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

May 16, 2007


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


Presently before the Court are motions by defendant New Jersey Turnpike Authority ("NJTA") and defendants Peter Verniero, Ronald Susswein, John Fahy, and George Rover (the "Attorney General Defendants") seeking reconsideration and clarification of this Court's March 29, 2007 Order granting in part and denying in part motions to dismiss the claims of plaintiff Emory E. Gibson, Jr. ("Plaintiff"). For the reasons set forth below, this Court will grant the Attorney General Defendants' motion and grant in part and deny in part the NJTA's motion.


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).*fn2 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,"*fn3 (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.*fn4 (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.)

Defendants then filed motions to dismiss certain claims as time-barred. In an Order and Opinion dated March 29, 2007, this Court dismissed Plaintiff's state constitutional claims for false arrest, illegal search, and conduct that perpetuated discriminatory enforcement of the laws. This Court denied the motions to dismiss as to Plaintiff's state constitutional claim for racially selective enforcement of the laws. This Court further noted that Plaintiff's state law claim for mistaken imprisonment remained before the Court.

In the motions presently before this Court, the Attorney General Defendants and the NJTA seek clarification and reconsideration of this March 29, 2007 Order, asserting that all claims against them have been dismissed, and that only claims against Troopers Reilly and Pennypacker remain.*fn5


Motions for reconsideration are not expressly recognized in the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. United States v. Compaction Sys. Corp., 88 F. Supp.2d 339, 345 (D.N.J. 1999). Generally, a motion for reconsideration is treated as a motion to alter or amend judgment under Fed. R. Civ. P. 59(e), or as a motion for relief from judgment or order under Fed. R. Civ. P. 60(b). Id. In the District of New Jersey, Local Civil Rule 7.1(g) governs motions for reconsideration. Bowers v. NCAA, 130 F. Supp. 2d 610, 612 (D.N.J. 2001).

Local Civil Rule 7.1(g) permits a party to seek reconsideration by the Court of matters "which [it] believes the Court has overlooked" when it ruled on the motion. L. Civ. R. 7.1(g); see NL Industries, Inc. v. Commercial Union Ins. Co., 935 F. Supp. 513, 515 (D.N.J. 1996). The standard for reargument is high and reconsideration is to be granted only sparingly. See United States v. Jones, 158 F.R.D. 309, 314 (D.N.J. 1994). The movant has the burden of demonstrating either: "(1) an intervening change in the controlling law; (2) the availability of new evidence that was not available when the court [issued its order]; or (3) the need to correct a clear error of law or fact or to prevent manifest injustice." Max's Seafood Café v. Quinteros, 176 F.3d 669, 677 (3d Cir. 1999) (citing N. River Ins. Co. v. CIGNA Reinsurance Co., 52 F.3d 1194, 1218 (3d Cir. 1995)). The Court will grant a motion for reconsideration only where its prior decision has overlooked a factual or legal issue that may alter the ...

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