Skip navigation
× You have 2 more free articles available this month. Subscribe today.

New York Court Limits Costs to $.25 per Page for Prison Medical Records Requests

A New York appellate court has upheld a lower court’s decision that the cost for medical records requested by prisoners or their representatives under the Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) is no more than $.25 per page.

The Legal Aid Society (LAS) sought disclosure of certain medical records from the New York State Department of Correctional Services (NYSDOCS) under FOIL, which specifies a statutory limit on costs of $.25 per page. The NYSDOCS agreed to disclose the records, but only under Public Health Law § 18, and imposed a copying fee of $.50 per page. The LAS filed a CPLR article 78 proceeding in state court to compel production of the medical records pursuant to FOIL at a cost of no more than $.25 per page.

The Supreme Court of Dutchess County ordered production of the records at a cost not to exceed $.25, and NYSDOCS appealed.

The Supreme Court of New York, Appellate Division, Second Judicial Department upheld the lower court, finding there was no statutory exemption under FOIL for medical records, even if they could also be obtained under section 18 of the Public Health Law.

“FOIL imposes a broad standard of open disclosure upon agencies of the government [and][d]ocuments in the possession of public agencies are presumptively discoverable under FOIL, unless the agency can point to a specific statutory exemption,” the appellate court wrote. “Here, there is no such statutory exemption. The fact that an individual ‘could obtain his records ... pursuant to section 18 [of the Public Health Law] does not diminish his right to obtain them under FOIL.’”

Following the decision, NYSDOCS issued a Memorandum dated January 6, 2012 that updated its copying policies and ordered that all medical records requests be assessed a copying charge of $.25 per page regardless of which law the request was made under. The memo also stated that access to medical records cannot be denied due to inability to pay, referring to Directive 2788.

New York attorney Steven Banks represented the Legal Aid Society on appeal. See: Legal Aid Society v. New York State Department of Correctional Services, 88 A.D.3d 793, 930 N.Y.S.2d 887 (N.Y.A.D. 2 Dept. 2011).

As a digital subscriber to Prison Legal News, you can access full text and downloads for this and other premium content.

Subscribe today

Already a subscriber? Login

Related legal case

Legal Aid Society v. New York State Department of Correctional Services