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Cherrits v. Village of Ridgewood

May 29, 1998

GLENN CHERRITS, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,
v.
VILLAGE OF RIDGEWOOD, A MUNICIPALITY INCORPORATED UNDER THE LAWS OF NEW JERSEY, DEFENDANT-RESPONDENT, AND LOUIS J. MADER, ROBERT PRESTON, JAMES RICE, SCOTT STEPHEN, BUSH/QUALE '92 GENERAL COMMITTEE, DEFENDANTS.



Before Judges Keefe, P.g. Levy and Wecker.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Keefe, J.A.D.

[9]    Argued April 7, 1998

On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Bergen County.

Plaintiff, Glenn Cherrits, appeals from the entry of summary judgment in favor of defendant, Village of Ridgewood (Ridgewood), in this civil rights action brought by plaintiff pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§ 1983 and 1985(3). On appeal, the question is whether there is a genuine issue of fact as to Ridgewood's liability for the conduct of its Chief of Police, defendant Louis J. Mader (Chief Mader).

Plaintiff filed a complaint against Ridgewood, Chief Mader, Ridgewood Officers Robert Preston and James Rice, the Bush/Quale `92 General Committee, Inc. (Committee), and Bush/Quale '92 General Committee, Inc. member Scott Stephen (Stephen), in January 1995. In his eight count complaint, plaintiff alleges that the defendants deprived him of various constitutional rights in violation of 42 U.S.C. §§ 1983 and 1985(3). *fn1

Defendant Ridgewood moved for summary judgment on both the § 1983 and § 1985 claims. Judge Doyne heard argument on September 15, 1995, and issued a bench decision on that day. As to the § 1983 claim, judge Doyne granted defendant Ridgewood's motion. With regard to the application as it relates to the 1983 action, the motion is granted. The municipality cannot be held liable under section 1983 based upon a respondeat superior theory. The plaintiff must establish the governmental policy and its causality to the injury and the constitutional violation. Here, plaintiff has failed even to identify the government policy. If the policy is to fail to adequately train, which appears to this court to be an oxymoron, then plaintiff must then show deliberate indifference. . . . Plaintiff has failed to do so. Accordingly, as it pertains to . . . section 1983, defendant's application is granted.

With regard to the § 1985(3) claim, Judge Doyne denied the motion. Recognizing that there were some factual issues that had to be developed on the conspiracy issue, the Judge granted plaintiff's motion to compel discovery regarding the arrangement between Ridgewood and the Committee concerning security at the rally.

Thereafter, Ridgewood moved for reconsideration of the court's denial of its motion for summary judgment on the § 1985 issue. The plaintiff cross-moved for reconsideration of the court's decision to dismiss the § 1983 count against Ridgewood.

On February 28, 1996, Judge Doyne issued a written opinion in which he concluded that "plaintiff has presented no competent evidence of any kind that would allow a reasonable factfinder to conclude that the Village and the Committee conspired to injure him in the manner proscribed by § 1985(3)." Accordingly, on the § 1985(3) count, the judge granted summary judgment in favor of defendant Ridgewood. Plaintiff's motion for reconsideration of the September 15 decision was denied. This appeal followed.

I.

On October 22, 1992, the Committee scheduled a rally for then-incumbent President George Bush in support of his bid for re-election. The Committee leased Veteran's Field in Ridgewood for the event, and President Bush was scheduled to speak at the rally.

On the morning of the event, Chief Mader met with Committee chairman William Palatucci to discuss the police officers' role in security for the event. At that time, the two discussed the procedure by which criminal complaints would be filed should the need arise. Palatucci informed Chief Mader that only those members of the Committee who possessed a copy of the lease between Ridgewood and the Committee would have authority sign a criminal complaint.

Plaintiff, who was a registered Democrat and supporter of the challenger, now-President William Clinton, decided to attend. He, along with a friend, went to Veteran's Field before the expected start time of 3:00 p.m. and acquired tickets to attend the rally.

Plaintiff joined a group of approximately 10-15 people who were also Clinton supporters. According to the plaintiff, the members of the group were holding signs and chanting in support of Clinton. Plaintiff ...


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