Oral arguments in the increasingly bitter legal contest over whistleblower cop Adrian Schoolcraft’s lawsuit against the city are scheduled for later today in federal court in Manhattan before U.S. District Judge Robert Sweet. The two sides are slated to haggle over an unusual confidentiality order that actually prevents Schoolcraft from seeing thousands of discovery documents in his own case.
Schoolcraft, of course, is the Brooklyn cop who secretly recorded his bosses in the 81st Precinct ordering manipulation of crime reports, stop-and-frisk quotas, and actions that probably led to civil rights violations. On Oct. 31, 2009, he was dragged out of his apartment by police and forcibly admitted to the Jamaica Hospital psych ward. He claims his civil rights were violated.
The dispute over what’s known as the “attorney’s eyes only stipulation” has been building for some time. It was agreed to in October 2012 by Schoolcraft’s former lawyers, after the city refused to turn over any more documents in the wake of a Voice article about a secret NYPD report that substantiated almost all of the officer’s allegations about manipulation of crime reports in Brooklyn’s 81st Precinct. Since then, the Schoolcrafts have been agitating for the rule to be removed.
“The [stipulation] should be lifted because it was created for the purpose of permitting discovery to proceed while the City Defendants undertook discovery on the issue of whether Officer Schoolcraft was the individual who provided Graham Rayman of the Village Voice with a report by the Quality Assurance Division of the NYPD,” Schoolcraft lawyer Nathaniel Smith wrote on September 9. “Since the City Defendants have failed to present or obtain any such evidence, the extraordinary limitation ought to be removed.”
Among those records, intriguingly, are the actual Internal Affairs interviews of 44 witnesses. The city of course is objecting to any change to the “eyes’ only” order.
The struggle over the stipulation and others issues of contention are laid bare in court records filed publicly earlier this month, and they show hints of a roiling behind-the-scenes battle.
The documents also suggest that a trial could take place as early as next spring, but more likely in the summer–long after, not coincidentally, Mayor Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Ray Kelly have moved on.
Smith also demands in his September 9 letter that the city return a digital recorder used in making his secret tapes, and documents that were in his apartment when he was dragged to the Jamaica Hospital psych ward.
On September 9, Assistant Corporation Counsel Suzanna Publicker Mettham charged that Smith didn’t follow court rules for making the request, and accused the Schoolcrafts of failing to cooperate in turning over information relevant to the case, as required under the discovery rules.
She argued that Schoolcraft had failed to answer cer4tain deposition questions, and asked the court to order him to answer. She said the plaintiffs had ignored their requests to turn over an address for Larry Schoolcraft, Adrian’s father.
Specifically, she said that they hadn’t turned over any information or contact Schoolcraft had with Frank Pallestro, who reported corruption at the 42nd Precinct in the Bronx, and Officer Adhyl Polanco, who reported corruption in the 40th Precinct, also in the Bronx.
Smith argues that the discovery issue is without merit and called on the judge to sanction the city’s lawyers. “It can only be designed to make work for opposing counsel and impose needless (and endless) discovery burdens on the plaintiff,” he wrote.
Under a discovery calendar signed by Sweet last month, the city was to continue to depose Schoolcraft on Thursday, which, by our estimate, is the fourth time he has sat for a deposition. And Jamaica Hospital was going to get a crack at him on Friday.
On September 19, the two sides and the judge visited the 81st Precinct to check it out. The relevant areas in Jamaica Hospital were set to be visited during the week of October 1.
The long-delayed depositions of the key NYPD characters in the saga was set for October, including Deputy Chief Michael Marino, Deputy Inspector Steven Mauriello, and two other 81st Precinct supervisors. The two Jamaica Hospital doctors who examined Schoolcraft–Isak Isakov and Lillian Aldana-Bernier–will also be deposed next month. The NYPD psychologist, Catherine Lamstein, will be deposed at the end of October.
Finally, Larry Schoolcraft, Adrian’s father, will be deposed on November 20.
Under the plan, all discovery would be complete by January 10, 2014. Following that, the names of expert witnesses would be disclosed to each side, and all pretrial motions would be served by April 7, 2014.
A gag order governing confidentially of the documents in the case is still in play, though Smith has applied to remove that gag order.