Appeal from the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey, D.C. Civil No. 84-1245.
Before: ADAMS, WEIS, and HIGGINBOTHAM, Circuit Judges.
After their arrest for a misdemeanor, plaintiffs were held in jail for four days by the defendant city police. The district court determined that the plaintiffs' constitutional rights had been violated by this prolonged detention and that the city was estopped to deny liability because it had failed to identify the individuals responsible. In addition, the court found that the city had adopted an unconstitutional policy in restricting bail decisions to magistrates, rather than adopting a state procedure rule which permitted delegation to police supervisory officers. In response to questions certified for appeal, we conclude that the city's policy was not unconstitutional, nor did it cause any violation of the plaintiffs' rights. We also hold that the record does not support the imposition of estoppel. However, because a pendent state claim has not yet been resolved, we will remand the case for further proceedings in the district court.
After hearing evidence on the liability phase of the case, the district court granted the plaintiffs' motion for a directed verdict. The question of damages was then submitted to the jury, which determined that plaintiffs had been detained for an excessive period of time, but awarded no damages. The district court granted a new trial and certified controlling questions of law to this court. 28 U.S.C. § 1292(b).
Plaintiffs were arrested on Thursday, May 6, 1982, at approximately 11:30 a.m. and were charged with the theft of cobblestones from a street, a misdemeanor. After arrest reports were completed, plaintiffs were transported to the newark West District Police Headquarters where they spent the night.
The following morning, Friday, plaintiffs were taken to Municipal Court for a bail hearing, but their cases were not reached before the luncheon recess. Shortly after court resumed in the afternoon and just before the plaintiffs' cases were to be called, the judge announced that he would hear no other matters and recessed court for the weekend. Plaintiffs were then taken to cells at another precinct, where they remained until Monday morning when they returned to Municipal Court. The judge then set bail at $50, and on payment, plaintiffs were released. In the subsequent criminal proceedings, plaintiffs were acquitted.
Plaintiffs brought the present suit in the district court, alleging deprivation of constitutional rights as the basis for their claims under § 1983 and appending a state claim under the New Jersey Tort Claims Act. named as defendants were the City of Newark, the arresting officers, an employee of the Division of Streets and Engineering, corporation counsel for the city of Newark and his assistant. Also named were "Jane and John Doe, police officers or employees of Newark."
Testimony at the trial established that municipal court judges were accessible on weekends, holidays, and during evening hours when the court was not in regular session. Thus, they were available for bail hearings twenty-four hours a day. These hearings were frequently conducted over the telephone. If the accused was not heard during regular court hours, the lieutenant in charge of the police station would call the duty judge for a bail ruling. The police also maintained a "twenty-four hour sheet" to monitor and record the status of all jail inmates. Despite these procedures, no request for a bail ruling was made on behalf of plaintiffs after the court recessed on Friday afternoon. At trial no testimony was produced identifying the individual officer responsible for monitoring the plaintiffs' status.
After conclusion of the liability evidence, the trial judge ruled that probable cause for the arrest had existed. He dismissed the city employees and the arresting officers, finding as to the latter, "there is no evidence whatsoever that they played any part in the extended detention of plaintiffs." The court commented, "[t]he only defendant which remains is the city itself."
Reviewing City of Oklahoma City v. Tuttle, 471 U.S. 808, 105 S. Ct. 2427, 85 L. Ed. 2d 791 (1985), and its reference to Monell v. New York City Dept. of Social Services, 436 U.S. 658, 56 L. Ed. 2d 611, 98 S. Ct. 2018 (1978), the district judge noted the plaintiffs' burden to prove the existence of a municipal policy that had caused the deprivation of their constitutional rights. He then observed, "[n]o facts presented in this case fall within that definition. Plaintiffs themselves presented evidence that Newark had a policy designed to safeguard the rights of the accused and to provide the availability of a magistrate on a 24 hour basis. That policy was violated in this instance."
After commenting that the person individually responsible for processing plaintiffs were not named parties, the judge stated that the City could easily have identified them. He then scrutinized the City's response to interrogatories asking for the names of person connected with the events.
On October 12, 1984, more than five months after the two year statute of limitations had run, plaintiffs had served the following interrogatory on the City.
"23. Were there any individuals not presently a party to this lawsuit who were involved in the arrest, detention and processing of the plaintiffs at the time and place in question? If so, indicate the names, addresses and involvement of each such individual an indicate whether or not such person was employed by the City of Newark and whether such ...