HOW TO SERVE LEGAL PAPERS ON NEW YORK CITY DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTION

NYC Department of Corrections

By Akanksha A. Panicker

The New York City Department of Correction (NYC DOC) is the arm of the New York City metropolitan government in charge of the detention, supervision, and treatment of the city’s incarcerated citizens, the bulk of whom are incarcerated on Rikers Island. The New York City Department of Correction was born in 1895 as an independent authority after divergence from the Department of Public Charities and Correction. The agency is headed by the Correction Commissioner, chosen and appointed by the Mayor of New York City.

Correction officers are in charge of inmates’ supervision, monitoring, detention, work efficiency, and job preparation. Among the roles are [A.] evaluating buildings for safety and protection, as well as ensuring the protection and reliability of goods and machinery, [B.] keeping an eye on food, leisure, and visitors, [C.]keeping track of logs, [D.] engaging with prisoners and directing them to be medical and/or psychological care and [E.]  ferrying and moving prisoners both inside and outside the prison

[1.0] WHO CAN BE SERVED THROUGH NEW YORK CITY PROCESS SERVICE

Inmates and parolees often file lawsuits against Department of Corrections and Community Supervision (DOCCS) staff for detention conditions, sentence time, physical injuries, property damage, and a variety of other concerns. Employees can take civil action in response to accusations of prejudice, abuse, wrongful termination of jobs, and other employment-related complaints.

Public Officers Law §17 provides for the defense and indemnification of State officers and employees. Upon compliance by the employee, the State will then provide for the employee’s defense in any civil action or proceeding in any state or federal court. However, it is mandatory that this proceeding should arise from an action or an omission that arose from the scope of the employee’s duties.  The employee shall be entitled to be represented by the attorney general. This is considered unnecessary if the employee has access to their own private counsel in any civil judicial proceeding or an obvious conflict of interest in the representation. 

[1.1] REQUIREMENTS FOR NEW YORK CITY PROCESS SERVICE

All complaints and petitions seeking a legal remedy in State or Federal court, no matter how this has been served upon  DOCCS employees,  should be immediately brought to the attention of the Inmate Records Coordinator  (IRC) or Bureau  Chief and then sent to the Office of the Attorney General. The Attorney General of New York is the chief legal officer of the U.S. state of New York and head of the state government’s Department of Law.

The ‘Request for Representation’ letter must be used in the present instance, with the IRC or Bureau Chief being appraised of all  New York City Process Service and attempts at service on the same day. If the same-day appraisal is impossible, this information must be produced on the next business day. If necessary, the Office of the Attorney General must be informed. This is because the defendants will have to rely on the OAG to raise the appropriate service objections. For example, attempts to serve a party through inter-facility mail are not legally sufficient. However, defendants will rely upon  OAG to raise appropriate objections to New York City Process Service.

[1.2]  PERSONAL  SERVICE IN THE DOCCS 

New York City Process Service may also be enacted within the DOCCS.  If service papers for a current employee are delivered to a facility or a regional office, the IRC, Bureau  Chief, or other designated individual will be required to locate and provide service to the employee to whom the service is addressed. 

Suppose a ‘Statement of Service accompanies the complaint by Mail and Acknowledgment of Receipt by Mail of Summons and Complaint’; that form is not required to be signed or dated.   The only requirement is to provide that the employee is not currently in active military service. The employee may be provided with a copy of the complaint if specifically requested. 

The documents that the employee received in their personal service must be shared with the OAFG. This means that copies of all papers that the employee received and the unsigned Acknowledgment of Receipt must be sent to the OAG branch responsible for the employee’s facility.  This is because the OAG is required to sign and date the Acknowledgement of Receipt in the employee’s stead. 

The OAG will thereinafter send the documents to the Marshal’s Service or the State Court Clerk. This is because the OAG is responsible for protecting the DOCCS defendant’s rights and must be appraised of service against them.  If the employee has been transferred to a different office, then the Bureau Chief or IRC office that the employee’s new work location falls under must be informed. This is done simply by forwarding the documents to this location addressed to the Bureau Chief. After receipt, the process of appraising the OAG will continue.  However, if service is required for a retired employee or one who has been terminated, it is necessary to address the Office of Counsel as soon as possible specifically. 

A detailed record of the timelines and documents that have been received is imperative to ensure smooth service. 

[2.0] SERVICE BY INMATES  ON INMATES:

To facilitate the procedures for New York City Process Service and service of legal papers by inmates on other inmates without violating the inmate to inmate correspondence provisions of Directive #4422, ‘Offender Correspondence  Program,’ the Inmate Records Coordinator will assume an intermediary role in serving papers for the inmate.  This includes and outlines the rules and practices that control the  Correspondence Programme, open to all inmates. Correspondents are personally liable for the substance of their messages. Contravention of the rules regulating inmate communications or the requirements of detainee behavior by correspondence is deemed a severe offense that can result in administrative action and/or surveillance of outgoing correspondence for a prescribed period of time. Inmates and other correspondents are reminded that delivering indecent, threatening, or dishonest items via the mail could likely be a violation of both state and federal legislation.   The Department usually urges prosecution based on such mail. However, the sending and receiving of mail by inmates will be restricted only to the extent necessary to prevent a threat to the safety, security,  and good order of the facility or the safety or well-being of any person,  and to prevent unsolicited and unwanted mail. 

If an inmate requests to serve another inmate, regardless of whether they are in the same facility, the requestor’s IRC branch is responsible. To this particular IRC, a copy of the papers needs to be served. If the inmate is in the same correctional facility, the IRC can simply forward all the paperwork through legal mail to them along with a memorandum that declares the papers’ service on behalf of the inmate requesting assistance. However, if the inmate is in an entirely different facility, the IRC is required to forward the documents to the IRC in that facility to ease the process. After this procedure is satisfied, the inmate receives New York City Process Service in their facility in the same manner as inter-facility service. 

Common ground between both means of New York City Process Service is that the requesting inmate is provided a memorandum of successful service upon provision of the documents.

If papers have to be provided upon an inmate by another individual, the inmate can be located via the DOCCS database.  Meanwhile, the documents will be served upon the IRC at the correctional facility with a service request. The individual sending the documents is necessitated to provide an Affidavit of Service and a self-addressed and stamped envelope so that this Affidavit may be filled in and returned to the sender. 

Individual service is not always necessary. Papers may be delivered by a process server, which follows the typical delivery procedure to the IRC of the correctional facility in question. However, the person who completes delivery will have the inmate sign a receipt for service.

[3.0] HOW TO SERVE A SUBPOENA

A subpoena ad testificandum is a court summons to appear and give oral testimony for use at a hearing or trial. This subpoena requires the attendance of a person to give testimony.

Subpoena duces tecum is to be served upon a department or bureau of a municipal corporation or the state, or an officer thereof, requiring the production of any books, papers, or other things. The issuance of a subpoena is authorized by [A.] justice of the supreme court in the district in which the record is situated or [B.] a judge of the court in which an action for which it is required is triable. A typical notice period of one day is usually required. 

Compliance with a subpoena duces tecum may be made by producing a full-sized legible reproduction of the document required to be produced certified as complete and accurate. However, there is no actual requirement for the individual’s physical presence, and the cost for production can be considered to be paid as an additional fee to the department. A fee of USD 30 should accompany the subpoena for a record subpoena, although a legally proper subpoena should be complied with even sans the payment upfront. Failure to comply with a subpoena issued by a judge, clerk, or officer of the court shall be punishable as contempt of court.

The subpoenas are usually served via the IRC, Bureau Chief, or Unit Head of Central  Office Divisions. As a document, it is sufficient that the subpoenas are either originals or court-certified copies. However, New York City Process Service stipulated that personal service must be done herein unless explicit permission from an attorney in the Office of Counsel is obtained.

New York City Process Service provides that upon serving a subpoena on DOCCS, the sanctioning head (IRC or Bureau Chief or Division Head) can accept service of subpoenas that provide for [A.] records maintained, constituting a subpoena duces tecum or [B.] personal appearance or testimony of a specified employee, constituting a subpoena ad testificandum.   A subpoena ad testificandum cannot be misapplied to produce or seek the testimony of a terminated employee. Subpoenas for the appearance of an employee should be served upon that employee at their facility or regional office Furthermore; it cannot seek the testimony of an employee who is not part of the DOCCS.

A subpoena not against the Department and only for records should be retained only in the inmate file. However, if the subpoena relates to a lawsuit against the Department itself, a copy within the litigation file and the inmate legal file is necessary.

Witness fees for a subpoena seeking testimony must accompany the subpoena. For work-related matters, the subpoenaed employee can either choose to be paid at the time of receipt or later.  However, a Regional Director or any individual designated by the Superintendent to receive service can do so on the employee’s behalf. If a judge signed the subpoena,  but there are concerns about releasing a record due to privacy, security concerns, or other reasons,  the Office of Counsel should be contacted before releasing it. Additionally, an overly vague subpoena should be clarified before production.

It is necessary to remember that New York City Process Service allows for certified copies of documents provided by the Department and not originals.  If the Department or individual does not comply with a legally proper means of New York City Process Service  (properly served and properly issued)  subpoena by the due date,  a court might impose contempt sanctions.

The DOCCS works closely with other State Departments, although it still cannot accept a subpoena on their behalf. During this pandemic, the New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision (DOCCS) has worked with the New York State Department of Health to identify any potentially exposed individuals to provide notifications and stop the spread of the virus. Although ASAT and Youthful Offender information may be provided subject to authorization, health information  (especially mental health information) comes entirely under the Department of State’s purview. 

For more information on serving legal papers, contact New York City Process Service (800) 774-6922. Representatives are available Monday-Friday 8 am – 8 pm EST.  If you found this article helpful, please consider donating.  Thank you for following our blog, A space dedicated to bringing you news on breaking legal developments, interesting articles for law professionals, and educational material for all. We hope that you enjoy your time on our blog and revisit us!  We also invite you to check out our Frequently Asked Questions About Process Servers.

Sources

1. New York City Charter § 621; “There shall be a department of correction the head of which shall be the commissioner of correction.”

2. Correction Law § 24-a extends the provisions of Public Officers Law §17  to licensed health care providers who have rendered care to inmates or infants cared for in facility nurseries at the Department’s request without regard to whether such health care was provided within or without a correctional facility.

3. Also including former employees  or health  care contractors

4. The Inmate Records Coordinator (IRC) at each DOCCS correctional facility is responsible for sentence time calculations.

When DOCCS receives an individual, the IRC at the facility will determine the amount of pre-commitment jail time credit to be applied to their sentence and determine their earliest possible release date, merit, and conditional release dates, if applicable and the maximum expiration date of their sentence.

5. If the employee uses a DOCCS Microsoft Outlook e-mail account, that address should be noted in the letter.

6. Office of Counsel Attention:   Litigation  Unit

New York State Department  of Corrections and Community Supervision

1220  Washington  Ave.

Albany, NY  12226E.

7. Superseding DIR#   4422Dtd.06/27/17. General  Correspondence is mail between an inmate and someone other than a person approved for privileged correspondence  (see  Directive #4421).  Outgoing mail purporting to be privileged correspondence will not be considered privileged correspondence until it has been placed in the administration’s control for processing.

8. ‘Inmate Lookup’ section at www.doccs.ny.gov.

9. Deposition  in a lawsuit  against  the Department, certification of a Department  record in court, trial, etc.) 

10. Drug and Alcohol Abuse/Alcohol  and Substance Abuse Treatment

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