United States District Court, D. New Jersey
August 11, 2005.
BRYANT YOUNG, Plaintiff,
THE CITY OF HACKENSACK, HACKENSACK POLICE OFFICERS or SUPERVISORY POLICE OFFICERS, and DOES 1-5, Inclusive, Defendants.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: WILLIAM J. MARTINI, District Judge
This matter comes before the Court on defendants' Motion for
Summary Judgment seeking to dismiss plaintiff's complaint and to
impose sanctions on plaintiff. There was no oral argument.
Fed.R.Civ.P. 78. After full consideration, defendants' motion is
GRANTED, plaintiff's complaint is DISMISSED in its entirety,
and defendants' request for sanctions is DENIED. BACKGROUND
This is a civil rights action arising out of the arrest of
Bryant Young, pro se plaintiff, by members of the Hackensack
and New York State police departments. On May 3, 2002, Detective
Sergeant Stephen Moger of the Hackensack Police Department
learned from his Captain that officers from New York had
requested the department's assistance in making an arrest later
that evening. At approximately 9:30 p.m., New York State police
officers Sergeant Michael Enright, Detective Terry Leto, and
Detective Joseph Calabrese appeared in the Hackensack Police
Department to effectuate the arrest. Sergeant Enright informed
officer Moger that plaintiff was charged with Aggravated
Harassment in the Second Degree and that this was a felony
offense because the alleged victim was a police officer. Sergeant
Enright presented officer Moger with a New York warrant issued by
Magistrate Judge James D. Gibbons that ordered plaintiff's
arrest. He also provided officer Moger with a mugshot pedigree of
plaintiff along with his Hacksensack address.
Hackensack police officers then accompanied the New York
officers to plaintiff's residence and arrested plaintiff.
Subsequently, plaintiff was detained in the Bergen County Justice
Center, Hackensack, New Jersey, on the charge of being a fugitive
from justice until he posted bail on May 9, 2002. On April 29,
2004 plaintiff filed a complaint against the defendants
predicated on alleged violations of his civil rights pursuant to
42 U.S.C. § 1983.
Plaintiff's § 1983 claims allege violations of his First,
Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendment rights. In
essence, plaintiff alleges that Hackensack police officers
arrested him without a valid New York arrest warrant, and that he
could not be lawfully arrested without the issuance of a New
Jersey arrest warrant. All of plaintiff's claims arise out of the arrest on May 3, 2002. Because plaintiff introduces no evidence
to support his claims that his arrest and detainment violated his
constitutional rights, the Court grants defendants' Motion for
Summary Judgment and plaintiff's complaint is dismissed.
I. Summary Judgment Standard
Summary judgment eliminates unfounded claims without resorting
to a costly and lengthy trial. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett,
477 U.S. 317, 327 (1986). However, a court should grant summary
judgment only "if the pleadings, depositions, answers to
interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the
affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any
material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment
as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c). The burden of showing
that no genuine issue of material fact exists rests initially on
the moving party. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 323. A litigant may
discharge this burden by exposing "the absence of evidence to
support the nonmoving party's case." Id. at 325. In evaluating
a summary judgment motion, a court must view all evidence in the
light most favorable to the nonmoving party. Matsushita Elec.
Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986);
Goodman v. Mead Johnson & Co., 534 F.2d 566, 573 (3d Cir.
Once the moving party has made a properly supported motion for
summary judgment, the burden shifts to the nonmoving party to
"set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue
for trial." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e); Anderson v. Liberty Lobby,
Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 247-48 (1986). The substantive law
determines which facts are material. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248.
"Only disputes over facts that might affect the outcome of the
suit under the governing law will properly preclude the entry of summary judgment." Id. No issue
for trial exists unless the nonmoving party can demonstrate
sufficient evidence favoring it such that a reasonable jury could
return a verdict in that party's favor. Id. at 249.
II. Plaintiff's § 1983 Claims Alleging Violations Of His
Constitutional Rights Are Unsubstantiated
For a § 1983 claim to survive summary judgment, there must be
some evidence that: (1) the conduct complained of was committed
by a person acting under color of law; and (2) this conduct
deprived plaintiff of rights, privileges or immunities secured by
the U.S. Constitution or laws of the United States. See Shaw by
Strain v. Strackhouse, 920 F.2d 1135, 1142 (3d Cir. 1990).
Plaintiff's § 1983 claims are predicated on alleged violations
of his First, Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, Eighth, and
Fourteenth Amendment rights. (See Compl. ¶¶ 29, 33). There is, however, no
evidence to support plaintiff's § 1983 claims that his federal
constitutional rights were violated.
A. The First, Fifth, and Sixth Amendments Are Not Implicated
by Plaintiff's Allegations
Plaintiff alleges that his § 1983 claims are based in part on
violations of his First, Fifth, and Sixth Amendment rights.
(See Compl. ¶¶ 29, 33). The First Amendment serves to protect
the free exercise of religion and the freedom of speech and
assembly. See U.S. CONST. amend. I. However, plaintiff produces
no evidence that his First Amendment rights were infringed upon,
and his deposition acknowledges the groundlessness of this claim.
(See Pl.'s Dep. at 131:11-13). The Sixth Amendment involves the right to a speedy trial and to
counsel. See U.S. CONST. amend. VI. "[T]he Sixth Amendment
right to a speedy trial attaches at the time of arrest or
indictment, whichever comes first, and continues until the trial
commences." United States v. Sprouts, 282 F.3d 1037, 1042 (8th
Cir. 2002) (citation omitted). Generally speaking, a defendant's
trial must occur within seventy days of his indictment or first
appearance, whichever occurs later. See 18 U.S.C. § 3161(c)(1).
Because plaintiff's case did not go to trial, his right to a
speedy trial is not at issue. In addition, because plaintiff's
brief acknowledges that he had access to counsel, plaintiff's §
1983 claims fail to state any Sixth Amendment violations. (See
Pl.'s Opp'n Br. at 4).
Similarly, plaintiff fails to raise a claim predicated on
violations of the Fifth Amendment. The Fifth Amendment applies
only to federal actors. See Barkus v. Illinois, 359 U.S. 121,
124 (1959). Because plaintiff's claims are brought only against
municipal actors, the Fifth Amendment has no applicability in
Accordingly, summary judgment is granted in defendants' favor
on plaintiff's First, Fifth, and Sixth Amendment claims.
B. Plaintiff Has No Viable Fourth Amendment Claims
Plaintiff alleges that his § 1983 claims are based in part on a
violation of the Fourth Amendment. (See Compl. ¶¶ 29, 33). The
Fourth Amendment protects against unreasonable searches and
seizures by the government and its agents. See U.S. CONST.
amend. IV. Reasonableness is evaluated from the perspective of a
government actor at the scene, not with the benefit of 20/20
hindsight. Graham v. Connor, 490 U.S. 386, 396 (1989). Plaintiff's alleged Fourth Amendment violations are predicated
on a claim of false arrest. The central issue in determining
liability in a § 1983 action based on a claim of false arrest is
"whether the arresting officers had probable cause to believe the
person arrested had committed the offense." Dowling v. City of
Philadelphia, 855 F.2d 136, 141 (3d Cir. 1988). "Probable cause
to arrest exists where the arresting officer has knowledge of
facts and circumstances sufficient to permit a prudent person of
reasonable caution to believe that the person arrested has
committed an offense." Kis v. County of Schuylkill,
866 F. Supp. 1462, 1469 (E.D. Pa. 1994) (citation omitted). Moreover,
"[i]t is well-settled that probable cause to arrest generally
exists when a police officer makes an arrest pursuant to a
warrant which meets the requirements of the Fourth Amendment."
Id. (citing Baker v. McCollan, 443 U.S. 137, 144 (1979)).
Plaintiff challenges the validity of the New York arrest
warrant on three grounds. First, plaintiff alleges that the
"warrant" was not an actual New York warrant, but an application
for a warrant because it identifies itself as a "Warrant
Investigation Report." (See Pl.'s Opp'n Br. at 5; Pl.'s Dep. at
40:25-41:10). However, plaintiff presents no evidence to support
his allegation that the document functions solely as an
application for a warrant. Rather, plaintiff only argues to that
effect, and, in doing so, fails to address the fact that the
document on its face is signed by a Magistrate Judge and orders
plaintiff's arrest. Absent any evidence challenging the facial
validity of the document, and confronted with the uncontested
facts that it is signed by a judge and orders plaintiff's arrest,
the Court finds no reason to question its validity as a genuine
Second, plaintiff alleges that the warrant was facially invalid
because the underlying offense, Aggravated Harassment in the
Second Degree, is a not a felony. (See Pl.'s Opp'n Br. at 4; Pl.'s Dep. at 133:14-25). However, this argument is inapt; the
warrant does not represent that the offense is a felony. Rather,
that was a representation made by Sergeant Enright when tendering
the warrant to officer Moger.
Third, plaintiff alleges that a New York warrant could not
lawfully be used to make an arrest in New Jersey. (See Pl.'s
Opp'n Br. at 5-6). The Court notes that plaintiff does not cite
any authority for the claim that New Jersey police officers may
not rely on out-of-state warrants in making arrests. Indeed, as
articulated by a sister Circuit, that notion has been put to
rest: "[N]either precedent nor logic requires a second arrest
warrant to be obtained when a valid warrant has been issued in
another state." United States v. Smith, 131 F.3d 1392, 1397
(10th Cir. 1997). In fact, other courts have found that an
out-of-state warrant provides officers with probable cause for
making an arrest. See Case v. Kitsap County Sheriff's Dept.,
249 F.3d 921, 927-28 (9th Cir. 2001) (Washington police officers
had probable cause to arrest subject in her home based on an
Oregon arrest warrant entered into a national crime database.);
Berigan v. State, 236 A.2d 743, 744-45 (Md. Ct. Spec. App.
1968) (District of Columbia police officers had probable cause to
make an arrest based on their knowledge of an outstanding
Maryland fugitive warrant.); United States v. Towne,
870 F.2d 880, 884 (2d Cir. 1989) (Vermont police officer had probable
cause to make an arrest based on knowledge of a New Hampshire
fugitive warrant, after officer contacted out-of-state
authorities to confirm the warrant and requested and received a
certified copy before making the arrest.).
Accordingly, the Court finds the uncontested evidence supports
defendants' claim that the document is a genuine arrest warrant
and that it provided probable cause for plaintiff's arrest. Therefore, summary judgment is granted in favor of defendants as
to plaintiff's Fourth Amendment claim.
C. Plaintiff Has No Viable Eighth Amendment Claims
Plaintiff alleges that his § 1983 claims are based in part on a
violation of the Eighth Amendment. (See Compl. ¶¶ 29, 33). In
Estelle v. Gamble, the Supreme Court noted that "the primary
concern of the drafters [of the Eighth Amendment] was to
proscribe `torture[s]' and other `barbar[ous]' methods of
punishment." Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 102 (1976)
(citations omitted). The Supreme Court has also held that the
right of pretrial detainees to be free from punishment is
protected under the Due Process Clause of the
Fourteenth Amendment because a State only acquires the power to punish once
a guilty conviction is secured. See Bell v. Wolfish,
441 U.S. 520, 536-37 (1979). In order to allege a constitutional violation
regarding detainment, plaintiff must establish that the
detainment is "imposed for the purpose of punishment [rather than
as] an incident of some other legitimate governmental purpose."
Id. at 538. "[I]f a particular condition or restriction of
pretrial detention is reasonably related to a legitimate
governmental objective, it does not, without more, amount to
`punishment.'" Id. at 539.
In the instant case, plaintiff's complaint fails to allege that
his arrest or detainment rises to the level of punishment.
Plaintiff introduces no evidence of experiencing any physical or
psychological injuries while arrested or during his detainment,
and admits he was not beaten or otherwise assaulted at any time.
(See Pl.'s Dep. at 97:22-24). Rather, plaintiff alleges a
violation of his constitutional rights based on his being
processed as a fugitive. (See Pl.'s Dep. at 132:22-23) ("I'm not dismissing [the Eighth Amendment claim based] on the
fact that they processed me as a fugitive.").
Even construing plaintiff's claim as falling under the Due
Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, plaintiff provides no
legal support for the existence of a right not to be designated a
fugitive, much less how that designation would rise to the level
of punishment. Plaintiff introduces no evidence that the
defendants acted for any other reason than that they believed a
New York warrant existed for plaintiff's arrest. Moreover, the
Third Circuit has recently found that there is no clearly
established constitutional right not to be designated a fugitive.
See Mitchell v. Obenski, No. 04-3730, 2005 U.S. App. LEXIS
11292, at *11 (3d Cir. June 14, 2005). Hence, plaintiff's
erroneous Eighth Amendment claim must be dismissed along with any
liberty interests protected under the Due Process Clause of the
Fourteenth Amendment. Therefore, summary judgment is granted in
favor of defendants as to plaintiff's Eighth Amendment claim.
D. There Is No Evidence to Support Plaintiff's
Fourteenth Amendment Claims
Plaintiff alleges that his § 1983 claims are based in part on a
violation of the Fourteenth Amendment (specifically, his right to
equal protection under the law). (See Compl. ¶¶ 29, 33). For an
Equal Protection Clause claim under § 1983 to survive summary
judgment, there must be some evidence of an allegedly offensive
categorization that invidiously discriminates against a
disfavored group. Price v. Cohen, 715 F.2d 87, 91 (3d Cir.
1983). This discrimination must be purposeful and the plaintiff
must receive different treatment than that received by other
similarly situated persons. Id. at 92; Kuhar v. Greensburg-Salem Sch.
Dist., 616 F.2d 676, 677 n. 1 (3d Cir. 1980). In this case,
there is no evidence from which a reasonable jury could conclude
that plaintiff was treated differently because of his race or
ethnicity by the defendants in connection with his arrest on May
3, 2002 and subsequent detainment. Indeed, plaintiff's deposition
acknowledges that he is not alleging discrimination based on his
race or ethnicity. (See Pl.'s Dep. at 109:4-25).
Liberally construed, plaintiff's Fourteenth Amendment claim is
that the defendants treated plaintiff differently (arrested him)
because he is not a police officer. (See Pl.'s Dep. at
109:4-25, 130:8-14). While this theory may be novel, it does not
satisfy the requirements for establishing a violation of the
Equal Protection Clause. Because plaintiff does not introduce any
evidence that his arrest was based on prohibited characteristics
such as race or ethnicity, plaintiff's Fourteenth Amendment claim
is hereby dismissed. Therefore, summary judgment is granted in
favor of defendants as to plaintiff's Fourteenth Amendment claim.
III. Even If There Were Any Evidence of Constitutional
Violations, Plaintiff's § 1983 Claims Fail Because Defendants Are
Entitled to Immunity
The defendants argue that because the Hackensack police
officers and the City of Hackensack are entitled to qualified
immunity, summary judgment is appropriate. Because the Court
agrees, summary judgment is granted for this alternative reason.
Even if one or more of the defendants violated plaintiff's
constitutional rights, summary judgment is appropriate if the
defendants' conduct was based on an objectively reasonable belief
that probable cause existed for plaintiff's arrest and detention.
See Orsatti v. New Jersey State Police, 71 F.3d 480, 483 (3d Cir. 1995). The reasoning behind
the qualified immunity doctrine is that "[r]eliance on the
objective reasonableness of an official's conduct, as measured by
clearly established law, should avoid excessive disruptions of
government and permit the resolution of many insubstantial claims
on summary judgment." Harlow v. Fitzgerald, 457 U.S. 800, 818
(1982). "The qualified immunity standard `gives ample room for
mistaken judgments' by protecting `all but the plainly
incompetent or those who knowingly violate the law.'" Hunter v.
Bryant, 502 U.S. 224, 229 (1991) (citations omitted).
Having already concluded that defendants had probable cause to
make plaintiff's arrest based on the New York warrant, the Court
finds that defendants are entitled to immunity for all alleged
constitutional violations arising out of the incident. The
Court's reasonableness determination is informed by how other
courts have ruled in similar situations. Arrests based upon
out-of-state information have been found reasonable in a variety
of situations, and police officers have been found to have
immunity when acting on such information. See Donta v. Hooper,
774 F.2d 716, 721 (6th Cir. 1985) (Ohio police officers were
entitled to immunity after making an arrest based on a teletype
from Kentucky police officers that did not recite the existence
of a warrant.), cert. denied, 483 U.S. 1019 (1987); Lowrance
v. Pflueger, 878 F.2d 1014, 1020 (7th Cir. 1989) (Wisconsin
police officers were entitled to immunity when making an arrest
based on an out-of-state warrant that had been entered into a
national crime database.); Roa v. Bethlehem, No. 89-5013,
1991 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 4437, at *1-*2 (E.D. Pa. Apr. 2, 1991)
(Pennsylvania police officers were entitled to immunity after
arresting a suspect based on their knowledge of an outstanding
New Jersey warrant.). Based on the evidence before them, the defendants' actions were
reasonable. They were informed by a fellow officer that the
document was an arrest warrant for plaintiff, and on its face the
document is signed by a judge and orders the arrest of plaintiff.
Cf. Rogers v. Powell, 120 F.3d at 454-55 (stating that police
officers will be entitled to qualified immunity for unlawful
arrest when it was objectively reasonable to believe, on the
basis of oral statements from fellow police officers, that
probable cause existed for the arrest).
In addition, this Circuit recently found that an officer who
played no part in obtaining a fugitive warrant is not liable "for
executing a warrant prepared by another officer and signed by a
judge" even if "we assume, arguendo, that there were actionable
defects in the manner in which [the other officer] obtained the
warrant." Mitchell v. Obenski, 2005 U.S. App. LEXIS 11292, at
*13. Thus, this Court finds it was reasonable for the defendants
to rely on the evidence before them in arresting plaintiff.
Accordingly, the individual defendants are entitled to qualified
immunity from civil liability for any constitutional violations
that may have occurred.
IV. Even If There Were Any Evidence Of Constitutional
Violations, The Claims Against The Municipal Entities Must Be
Dismissed Because There Is No Basis For Imposing Municipal Entity
Plaintiff alleges that the City of Hackensack and the
Hackensack Police Department are liable for failing to properly
select, train, supervise, promote and discipline police officers
and supervisory police officers. (See Compl. ¶ 32). Municipal
entities may be sued under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 only for acts
implementing an official policy, practice, or custom. Monell v.
Dep't of Social Servs., 436 U.S. 658, 690-91 (1978). A plaintiff
must identify the challenged policy, attribute it to the city
itself, and show a causal link between execution of the policy
and the injury suffered. Losch v. Borough of Parkesburg, 736 F.2d 903, 910 (3d
Cir. 1984). A course of conduct is considered to be a custom
when, though not authorized by law, such practices, known of and
acquiesced in by a policy maker, are so permanent and
well-settled as to virtually constitute law. See Bielevicz v.
Dubinon, 915 F.2d 845, 850 (3d Cir. 1990). There is no basis for
extending municipal liability in this case.
Plaintiff presents no evidence of a policy or practice of
discrimination by the defendants. In fact, plaintiff admits that
his claims against the police department or the City do not
involve a policy of discrimination. (See Pl.'s Dep. at
60:21-25) ("I'm not alleging that they had a policy in effect
that caused them to violate [my civil rights], but I'm alleging
that their actions did. I'm not alleging . . . that they had that
type of policy. I would hope not."). Because there is no evidence
before the Court that the alleged constitutional violations
resulted from any municipal policy, custom, or practice, no
municipal liability can extend to the police department or the
City even assuming, arguendo, that any constitutional
V. The State Tort Law Claims Are Time Barred Under The New
Jersey Tort Claims Act
Liberally construed, plaintiff's complaint asserts state tort
law claims for false arrest, false imprisonment, and intentional
and negligent infliction of emotional distress. (See Compl. ¶¶
35, 37). These claims are governed by the New Jersey Tort Claims
Act ("Act"). See Velez v. City of Jersey City, 850 A.2d 1238,
1244 (N.J. 2004) (holding that the Act applies to intentional as
well as negligent conduct); Epstein v. State, 709 A.2d 1353,
1354 (N.J.Super.Ct. App. Div. 1998) (barring claims for
emotional distress); Pisano v. City of Union City,
487 A.2d 1296, 1297 (N.J. Super. Ct. Law Div. 1984) (finding that false arrest and false
imprisonment must abide by the Act's 90 day statute of
limitations); Garlanger v. Verbeke, 223 F. Supp. 2d 596, 602
(D.N.J. 2002) (noting that false arrest and intentional
infliction of emotional distress are subject to the Act's
Under the Act, in order to properly assert these claims against
the defendants, plaintiff was required to "file his claim with
the public entity within ninety days of accrual of his
claim. . . ." N.J.S.A. 59:8-8(a) (1994). Here, plaintiff's claims
accrued, at the latest, on May 9, 2002, the day he was released
on bail. After this date, the record indicates that plaintiff had
no further contact with the defendants in connection with this
incident. Consequently, in order to preserve his state claims,
plaintiff's notice had to be filed within 90 days of May 9, 2002.
It is undisputed that plaintiff's first notice to defendants,
whether by letter or by the filing of the Complaint, occurred
almost two years after the incident. (See Pl.'s Dep. at 64:14).
Hence, plaintiff's state claims are "forever barred" by the
statute of limitations of the Act. N.J.S.A. 59:8-8.
VI. The Defendants' Request For Sanctions Is Denied
The defendants move for sanctions against plaintiff, alleging
plaintiff caused unnecessary work by frivolously requesting the
production of certain employee records.*fn1 (See Def.'s
Br. at 19). The plaintiff objects to defendants' motion and
alleges that he did not request this work. The record supports
The defendants cite their Exhibit J in support of the
allegation that plaintiff requested certain employee records
during the course of discovery. (See id.). However, Exhibit J, submitted under certification by Deena B. Rosendahl on May 23,
2005, and received by the Court on May 25, 2005, is a "true copy
of Plaintiff's Disclosure Regarding Expert Witness." (See
Rosendahl Cert. ¶ 12). Because there is no evidence that
plaintiff requested the disputed work, defendants' request for
sanctions is DENIED.
For the foregoing reasons, defendants' motion for summary
judgment is granted, plaintiff's complaint is dismissed in its
entirety, and defendants' request for sanctions is denied.