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Fernandez v. Stack

March 27, 2006

JULIO FERNANDEZ; ET AL., PLAINTIFFS,
v.
MAYOR BRIAN STACK; ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Pisano, District Judge.

OPINION

Currently before the Court is a motion for summary judgment filed by Defendant Detective McGuire ("McGuire"), in which Defendants Detective Philip Fahy ("Fahy") and Detective Juan Loaces ("Loaces") join (collectively, "Defendants"). This Court has jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1331. For the reasons discussed below, the Court grants Defendants' motions for summary judgment.

The Court notes that a number of procedural violations have been alleged by various of the parties. The Court resolved to proceed on Defendants' motions and to consider Plaintiffs' Amended Complaint to be the operative complaint despite the procedural concerns raised. However, the Court notes that the Court considers a letter submitted by Plaintiffs on December 30, 2005 in response to an order of the Court to be the controlling enumeration of those claims that each Plaintiff wished to assert against each Defendant ("Plaintiffs' 12/30/05 Letter"), and that, except as otherwise addressed below, any claims asserted in the Amended Complaint that were not also asserted in Plaintiffs' 12/30/05 Letter are deemed withdrawn. Finally, the Court notes that disposition of the motions was made exceedingly difficult by several of the parties' failures to file proper submissions.

I. BACKGROUND

As the Court writes only for the parties, only those facts necessary to the analysis are set forth herein. Plaintiff Rafael Fernandez and his wife are the sole shareholders of Club Monty, Inc.*fn1 , a corporation that owns and operates a tavern and restaurant named Club Monty in Union City, New Jersey that is open to the general public. Plaintiff Julio Fernandez is the brother of Rafael Fernandez. This lawsuit arises out of a warrantless search of Club Monty conducted by employees of the Union City Police Department on October 14, 2001. The Union City Police Department employees who conducted the search of Club Monty at issue include Defendants McGuire and Loaces.

McGuire and Loaces were searching Club Monty for an individual named Christian Munoz, an attempted murder suspect. Earlier on October 14, 2001, Christian Munoz allegedly assaulted his step-father with a broken beer bottle, causing a significant and life-threatening injury, and fled the scene of the crime. Jose Munoz, the brother of Christian Munoz and the son of the victim, witnessed the alleged assault. Within one hour of the alleged assault, Jose Munoz notified the Union City Police that he had just seen Christian Munoz enter Club Monty. Within minutes of Jose Munoz's spotting Christian Munoz, Detectives Loaces and McGuire and Jose Munoz together entered Club Monty to search for Christian Munoz. Detectives Loaces and McGuire searched the main bar area, a VIP lounge, public restrooms, the kitchen, and the banquet hall.

At the time of the search on October 14, 2001, Julio Fernandez was a patron at Club Monty. Shortly after the search, Julio Fernandez was arrested by Defendant Fahy for aggravated assault, resisting arrest, and disorderly conduct. Julio Fernandez claims that unknown officers used excessive force on him and kicked and punched him in connection with that arrest. Fahy filed an arrest report for the arrest of Julio Fernandez. Fahy and Loaces each filed investigation reports pertaining to the events on October 14, 2001.

There is deposition evidence in the record that criminal charges were pressed against both Rafael Fernandez and Julio Fernandez, and that each appeared at a Municipal Court in connection with those charges. Apparently those charges ultimately were dismissed.

Plaintiffs allege in the Amended Complaint, and there is some deposition evidence, that some time after Julio Fernandez was released from jail on October 14, 2001 and after Rafael Fernandez and Julio Fernandez were arraigned on the criminal charges filed against them, Plaintiffs filed a complaint with the Internal Affairs Bureau ("IAB") of the Union City Police Department regarding the events on October 14, 2001.

Further, there is deposition evidence in the record that at some point after October 14, 2001, Alcohol Beverage Commission ("ABC") administrative proceedings were initiated against Club Monty. There does not appear to be any evidence in the record regarding the ultimate outcome of such proceedings.

II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

A court shall grant summary judgment under Rule 56(c) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure "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 a judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c). The substantive law identifies which facts are critical or "material." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). A material fact raises a "genuine" issue "if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict" for the non-moving party. Healy v. N.Y. Life Ins. Co., 860 F.2d 1209, 1219 n.3 (3d Cir. 1988).

On a summary judgment motion, the moving party must show, first, that no genuine issue of material fact exists. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). If the moving party makes this showing, the burden shifts to the non-moving party to present evidence that a genuine fact issue compels a trial. Id. at 324. In so presenting, the non-moving party may not simply rest on its pleadings, but must offer admissible evidence that establishes a genuine issue of material fact, id., not just "some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts." Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986).

The Court must consider all facts and their logical inferences in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. Pollock v. American Tel. & Tel. Long Lines, 794 F.2d 860, 864 (3d Cir. 1986). The Court shall not "weigh the evidence and determine the truth of the matter," but need determine only whether a genuine issue necessitates a trial. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 249. If the non-moving party fails to demonstrate proof beyond a "mere scintilla" of evidence that a genuine issue of material fact exists, then the Court must grant summary judgment. Big Apple BMW v. BMW of North America, 974 F.2d 1358, 1363 (3d Cir. 1992).

III. DISCUSSION

In the Amended Complaint, Plaintiffs assert claims for relief under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, 42 U.S.C. § 1986, and the New Jersey Constitution.

A. Constitutional Tort Under New Jersey's Constitution

In the Amended Complaint, Plaintiffs assert "Constitutional Tort Under New Jersey's Constitution" as a claim for relief. In support of this claim, Plaintiffs allege that "[u]nder the New Jersey State Constitution the defendants are liable to the Plaintiffs for their constitutional violations as alleged herein" and that "Plaintiffs were deprived of their civil liberties as alleged herein secured under the Constitution of the State of New Jersey." Am. Compl. ¶¶ 33-34. Plaintiffs did not include any discussion of any purported state constitutional causes of action in Plaintiffs' 12/30/05 Letter. Further, in no submission to the Court have Plaintiffs either articulated the specific state constitutional causes of action on which they might wish to rely or analyzed whether they are entitled to relief on such bases.

"It is the plaintiff's burden on a defendant's summary judgment motion to come forward with evidentiary materials in support of the plaintiff's affirmative claims." Morales v. Busbee, 972 F. Supp. 254, 267 (D.N.J. 1997). In opposing summary judgment, Plaintiffs had an obligation to set forth the causes of action they intend to pursue and explain why summary judgment should not be granted in Defendants' favor on those claims. Plaintiffs, however, failed to indicate the precise state constitutional causes of action on which they rely. Where Plaintiffs have not seen fit to do so, the Court will not sift through the various materials submitted in this litigation "in order to select certain state law causes of action for [P]laintiff[s] and then analyze whether the [P]laintiff[s] may be legally entitled to proceed to trial on such causes of action." Id. "This court will not parse through [P]laintiff[s'] factual contentions and New Jersey case law" to find which state constitutional law claims may be available, and then determine the date of accrual, the statute of limitations, and the sufficiency of the factual and legal bases for each. Cf. id. at 268. Instead, because of the deficiencies discussed and particularly because Plaintiffs appear to have abandoned any such state constitutional law claims (see Plaintiffs' 12/30/05 Letter), the Court will consider Plaintiffs as pursuing only federal law claims except as otherwise specifically addressed below.

Accordingly, unless a claim is otherwise disposed of below, the Court hereby grants summary judgment to Defendants as to any and ...


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