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Mancuso v. Borough of North Arlington

Decided: March 18, 1985.

DONALD T. MANCUSO, PLAINTIFF(S),
v.
BOROUGH OF NORTH ARLINGTON, A MUNICIPAL CORPORATION; ROBERT C. RIKER, CHIEF OF POLICE OF THE BOROUGH OF NORTH ARLINGTON; MAYOR AND TOWN COUNCIL OF THE BOROUGH OF NORTH ARLINGTON; COUNCILMAN LEONARD KAISER; COUNCILMAN RAYMOND KOPYCIENSKI; COUNCILMAN ANDREW CERCO; COUNCILMAN EDWARD SANZALONE AND MAYOR EDWARD MARTONE, INDIVIDUALLY, DEFENDANT(S)



Sciuto, J.s.c.

Sciuto

This matter was opened to the court on defendants' motion for summary judgment.

Plaintiff was employed by defendant Borough of North Arlington as a policeman for a period of approximately ten years. Following a series of meetings between plaintiff and defendant, Chief Robert C. Riker, plaintiff tendered an oral resignation to Chief Riker on October 4, 1982, followed by a written resignation on October 5, 1982. Thereafter, plaintiff sought to rescind his resignation.

By resolution dated October 19, 1982, the mayor and council, acting in their official capacities on behalf of the Borough of North Arlington, accepted the plaintiff's resignation.

Thereafter, on October 26, 1982, plaintiff, through counsel, filed an appeal with the New Jersey Civil Service Commission alleging inter alia that his resignation was the product of duress and that defendants were obligated to accept his attempted rescission of his resignation. Following a full adversarial hearing, Administrative Law Judge Carl J. Jahnke rejected plaintiff's arguments and found in favor of defendants. Plaintiff filed exceptions to Judge Jahnke's decision with the Civil Service Commission. The commission affirmed Judge Jahnke's decision on September 15, 1983. Thereafter plaintiff filed the within action.

I.

The Effect of a Prior Administrative Decision on a Subsequent Action Brought in the Law Division

Defendants seek dismissal of counts one through six of the complaint. It is their contention that plaintiff is collaterally estopped from relitigating factual issues which have been found adversely to him by the Civil Service Commission.

New Jersey cases involving the application of " res judicata " and "collateral estoppel"*fn1 to administrative agency action have addressed situations where the relief sought was a subsequent administrative determination. See, e.g., City of Hackensack v. Winner, 162 N.J. Super. 1 (App.Div.1978), mod., 82 N.J. 1 (1980). There exists, however, a considerable body of case law in the federal courts which deals with this important question. It is to these cases that the court looks for guidance in resolving the instant matter.

Under the appropriate circumstances an administrative determination can be res judicata and prevent a party from seeking a judicial redetermination of the same issues. Page v. Curtiss-Wright Corp., 332 F. Supp. 1060, 1069 (D.C.N.J.1971). In Page the federal district court allowed plaintiff to proceed with a claim under the Civil Rights Act of 1964, § 701 et seq., 42 U.S.C.A. § 2000e et seq., despite earlier administrative proceedings involving the same issues which were decided against him. Id. at 1068. The court reasoned that such a claim was federally cognizable for two reasons. First, the complaint was not limited to those issues determined at the administrative level. Id. at 1067. See also Fekete v. United States Steel Corp., 424 F.2d 331 (3 Cir.1970) (Arbitration would not bar a suit based upon a complaint adding additional claims.) Second, the national public policy reflected in the Civil Rights Act should not be frustrated by technical judicial doctrines. Page, supra, 332 F. Supp. at 1068.

The instant matter is distinguishable from that before the Page court. The similarity ends with plaintiff bringing an action in the Law Division after an unfavorable determination at the administrative level. Unlike Page, the instant complaint ...


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