Martinez v. County Of Rockland et al
ORDER: Therefore, this Court withdraws its prior Order for production of the histopathology slides. (Docket No. 29). The parties are directed to seek an order permitting such production in New Jersey state court initially. If the parties are unsuccessful, they may renew their application in this Court upon notice to the County.(As further set forth in this Order.) SO ORDERED. (Signed by Magistrate Judge Judith C. McCarthy on 11/17/2021) (vfr)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK
ODELVIN JACINTO MARTINEZ, as
Administrator of the Estate of FERDY ISAIAS
COUNTY OF ROCKLAND, ROCKLAND
COUNTY SHERIFF’S OFFICE, RAYMOND
NELSON, FELIX CLEREAUX, JOHN
AUGUSTONI, CLINT HALSTEAD, WILLIAM
CARR, DIRK MARTINEZ, CONNOR McGUIGAN,
ROBERT BARDIO, MICHAEL SULLIVAN,
JOHN LEONARD and LOUIS FALCO IV,
21 Civ. 1276 (KMK) (JCM)
Presently before the Court is the County of Bergen’s (the “County”) letter, dated
November 16, 2021, objecting to the Court’s previous order (the “Order”) directing the County
Medical Examiner’s Office (the “Medical Examiner”) to produce to all parties the histopathology
slides taken during the autopsy of decedent Ferdy Isaias Jacinto Martinez (the “Decedent”) after
his death at a hospital in Englewood, New Jersey. (Docket Nos. 29, 30). The previous Order
directed the release of such records based on the parties’ representation that they had “contacted”
the Medical Examiner, the County and the “Bergen County District Attorney’s Office” prior to
making their application, and were “informed . . . that a court order was required” to release the
records. (See Docket No. 29 at 1-3 & n.1). However, the County’s objection states that it
received no such communications, nor did the Medical Examiner, and “there is no Office of
District Attorney in New Jersey.” (Docket No. 30 at 2).
Under New Jersey law, medical specimens such as histopathology slides are generally
confidential, and thus, not subject to production and examination for purposes of public access.
See N.J. Stat. §§ 47:1A-1.1; 47:1A-5; Ausley v. Cty. of Middlesex, 931 A.2d 610, 613 (App. Div.
2007). An exception to this rule is that such records may be made public “for the use as a court
of this State permits.” See N.J. Stat. § 47:1A-1.1. This exception requires a New Jersey court
“order” upon a showing of “good cause,” and service of the request for such order “upon the
county prosecutor” for the county where the subject autopsy took place. See id.
No such order for disclosure of the histopathology slides has been entered by a New
Jersey court, even though the slides are located in New Jersey. Comity and federalism concerns
preclude federal courts from “interven[ing] in the internal procedures of the state courts.” See
Kaufman v. Kaye, 466 F.3d 83, 86 (2d Cir. 2006) (quoting Wallace v. Kern, 520 F.2d 400, 405
(2d Cir. 1975)) (internal quotations omitted). Under these principles, whereas federal courts are
not bound by state laws, they are “impel[ed]” “to recognize state privileges where this can be
accomplished at no substantial cost to federal substantive and procedural policy.” See Wilson v.
City of New York, No. 06-CV-229 (ARR)(VVP), 2007 WL 4565138, at *1 (E.D.N.Y. Dec. 21,
2007) (quoting Lora v. Bd. of Ed., 74 F.R.D. 565, 576 (E.D.N.Y. 1977)) (internal quotations
Therefore, this Court withdraws its prior Order for production of the histopathology
slides. (Docket No. 29). The parties are directed to seek an order permitting such production in
New Jersey state court initially. If the parties are unsuccessful, they may renew their application
in this Court upon notice to the County.
November 17, 2021
White Plains, New York
JUDITH C. McCARTHY
United States Magistrate Judge
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