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Russo v. Voorhees Township

November 29, 2005

JOHN LAWRENCE RUSSO, PLAINTIFF,
v.
VOORHEES TOWNSHIP, VOORHEES TOWNSHIP POLICE DEPARTMENT, AND POLICE OFFICER 24, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Rodriguez, Senior District Judge

FOR PUBLICATION

AMENDED OPINION

This matter comes before the Court on Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment [8] pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 56. Defendants seek judgment as to counts I, III, IV and V. For the reasons stated below, the motion will be granted.

I. PROCEDURAL HISTORY AND FACTUAL BACKGROUND

The investigation report of Defendant Police Officer 24, Detective Robert Monahan ("Detective Monahan"), indicates that Carolyn Thomas ("the victim") spoke to him on April 29, 2003 regarding a sexual assault that occurred in March 2003. (Def. Br., Exh. G.) The victim wanted to sign a criminal complaint against Plaintiff John Lawrence Russo ("Russo") for rape. (Id.) After obtaining the statement from the victim, Detective Monahan contacted Voorhees Township Municipal Judge Michael Diamond to obtain a warrant for Russo's arrest. (Def. Br., Exh. H, p. 29.) Detective Monahan conducted no further investigation beyond the victim's statements because no evidence remained since she had washed her clothes and cleaned her home after the incident. (Id. at 27.)

Once the warrant was authorized, Detective Monahan prepared the complaint, which was signed by the victim. (Id. at 37.) Detective Monahan went to the home of Russo's friend, Dean Schemanski ("Dean") and spoke with his brother, Glen Schemanski ("Glen"). (Def. Br., Exh. G.) The report claims that Glen informed Detective Monahan both that Russo was not there and that he was Russo's attorney. (Id.) According to Detective Monahan's deposition, Dean provided information contrary to the victim's statement. Dean faxed over a log of phone calls the victim had placed to him. In addition to Glen's statements, the records cited a history of the victim's erratic behavior and indicated that she had made demands for money "because of what was done to her." (Def. Br., Exh. H, p. 45.) Detective Monahan indicated that these facts did not weigh into the validity of the complaint. (Id.)

Russo contacted Detective Monahan on April 30, 2003 and was instructed to report to the Police Department. (Id.) According to Detective Monahan, Russo reported that day to the Police Department with his attorney, was advised of the charges filed against him, and was processed and remanded to the Camden County Correctional Facility in lieu of bail. (Id.) Bail was set at fifty thousand dollars ($50,000) based on charges of second degree sexual assault and aggravated assault. (Compl. ¶ 20.) The complaint alleges that on May 1, 2003 the charge of aggravated assault was dropped and bail was reduced to twenty-five thousand dollars ($25,000), at which point Russo posted bail and was released from custody. (Compl. ¶ 25, 26.) Plaintiff was incarcerated from April 30, 2003 until May 2, 2003. (Compl. ¶ 22.) Russo claims that on July 12, 2003 the remaining charge of second degree sexual assault was administratively dropped. (Compl. ¶ 27.)

Russo has filed claims under 42 U.S.C. §§ 1983, 1985(3) and 1986 based on allegations of unlawful arrest. Russo alleges that Detective Monahan unlawfully obtained a warrant and subsequently arrested him violating numerous constitutional rights under §§ 1983, 1985(3) and 1986.*fn1 Defendants Voorhees Township and Voorhees Township Police Department are alleged to have intentionally and deliberately failed to adequately train, supervise, discipline or otherwise direct against these violations, thereby causing, encouraging and condoning such acts. In addition to these actions, Russo's complaint alleges intentional or negligent infliction of emotional distress, defamation, and otherwise willful, wanton and reckless misconduct which caused him monetary loss. Defendants' summary judgment motion seeks to dismiss the §§ 1983, 1985(3), and 1986 claims against the relevant Defendants.

II. SUMMARY JUDGMENT STANDARD

"Summary judgment is proper if there is no genuine issue of material fact and if, viewing the facts in the light most favorable to the non-moving party, the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Pearson v. Component Tech. Corp., 247 F.3d 471, 482 n.1 (3d Cir. 2001) (citing Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986)); accord Fed. R. Civ. P. 56 (c). Thus, this Court will enter summary judgment only when "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).

An issue is "genuine" if supported by evidence such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict in the nonmoving party's favor. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). A fact is "material" if, under the governing substantive law, a dispute about the fact might affect the outcome of the suit. Id. In determining whether a genuine issue of material fact exists, the Court must view the facts and all reasonable inferences drawn from those facts in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986).

Initially, the moving party has the burden of demonstrating the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 323. Once the moving party has met this burden, the nonmoving party must identify, by affidavits or otherwise, specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial. Id.; Maidenbaum v. Bally's Park Place, Inc., 870 F. Supp. 1254, 1258 (D.N.J. 1994). Thus, to withstand a properly supported motion for summary judgment, the nonmoving party must identify specific facts and affirmative evidence that contradict those offered by the moving party. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 256-57. "A nonmoving party may not 'rest upon mere allegations, general denials or . . . vague statements . . . .'" Trap Rock Indus., Inc. v. Local 825, Int'l Union of Operating Eng'rs, 982 F.2d 884, 890 (3d Cir. 1992) (quoting Quiroga v. Hasbro, Inc., 934 F.2d 497, 500 (3d Cir. 1991)). Indeed, the plain language of Rule 56(c) mandates the entry of summary judgment, after adequate time for discovery and upon motion, against a party who fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case, and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial.

Celotex, 477 U.S. at 322.

In deciding the merits of a party's motion for summary judgment, the Court's role is not to evaluate the evidence and decide the truth of the matter, but to determine whether there is a genuine issue for trial. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 249. Credibility determinations are the province of the fact finder. Big Apple BMW, Inc. v. BMW of N. Am., Inc., 974 F.2d 1358, 1363 (3d Cir. 1992).

III. DISCUSSION

Defendants move to dismiss Russo's 42 U.S.C. § 1983 claims on the theory that they are qualifiedly immune, if the claims are not otherwise invalid. (Def. Br., p. 19). Defendants also move for summary judgment to dismiss Russo's claims under 42 U.S.C. §§ 1985(3) and 1986 on the theory that Russo failed to identify any racial or otherwise ...


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