Justice Raffaele (NYLJ/Rick Kopstein)
Both parties in a case where a Queens Supreme Court Justice is suing New York City over a police officer’s alleged attack have lost their bid to keep a report and certain court papers under seal.
Eastern District Judge Kiyo Matsumoto (See Profile) said she reviewed the report by the Civilian Complaint Review Board and a memorandum of law from Justice Thomas Raffaele, but could “discern no reason to seal the documents” because the agency’s probe appeared to be finished.
In Raffaele v. City of New York, 13-cv-4607, she said the judge’s attorneys should file an unsealed version of the brief and the report by June 17, but permitted redactions on specific personal information about non-parties.
Raffaele claims officer Luis Samot struck him in the throat during a June 2012 incident when he and other bystanders watched the officer repeatedly knee a subdued, handcuffed man. He said officers at the scene and at the hospital where he was examined refused to take his statement.
Raffaele filed complaints with the police department’s Internal Affairs Bureau and the Civilian Complaint Review Board, a city agency independent of the police department. Both entities concluded no wrongdoing had occurred.
Queens prosecutors also decided not to file charges against the officer.
In his suit, Raffaele pressed claims including excessive force, false arrest, supervisory liability and conspiracy.
In court papers, the city said its dismissal motion should be granted in its entirety and Raffaele should only be allowed to proceed “at this time” with his claims for excessive force, battery and failure to intervene.
In their opposition to the city’s motion to dismiss, Reza Islam and Barak Cardenas, of Cardenas Islam & Associates, discussed the Civilian Complaint Review Board report and appended the report with their memorandum of law.
Raffaele’s attorneys said in court papers that they filed under seal because the city’s report was marked as “confidential” and had been produced by the city under a protective order.
The plaintiff’s papers refer to Samot’s disciplinary history, which the city said it turned over once the protective order was in place. The city also noted personal information of non-parties were included in the report.
In her ruling, Matsumoto said there was a “strong presumption” that documents submitted in connection to a motion were subject to immediate public access.
Due to the “centrality” of the memorandum and the report for Raffaele, “a strong presumption of access applies.”
The common law right of access could be balanced against dangers of impairing law enforcement or privacy considerations, she noted.
But the parties did not show “any compelling countervailing reasons” for sealing, Matsumoto said.
She was not swayed by the existence of the protective order either, noting it was issued “for the purposes of facilitating discovery in this case, however, and does not bear on the presumption of access to the motion papers.”
Islam declined to comment.
Assistant Corporation Counsel Virginia Nimick appeared for the city.