima facie showing in their papers in support of their motion that defendants are in contempt of court. If it were otherwise, this Court would not have signed plaintiffs' order to show cause on the contempt motion.

Plaintiffs contend that they need the discovery sought in order to prosecute their contempt motion in that the information is solely within the possession of defendants. Although defendants originally opposed the instant discovery motion, in conferencing the motion (to move this very important class action along to either a settlement or an ultimate determination by the Court, this Court has had the attorneys appear nearly

Page 472

weekly for months in order to attempt to facilitate a resolution of arising issues, discuss settlement of the action, and set schedules) various requests for relief have been settled, by two stipulations. The remaining issues to be decided on the motion are whether the Court will order that defendants provide to this Court within a disputed period of time (defendants want four weeks and plaintiff two) mental health/discharge planning records for 500 former inmates of City jails who were likely class members, to be divided into two groups, one in which the individuals are HIV positive and one in which they are not; whether, after withholding the records of the individuals who are HIV positive, the Court will then delete at random another 25% of the individuals' records, so that plaintiffs' attorneys would not be able to determine by process of elimination the identities of the HIV-positive former inmates; and whether defendants will then have to turn over the remaining group of records to plaintiffs' attorneys.

The parties debate in their papers on the motion whether Mental Hygiene Law§ 33.13 permits the disclosure sought by plaintiffs, subject to the confidentiality provision of Mental Hygiene Law § 33.13 (f) and the parties' confidentiality agreement by way of their stipulation and protective order. If Mental Hygiene Law § 33.13 applied here, the Court would permit the disclosure at issue under the interests of justice standard of that statute because the disclosure would benefit the class members by giving the records sought to plaintiffs' attorneys in order to enable them to try to demonstrate plaintiffs' need for discharge planning and defendants' apparent continuing failure to provide it to other than a small percentage of the class (see, Mental Hygiene Law § 33.13 [c] [1]; Heard v Cuomo, 142 A.D.2d 537 [1st Dept. 1988]; Matter of City of New York v Bleuler Psychotherapy Ctr., 181 Misc.2d 994 [Sup Ct, N.Y. County 1999]). However, the provision is applicable only to facilities licensed or operated by the office of mental health or the office of mental retardation and developmental disabilities (Mental Hygiene Law § 33.13 [a]), which the City jails are not. [*]

Mental Hygiene Law § 33.16 applies here. It controls access to clinical records of facilities. A facility is defined in Mental Hygiene Law § 1.03 (6) as " any place in which services for the mentally disabled are provided and includes but is not limited

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to a psychiatric center, developmental center, institute, clinic, ward, institution, or building." Mentally disabled includes a person with " mental illness" (Mental Hygiene Law § 1.03 [3]). Plaintiff class members are persons with mental illness who are or were treated on an outpatient and/or inpatient basis both in the City jails and while ...

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