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O''Lone v. New Jersey Department of Corrections

June 22, 1998

EDWARD O'LONE, PLAINTIFF/APPELLANT,
v.
NEW JERSEY DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS, STATE OF NEW JERSEY, WILLIAM H. FAUVER, AND RICHARD A. SEIDL, DEFENDANTS/RESPONDENTS.



Before Judges Pressler *fn1 , Conley and Wallace.

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

[9]    Argued: April 21, 1998

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

Plaintiff Edward O'Lone appeals from the trial court's grant of summary judgment in favor of defendants, the New Jersey Department of Corrections (DOC), the State of New Jersey (State), DOC Commissioner William H. Fauver, and DOC Deputy Commissioner Richard A. Seidl, dismissing his wrongful discharge complaint.

On appeal, plaintiff urges that it was error to dismiss his claims under the Law Against Discrimination (LAD) against all defendants and his claim for violating public policy against the individual defendants. We hold it was error to dismiss the LAD count and affirm the dismissal of the claim for violating public policy.

I.

Plaintiff began his employment with the DOC in 1973. Within six years he became the Superintendent of Leesburg State Prison (now known as Trenton State Prison). In December 1984, plaintiff was terminated.

Plaintiff commenced the instant action on November 24, 1990, alleging that the DOC wrongfully discharged him from his position as Superintendent in violation of public policy (Count One); wrongfully discharged him because of his relationship with an African-American woman in violation of LAD (Count Two); and similarly, alleged a violation of 42 U.S.C.A. § 1981, et. seq. (Count Three).

Defendants moved for summary judgment on entire controversy and statute of limitations grounds. On November 4, 1994, the trial court granted summary judgment only as to Count Three, in favor of the State and the DOC, but not the individual defendants, and denied defendants' motion for summary judgment based upon the entire controversy doctrine and the statute of limitations for Counts One and Two. The trial court held that since Montells v. Haynes, 133 N.J. 282, 298 (1996), LAD causes of action arising before June 27, 1993, have a six year statute of limitations, and thus, plaintiff's LAD claim was not time-barred. The court also ordered the parties to provide supplemental material addressing "whether a cause of action exists for discrimination under Count Two (LAD) and Count Three (Section 1983) based upon the personal relationship between Plaintiff and an African-American woman."

On May 17, 1995, after receiving the supplemental briefs, the court granted summary judgment dismissing Count Two in its entirety and dismissing Count Three against the remaining defendants. The court further ordered the parties to confer and advise the court regarding any remaining claims. On August 17, 1995, defendants moved for summary judgment dismissing Count One. On January 16, 1997, the trial court granted summary judgment dismissing Count One, the public policy claim, and dismissed plaintiff's complaint in its entirety. This appeal followed.

II.

At oral argument before us, counsel for plaintiff indicated that he did not contest the dismissal of Count III, the alleged violation of § 1983 of the Civil Rights Act, or the dismissal of the public policy claim against the State in Count I. However, counsel claims it was error to dismiss the public policy claim against the individual defendants and to dismiss the LAD claim against all defendants.

We turn first to plaintiff's contention that there were genuine issues of material fact which precluded the granting of summary judgment and urging that he proved a prima facie case of discriminatory discharge in violation of the LAD.

Our Supreme Court has recently refined the standard that a motion judge should apply in deciding a ...


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