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Prisoners' Record Requests Enforceable Under U.S. Constitution and N.Y. Law

Erie County, New York, District Attorney Frank Clark appealed a State Supreme Court ruling granting prisoner Daryl Hillard disclosure of documents regarding his prosecution. The court affirmed the disclosure.

Clark refused to produce the documents arguing that a prisoner's right to obtain records under the Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) were suspended while incarcerated because the production was precluded by N.Y. Civ. Rights Law § 79. Hillard motioned to compel. The court held that N.Y. Civil Rights Laws and the due process and equal protection clauses of the U.S. Constitution allow a prisoner's access to these documents. The court further held that FOIL requests could be enforced by administrative appeals and court proceedings. Clark appealed.

The Fourth Department Appellate Division for the Supreme Court of New York held that N.Y. Civ. Rights Laws §§ 79(2) and 79 a(2) were amended in 1973 because of constitutional violations and that the Civil Rights Law does not bar prisoners from making and seeking to enforce FOIL requests. See: In re Hillard v. Clark. 254 A.D.2d 756, 677 N.Y.S.2d 857 (N.Y.S. App. 1998).

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Related legal case

In re Hillard v. Clark