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Mosley v. Bass River Municipal Court

August 7, 2006

JULIE MOSLEY, A/K/A JULIE MOSLEY-GARZA, PLAINTIFF,
v.
BASS RIVER MUNICIPAL COURT, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Hon. Jerome B. Simandle

OPINION

SIMANDLE, District Judge

According to Plaintiff, on October 20, 2000 she was a passenger in a vehicle being driven by an intoxicated Mark Yaiser when their car fatally struck the driver of another car. Plaintiff claims that through deliberate attempts by Defendants to cover-up any wrongdoing, Yaiser, whose brother was a New Jersey State police sergeant at the time, was charged only with "failure to maintain lane." The series of events related to Yaiser's subsequent hearing on that charge give rise to this litigation. In short, Plaintiff alleges that Defendants attempted to influence her testimony and deliberately took a series of actions which caused an illegitimate bench warrant to be issued resulting in her arrest.

Plaintiff brought this action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and state law alleging false arrest, false imprisonment, and abuse of process. Defendants subsequently moved for summary judgment under Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.*fn1 The primary issue currently before the Court is whether Defendant Melega is entitled to quasi-judicial immunity for claims against him in his individual capacity. For the following reasons, the motion will be granted in part.

I. BACKGROUND

The Court will only recite the factual allegations that bear upon the question of law presented by the instant motion.*fn2

On October 20, 2000, Plaintiff was a passenger in a vehicle being driven by Mark Yaiser when their car struck and killed the driver of another vehicle. (Am. Compl. ¶ 21.) Plaintiff maintains that although Yaiser was intoxicated at the time of the accident and had been driving recklessly, Defendants affirmatively attempted to cover up any wrongdoing because Yaiser's brother was at the time a New Jersey State police sergeant. (Id. ¶¶ 22-28.)

Ultimately, Yaiser was charged only with "failure to maintain lane." (Id. ¶ 28.) A municipal court hearing on the matter was scheduled but repeatedly adjourned over a two-year period. (Id. ¶ 45.) During that time, Plaintiff alleges, Defendants "took discrete steps to obstruct the truth, destroy or prevent collection of evidence, and engage in a broad cover up of" Yaiser's intoxication. (Id. ¶ 37.)

At some point, according to Plaintiff, Defendant Melega, a court administrator responsible for maintaining accurate court records, deliberately changed Plaintiff's address in the court's database. Moreover, Melega allegedly failed to maintain accurate records of telephone contacts between Plaintiff and court personnel. (Id. ¶¶ 47-49.) As a result of these actions, Plaintiff maintains, she failed to make a scheduled court appearance. Melega then assisted Judge Sicheri in preparing a "no-bail" "body warrant" for Plaintiff's arrest. (Id. ¶ 50.)

Plaintiff was arrested on September 16, 2002 and transported to meet with various law enforcement officials who allegedly attempted to improperly influence her testimony.*fn3 (Id. ¶¶ 51-55.)

Plaintiff filed her complaint on September 16, 2004 under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and state law alleging false arrest, false imprisonment, and abuse of process.*fn4 Plaintiff filed an Amended Complaint on August 2, 2005. Defendants subsequently moved for summary judgment under Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.

II. SUMMARY JUDGMENT STANDARD OF REVIEW

Summary judgment is appropriate when the materials of record "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). In deciding whether there is a disputed issue of material fact, the court must view the evidence in favor of the non-moving party by extending any reasonable favorable inference to that party; in other words, "the nonmoving party's evidence 'is to be believed, and all justifiable inferences are to be drawn in [that party's] favor.'" Hunt v. Cromartie, 526 U.S. 541, 552 (1999) (quoting Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 255 (1986)). The threshold inquiry is whether there are "any genuine factual issues that properly can be resolved only by a finder of fact ...


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