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Lakutis v. Greenwood

Decided: March 10, 1952.

FRANK M. LAKUTIS, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,
v.
ROBERT K. GREENWOOD, DEFENDANT-RESPONDENT



On appeal from the Superior Court, Law Division.

For reversal -- Chief Justice Vanderbilt, and Justices Heher, Oliphant, Wachenfeld and Burling. For affirmance -- None. The opinion of the court was delivered by Wachenfeld, J.

Wachenfeld

[9 NJ Page 103] The plaintiff appeals from a judgment of the Law Division of the Superior Court dismissing his

complaint and entering summary judgment for the defendant. The appeal to the Appellate Division is certified here on our own motion.

The action is brought against the Chief Probation Officer of Salem County, charging him in six counts with false imprisonment, malicious prosecution and abuse of process. There are two counts on each of the alleged injuries, one relating to an arrest on March 12, 1951, and the other to an arrest on May 17 of the same year. On each occasion the plaintiff was incarcerated in the Camden County Jail, and after the May arrest was subsequently removed to the Salem County Jail.

The warrants for arrest which were issued by the defendant certified that the plaintiff was a person convicted of crime, had been placed on probation in care of the defendant, and had forfeited his probation.

The arrests in question grew out of marital difficulties between the plaintiff and his wife. They separated and in January, 1949, a petition was filed in the Salem County Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court by the county prosecutor alleging the plaintiff had willfully and unlawfully neglected and refused to provide for the support and maintenance of his wife. The parties appeared in court the following month and the plaintiff was found guilty of nonsupport. He was ordered to pay the sum of $7 per week to the county probation officer for the support of his wife, who was then pregnant, payment to commence upon the birth of the child, which occurred ten days later. No written judgment to this effect has ever been entered and the oral order of the court appears only in the minutes of the court clerk.

In June of that year, according to the records of the probation office and the county clerk's office, the plaintiff again appeared in court requesting a reduction of the weekly payments, which was refused.

On September 22, 1949, the oral order was modified to provide $7 weekly for the support of the plaintiff's child rather than for the wife. Affidavits of the judge, the prosecutor

and the defendant indicate the plaintiff was in court on that day although he denies it.

No payments were made by the plaintiff for the support of either his wife or his child so far as the record shows. He was brought into court on contempt proceedings on February 23, 1950, was sworn and examined and found guilty of contempt. He was sentenced to Annandale Reformatory but the order was held in abeyance. Five months later he was again found guilty of contempt and committed to the county jail.

The record shows that in November, 1950, notice was mailed to the plaintiff to appear in court to explain why he had not made payments in accordance with the court's order. It was discovered he had moved to Camden and a warrant was issued for his arrest. Pursuant to it he was apprehended by the Camden County Probation Office but released on payment of the sum of $100 ...


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