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MOBLEY v. SENKOWSKI
December 21, 2002
COREY K. MOBLEY, PETITIONER,
DANIEL A. SENKOWSKI, AS SUPERINTENDENT OF CLINTON CORRECTIONAL FACILITY, RESPONDENT.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Arthur D. Spatt, United States District Judge
On September 19, 2001, Corey K. Mobley ("Mobley" or the "petitioner")
filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to
28 U.S.C. § 2254. The petitioner was convicted of two counts of
robbery in the first degree and two counts of robbery in the second
degree on July 26, 1995. His petition raises two claims: (1) the trial
court failed to grant the defense's challenges for cause of prospective
jurors who showed partiality and bias against the petitioner and an
inability to render a fair verdict based upon the evidence; and (2) the
prosecution failed to prove the petitioner's guilt of an alleged robbery
beyond a reasonable doubt. Presently before the Court is the petitioner's
motion to unseal a criminal case file of the presiding judge in his
trial, Judge Paul Kowtna, in the County Court of Nassau County.
The petitioner states that in May 2002, Judge Kowtna was arrested and
charged with first degree assault for allegedly stabbing his wife in a
domestic dispute. The petitioner contends that according to newspaper
accounts of the incident, in April 2002, Judge Kowtna was found not
responsible by reason of mental disease or defect. The petitioner states
that the entire criminal case file for Judge Kowtna's proceedings are
under seal pursuant to a judicial order in the Nassau County Court.
According to the petitioner, such files are necessary to determine
whether Judge Kowtna's mental disease or defect manifested during the
petitioner's trial which may have resulted in unfair and erroneous
rulings. As such, the petitioner argues that it is in the "interest of
justice" that the petitioner be permitted to inspect and examine the
entire court file of the case of The People of the State of New York
against Paul E. Kowtna. The Court finds that the petitioner's grounds for
unsealing Judge Kowtna's case file are insufficient.
It is well-established that a court's inherent power to unseal records
should be "exercised rarely" and only in "extraordinary circumstances."
Matter of Hynes v. Karassik, 47 N.Y.2d 659, 664, 419 N.Y.S.2d 942,
393 N.E.2d 1015 (1979). Here, the petitioner has demonstrated neither any
"extraordinary circumstances" nor compelling need entitling him to
examine the sealed records. The Court finds that the petitioner's trial
and Judge Kowtna's trial are remote in time given that the petitioner's
trial occurred in 1995, which was approximately five years before Judge
Kowtna's assault and seven years before Judge Kowtna's plea of not
responsible by reason of mental illness or defect. In addition, nowhere
in the record does it indicate that Judge Kowtna's behavior was bizarre,
erratic, or even unusual in any way. Moreover, because that the
petitioner asserts in his supplemental brief, dated February 12, 2002,
that the record is "replete with examples" of erroneous rulings made by
the trial court, the Court finds that there are other sources of
information available to the petitioner supporting his claim that he was
deprived of a fair trial. Accordingly, the Court denies the petitioner's
motion to unseal Judge Kowtna's criminal case file.
Based on the foregoing, the petitioner's motion to unseal the court
file of the case of The People of The State of New York against Paul E.
Kowta is DENIED.
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