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Gibson v. Superintendent of New Jersey Dep't of Law & Public Safety-Division of State Police

March 29, 2007

EMORY E. GIBSON, JR., PLAINTIFF,
v.
SUPERINTENDENT OF NEW JERSEY DEPARTMENT OF LAW & PUBLIC SAFETY-DIVISION OF STATE POLICE, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Robert B. Kugler United States District Judge

OPINION

Presently before the Court are motions by defendant New Jersey Turnpike Authority ("NJTA"), defendant New Jersey State Troopers Sean Reilly ("Reilly") and J.W. Pennypacker ("Pennypacker"), and defendants Peter Verniero, Ronald Susswein, John Fahy, and George Rover (the "Attorney General Defendants") (collectively "Defendants") to dismiss claims by plaintiff Emory Gibson ("Plaintiff") alleging violations of his rights as guaranteed by the New Jersey Constitution.*fn1 For the reasons set forth below, this Court will grant in part and deny in part Defendants' motions.

I. BACKGROUND*fn2

On October 28, 1992, New Jersey State Troopers Reilly and Pennypacker stopped a vehicle containing three black occupants on the New Jersey Turnpike. Reilly and Pennypacker searched the automobile, discovered drugs, and arrested the three occupants for possession. Plaintiff, a passenger in the vehicle at the time of the stop, was subsequently convicted of two counts of drug offenses in the Superior Court of New Jersey, Salem County, on April 21, 1994. While incarcerated, Plaintiff filed a motion for post-conviction relief on February 18, 1999. The Superior Court of New Jersey granted Plaintiff's motion to dismiss on April 19, 2002, vacating his conviction on the grounds that "there was a colorable basis to believe that Plaintiff's stop and arrest was the result of an unlawful racial profiling stop." (Opn., Dec. 12, 2003, at 10.)

Plaintiff filed the above-captioned civil action on November 14, 2002, against Defendants Trooper Reilly and Pennypacker, Superintendent, New Jersey Department of Law and Public Safety, Division of State Police, Treasurer, State of New Jersey Treasury Department, the Attorney General Defendants, including former New Jersey Attorney General Peter Verniero, Deputy Attorney General Ronald Susswein, Deputy Attorney General John Fahy, and Deputy Attorney General George Rover, and the NJTA.

On December 12, 2003, this Court issued an Order ("December Opinion and Order") dismissing as time-barred Plaintiff's claims for unreasonable stop and search under the Fourth Amendment, (Opn., Dec. 12, 2003, at 20), Plaintiff's claims against the New Jersey State Police for failure to train, supervise, or remedy discrimination, (Opn., Dec. 12, 2003, at 25), and Plaintiff's claims for selective enforcement under the Fourteenth Amendment, (Opn., Dec. 12, 2003, at 23-24).*fn3 The Court also dismissed Plaintiff's claims for malicious prosecution, (Opn., Dec. 12, 2003, at 21), and for mistaken imprisonment against the Treasurer of New Jersey, (Opn., Dec. 12, 2003, at 34). The Court declined to dismiss Plaintiff's access to courts claim, requesting oral argument and further briefing on the issue of whether Defendants had qualified immunity. (Opn., Dec. 12, 2003, at 32.)

In its Opinion of February 24, 2004 ("February Opinion and Order"), this Court dismissed Plaintiff's claim for denial of access to courts against Defendants Reilly and Pennypacker and the Attorney General Defendants on qualified immunity grounds. (Opn., Feb. 24, 2004, at 15.) The Court also dismissed as time-barred Plaintiff's conspiracy claim against Reilly and Pennypacker, (Opn., Feb. 24, 2004, at 16), and the claims against the NJTA, "encompassed in paragraphs 7, 54, and 76 of the complaint" for "absence of any facts supporting the allegations against the NJTA,"*fn4 (Opn., Feb. 24, 2004, at 16-17.) Lastly, the Court dismissed the state law claims in Counts 5 through 7 for lack of jurisdiction since all federal claims had been terminated.*fn5 (Opn., Feb. 24, 2004, at 19.)

Plaintiff appealed this Court's December and February Opinions and Orders to the Third Circuit. In an Opinion issued June 14, 2005, the Third Circuit affirmed in part and reversed in part the decision below. In particular, the Third Circuit reinstated Plaintiff's claims in "Count One under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 that the Troopers violated his Fourth Amendment rights, and unconstitutionally subjected him to selective enforcement of the laws in violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment," Plaintiff's conspiracy claims under 42 U.S.C. §§ 1983 and 1985, and "the state law claims." Gibson v. Superintendent of New Jersey Department of Law and Public Safety, 411 F.3d 427, 446 (3d Cir. 2005). The Court affirmed the "dismissal of all the remaining claims." Id.

The parties subsequently filed cross-motions for clarification of the claims remaining after remand. In an Opinion issued August 16, 2006, this Court determined "that the issues remaining for trial [were] Plaintiff's claims for: (1) selective enforcement under the Fourteenth Amendment against Defendants Reilly and Pennypacker; (2) unconstitutional search and seizure, including Plaintiff's alleged detention, arrest, and false imprisonment, under the Fourth Amendment against Defendants Reilly and Pennypacker; (3) conspiracy between Defendants Reilly and Pennypacker under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and § 1985; and (4) Plaintiff's state law claims against the NJTA, the Attorney General Defendants, and Reilly and Pennypacker." (Opn., Aug. 16, 2006, at 1-2.) This Court further determined that "Plaintiff's access to court claims for failure to provide exculpatory evidence [were] dismissed in their entirety." (Opn., Aug. 16, 2006, at 2.)

II. STANDARD

A motion to dismiss pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(c) is identical to one filed pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6), save for the fact that Rule 12(c) allows for a motion to be filed subsequent to the filing of an answer, while Rule 12(b)(6) allows for a motion to be made in lieu of an answer. Accordingly, the Court uses identical guidelines in evaluating motions made under either Rule. Turbe v. Virgin Islands, 938 F.2d 427, 428 (3d Cir. 1991).

When reviewing a motion to dismiss, the Court must accept as true all allegations in the complaint and must provide the plaintiff with the benefit of all inferences that may be fairly drawn from the contents of the complaint. Kost v. Kozakiewicz, 1 F.3d 176, 183 (3d Cir. 1993); Wilson v. Rackmill, 878 F.2d 772, 775 (3d Cir. 1989). The Court may not grant a motion to dismiss unless it is certain that no set of facts can be proven that would entitle the plaintiff to relief. Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 45-46 (1957); Milhouse v. Carlson, 652 F.2d 371, 373 (3d Cir. 1981).

III. ANALYSIS

In the motions presently before this Court, Defendants assert that Plaintiff's claims alleging violations of New Jersey constitutional law are time-barred, as this litigation was commenced after the ...


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