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Humane Society of New York v. City of New York

Other Lower Courts

July 4, 2001

Humane Society of New York et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
City of New York et al., Defendants.

COUNSEL

Gary Kaskel, plaintiff pro se. Michael D. Hess, Corporation Counsel of New York City (Louise Moed of counsel), for defendants.

OPINION

Marcy S. Friedman, J.

In this action for a declaratory judgment, plaintiffs challenge

Page 736

the New York City Board of Health's 1999 amendment to New York City Health Code (24 RCNY) § 161.01, which established a list of prohibited wild animals that included ferrets. [1] Plaintiff Kaskel, proceeding pro se, moves for leave to depose the members of the Board of Health and the Department of Health general counsel, and seeks to reserve the right to depose other city officials, including the Mayor. Plaintiff also seeks discovery of documents.

In support of his request for discovery, plaintiff contends that depositions are necessary " because plaintiffs claim a bad-faith motivation by defendants, who are government officials who have an unfair bias against pet ferrets as well as me personally." (Kaskel affidavit ¶ 1.) Plaintiff further contends depositions are necessary " in order to examine whether the process by which such members arrived at their decision was tainted with bad information, or personal, political or other bad-faith motivations affecting their official duties." (Kaskel affidavit ¶ 2.)

In a letter to the court from plaintiff Kaskel, dated November 2, 2000, plaintiff specifies that he seeks to depose the four members of the Board of Health (the Commissioner, Neal Cohen, as well as Doctors Pamela Maraldo, Saul Farber and John Cordice), and plaintiff indicates that other future deponents may include various Health Department employees, four of whom plaintiff names, including Wilfredo Lopez, its general counsel. The letter further sets forth the intended scope of the depositions, as follows:

" Plaintiffs wish to question the board members

Page 737

about their official function, the procedures and conduct of the board preceding a vote, their prior cumulative voting record, and what procedures were followed in prior votes and in the one in question, on what parts of the public record did they rely in making their decision and on what other information outside the public record did they rely, what their personal experiences were, if any, with ferrets, and what their relationship or interaction with this Plaintiff had been with regard to improper motivation."

The letter also sets forth plaintiff's requests for discovery of documents, as follows:

" Plaintiffs also wish certain pertinent documents outside of the official record of the proposed Rule to ban pet ferrets which the Board approved in September 1999, including any items rejected from the public record, any documents soliciting opinions on the subject of pet ferrets, documents describing the internal procedures of the Board of Health or its members' functions, and any documents relating to this Plaintiff other than my own letters and the responses I received."

A party to an action is entitled to " full disclosure of all matter material and necessary" in the prosecution of the action. (CPLR 3101; see, Allen v Crowell-Collier Publ. Co.,21 N.Y.2d 403 [1968].) Plaintiff's request for discovery must ...


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