The New York Law Journal by John Caher - November 1, 2011
Noting that federal courts do not recognize the confidentiality privilege in New York Civil Rights Law §50-a, a Western District magistrate judge has ordered the city of Buffalo to turn over the personnel and disciplinary records of a police officer for in camera review. Magistrate Judge Hugh B. Scott gave the city 30 days to deliver the records, shielded from disclosure by state law, on Officer Raymond Harrington. Justin L. Levy, the plaintiff in Levy v. Harrington, 09-cv-720A, accuses the officer of false arrest and imprisonment, and excessive force. After the defendants removed the case to federal court, Mr. Levy sought records that are not obtainable in state court due to the privilege delineated in Civil Rights Law §50-a. Magistrate Judge Scott noted that no federal rule precludes discovery of police disciplinary or personnel files and, after concluding that Mr. Levy met his initial burden of showing materiality and relevance, said he would review the records in camera to determine if they should be revealed to the plaintiff. The magistrate judge said the same issue has been raised in another case pending in his court, Paulding v. City of Buffalo, 10-cv-712. Steven M. Cohen of HoganWillig in Amherst represents the plaintiffs in both cases.