NYCL AGO 2002-20.

Case Date:December 10, 2002
Court:New York
 
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New York Attorney General Opinions 2002. AGO 2002-20. December 10, 2002Informal Opinion No. 2002-20Lorna Goodman, Esq.County AttorneyCounty of NassauOffice of the County AttorneyRalph G. Caso Executiveand Legislative Building One West StreetMineola, New York 11501-4820C.P.L.R. § 2219; CRIMINAL PROCEDURE LAW § 610.10; DOMESTIC RELATIONS LAW § 235; JUDICIARY LAW § 90(10); 22 N.Y.C.R.R. § 691.5.A subpoena issued by the Grievance Committee and signed by the Clerk of the Appellate Division does not supplant the requirement of a court order set forth in Domestic Relations Law section 235.Dear Ms. Goodman: This is in response to your inquiry as to whether Domestic Relations Law ("DRL") § 235 requires a court order prior to releasing documents in a matrimonial action to a Grievance Committee. Specifically, you state in your letter that the Office of the Nassau County Clerk of the Court(fn1) was served with a subpoena for a matrimonial file from the Grievance Committee of the Appellate Division, Second Department. The Nassau County Clerk's office denied this request due to the apparent constraints of DRL § 235(1), which requires a court order when releasing such files to a non-party. Upon this denial, you were informed by the Grievance Committee that a court order was not necessary, and that a subpoena signed by the Clerk of the Appellate Division would suffice to permit release of the file. You indicated that the Grievance Committee did not cite any statutory authority in support of its position. You seek an opinion as to whether a subpoena signed by the Clerk of the Appellate Division suffices to supplant the requirement of a court order for release of a matrimonial file pursuant to DRL § 235(1). We conclude that a subpoena issued by the Grievance Committee and signed by the Clerk of the Appellate Division does not supplant the requirement of a court order set forth in DRL § 235(1). The statute has been narrowly construed to implement its policy of protecting the confidentiality of matrimonial records and it does not expressly exempt the Grievance Committee from the requirement for a court order. Therefore, we find that the Grievance Committee, like any other non-party, should seek a court order to obtain access to the matrimonial file.(fn2) Domestic Relations Law § 235(1) provides:
An officer of the court with whom the proceedings in a matrimonial action or a written agreement of separation or an action or proceeding for custody, visitation or maintenance of a child are filed, or before whom the testimony is taken, or his clerk, either before or after the termination of the suit, shall not permit a copy of any of the pleadings, affidavits, findings of fact, conclusions of law, judgment of
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