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Edgardo Maldonado v. the City of New York

June 21, 2012

EDGARDO MALDONADO, PLAINTIFF,
v.
THE CITY OF NEW YORK, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Pitman, United States Magistrate Judge:

OPINION et al., AND ORDER

I. Introduction

The plaintiff in this civil rights action moves for an Order compelling enforcement of a subpoena duces tecum served on the Office of the New York County District Attorney ("DANY"). The subpoena seeks production of the minutes of the grand jury proceeding that resulted in drug related charges being filed against plaintiff -- charges of which plaintiff was ultimately acquitted and which underlie plaintiff's malicious prosecution claim (Letter by David B. Rankin, counsel for plaintiff, dated Apr. 24, 2012 ("Pl.'s April 24 Letter") at 1-2 ). Defendants and DANY oppose production of the grand jury minutes. For the reasons set forth below, plaintiff's motion to compel is denied.

II. Facts

This Section 1983 action arises out of plaintiff's arrest during a "buy-and-bust operation" by New York City police officers on the morning of November 9, 2009 (Complaint, filed May 23, 2011 (Docket Item 1) ¶ 19). Following plaintiff's arrest, a New York County Grand Jury returned an indictment charging plaintiff with one count of criminal sale of a controlled substance in the third degree, one count of criminal possession of a controlled substance in the third degree, and one count of endangering the welfare of a child (Letter by Christina Ante, Assistant District Attorney, New York County, dated May 2, 2012 ("DANY's May 2 Letter") at 1). In October 2010, plaintiff was tried by a jury and acquitted of all charges (DANY's May 2 Letter at 1).

On May 23, 2011, plaintiff commenced this action alleging claims for, inter alia, false arrest and malicious prosecution under 42 U.S.C. 1983 and parallel state law (Pl.'s April 24 Letter at 1).

On January 23, 2012, plaintiff filed a motion in New York State Supreme Court, New York County (Merchan, J.) seeking to unseal the grand jury testimony of the police who testified against plaintiff (DANY's May 2 Letter at 1). Although plain- tiff's counsel in the criminal action had been provided with all of the relevant grand jury minutes pursuant to People v. Rosario, 9 N.Y.2d 286, 173 N.E.2d 881, 213 N.Y.S.2d 448 (1961) and N.Y. Crim. Proc. Law Section 240.45, she advised plaintiff's civil counsel that she no longer possesses the minutes (Transcript of May 9, 2012 Oral Argument on Motion to Compel (Docket Item 23)("Oral Arg. Tr.") at 6-7, 23). On February 15, 2012, DANY filed their opposition to plaintiff's motion to unseal, arguing that plaintiff failed to establish a compelling and particularized need to warrant violating grand jury secrecy and producing the transcripts (DANY's May 2 Letter at 1). On February 23, 2012, the state court heard oral argument on plaintiff's motion and promised a decision by April 19, 2012 (DANY's May 2 Letter at 2).

On April 2, 2012, the state court denied plaintiff's motion to unseal the transcripts finding that plaintiff failed to set forth a compelling and particularized need for the transcripts (DANY's May 2 Letter at 2).

On April 3, 2012, plaintiff served the subpoena currently in issue on DANY (DANY's May 2 Letter at 2). DANY objected pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 45 and opposed the disclosure of the grand jury transcripts absent an unsealing order (DANY's May 2 Letter at 2).

B. The Present Dispute

Plaintiff asserts that the transcripts should be produced because, "in civil rights cases, state privacy limitations on discovery are to be narrowly construed in light of the 'important federal substantive policy such as that embodied in section 1983'" (Pl.'s April 24 Letter at 2, quoting Crosby v. City of N.Y., 269 F.R.D. 267, 274 (S.D.N.Y. 2010) (Scheindlin, D.J.), and King v. Conde, 121 F.R.D. 180, 187 (E.D.N.Y. 1988). Accordingly, plaintiff argues that the need for broad discovery in Section 1983 litigation outweighs the interests in maintaining state grand jury secrecy in this instance and that "it would be improper for the Court to apply New York statutory privileges to plaintiff's federal claims because plaintiff has a relevant, particularized and compelling need for the grand jury minutes" (DANY's May 2 Letter at 3). Plaintiff articulates three grounds which he contends justify production of the transcripts:

First, the grand jury minutes contain witness statements that directly address whether probable cause existed for plaintiff's arrest. Accordingly, the minutes are relevant to plaintiff's claims for false arrest under both federal and state law. Second, the grand jury minutes contain relevant information about the post-arrest investigative process that led to plaintiff's indictment, further addressing the existence of probable cause and whether the officers exhib-ited malice in their arrest of plaintiff. Third, the police officers' testimony at the grand jury is in itself a part of plaintiff's malicious prosecution claim under state law. There is no other evidence available to support plaintiff's claim under state law that the police officers maliciously prosecuted plaintiff when they falsely testified against him at the grand jury.

(Pl.'s April 24 Letter at 3).

Defendants' argue that, in light of the United States Supreme Court's recent decision in Rehberg v. Paulk, 132 S.Ct. 1497 (2012), ...


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