Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Lucas v. Galloway Township Police Dep't

June 20, 2007

JASON J. LUCAS, PLAINTIFF,
v.
GALLOWAY TOWNSHIP POLICE DEPARTMENT, TOWNSHIP OF GALLOWAY, HAMILTON TOWNSHIP POLICE DEPARTMENT, TOWNSHIP OF HAMILTON, CHIEF OF POLICE KEITH M. SPENCER, CHIEF OF POLICE JAY MCKEEN, OFFICER KEVIN WELSH, OFFICERS JOHN DOES : (1-20), FICTIOUS NAMES AND OFFICERS JOHN DOES (21-40), FICTITIOUS NAMES, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Hon. Joseph H. Rodriguez

MEMORANDUM OPINION & ORDER

This matter comes before the Court on the motion of Defendants Township of Galloway Police Department, Township of Galloway, Chief of Police Keith M. Spencer, and Officer Kevin Welsh (collectively, "Galloway Defendants") and on a separate motion of Defendants Hamilton Township Police Department, Township of Hamilton, and Chief of Police Jay McKeen (collectively, "Hamilton Defendants") for summary judgment pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 56. For the reasons discussed below, as well as those placed on the record during oral argument on June 14, 2007, the Galloway Defendants' motion will be granted in part and denied in part and the Hamilton Defendants' motion will be granted.

I. BACKGROUND

On May 15, 2003, the Hamilton Township Municipal Court issued three warrants for the arrest of a Jason Lucas residing at 94 Club Place, Galloway Township, New Jersey. (Barker Certif., Exh. B.) The warrants were issued for passing bad checks at the Wal-Mart in Hamilton Township, New Jersey. (Id.) The warrants contained only the name "Jason Lucas," the address 94 Club Place, Galloway, New Jersey, and the crimes charged, but were left blank as to a physical description of the suspect, date of birth, social security number, and driver's license number. (Id.) The court that issued the warrants had possession of the checks from PNC Bank on which was written a Maryland driver's license number. (Id., Exh. C at 2.)

Plaintiff Jason J. Lucas, was not the suspect named in the warrants. (Id.) Jason J. Lucas had never lived at 94 Club Place, did not bank at PNC bank, nor had he written checks at the Wal-Mart in Hamilton Township. (Jason J. Lucas Deposition at 10, 19.) The actual suspect was Jason A. Lucas who formerly resided at 94 Club Place and had a Maryland driver's license number matching that on the bad checks. (Barker Certif., Exh. C at 2.) The proper Jason Lucas eventually was identified pursuant to an investigation by Galloway Township police officer Christopher Doyle, a family friend of Jason J. Lucas. (Id.)

Around May 20, 2003, the Galloway Township Police Department received the warrants, (Reynolds Certif., Exh. C at Galloway 15, 16), and unsuccessfully attempted to serve them at 94 Club Place. (Id. at Galloway 17.) On May 21, 2003, Officer Kevin Welsh of the Galloway Police Department attempted to execute the warrants again at the same address. (Id. at Galloway 18.) Officer Welsh was informed that Jason Lucas did not reside at that address and he subsequently contacted Galloway Police dispatch for a new address. (Welsh Affidavit at ¶ 6.) After entering the name Jason Lucas into CAD, a computer system with a name database, dispatch gave Officer Welsh an address of 622 South Second Avenue, Galloway Township. (Id. at ¶ ¶ 6-8.) Officer Welsh, along with two other patrol officers, went to that address where they were met by William Lucas, Plaintiff's father. (William Lucas Affidavit at ¶ 2.) Officer Welsh informed William Lucas that Plaintiff was wanted for passing bad checks and that there was a warrant for his arrest. (Id.) He informed William Lucas that Plaintiff should report to the Hamilton Township Police Department or Plaintiff would be arrested. (Id.) William Lucas contacted Plaintiff, who immediately went to Hamilton Township. (Jason J. Lucas Affidavit 9/19/2006 at ¶¶ 3-4.)

Plaintiff was met at the police department by Hamilton Police Officer Christopher Robell. (Robell Deposition at 5, lines 16-23.) Plaintiff informed Officer Robell that he was there to turn himself in on an outstanding warrant, but that he was not the person named in the warrant. (Id. at 6, lines 4-10.) After looking at the warrant and seeing that there were no identifiers and after looking at Plaintiff's driver's license and bank card, Officer Robell called the on-duty court clerk. (Id.at 6, lines 15-18.) She advised Officer Robell to have Plaintiff come to the court the following day. (Id. at 6, lines 15-18.)

At some point in time, Officer Robell called his sergeant and discussed releasing Plaintiff "ROR." (Jason J. Lucas Deposition at 20-21.) Plaintiff then left and returned to the Hamilton Township Municipal Complex the next day, May 22, 2003. (Id. at 24, lines 17-24.) Plaintiff met with someone from the court and explained to her that he was not the person named in the warrants. (Id. at 24, lines 22-24.) She told him that he would still have to go before the judge, which Plaintiff did that day. (Id.at 25, lines 4-5.) The judge read the charges against Plaintiff and he pled not guilty. (Id. at 26, lines 9-21.) Plaintiff appeared in Hamilton Township Municipal Court again on June 18, 2003 to face the charges against him, (id. at 35), but they were dismissed when a representative from Wal-Mart failed to appear. (Id.) Nevertheless, Plaintiff was required to appear before the Superior Court to have his record expunged. (Id. at 36.)

On May 18, 2005, Plaintiff commenced this action in the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Atlantic County, against Galloway Township Police Department ("Galloway Police Department"), Township of Galloway ("Galloway" or "Galloway Township"), Hamilton Township Police Department ("Hamilton Police Department"), Township of Hamilton ("Hamilton" or "Hamilton Township"), Chief of Police Keith M. Spencer ("Chief of Police Spencer"), Chief of Police Jay McKeen ("Chief of Police McKeen"), Officer Kevin Welsh ("Officer Welsh"), Officers John Does (1-20), and Officers John Does (21-40). The action was removed to the District of New Jersey pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1446 by Defendants Galloway Township, Galloway Police Department, Chief of Police Spencer, and Officer Welsh. The same Defendants filed a motion for summary judgment on September 5, 2006. Defendants Hamilton Township, Hamilton Police Department, and Chief of Police McKeen filed a separate motion for summary judgment on November 15, 2006.

II. ANALYSIS

A. Summary Judgment Standard

Summary judgment is appropriate where the Court is satisfied that "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." Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 330 (1986); Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c). An issue is "genuine" if it is 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 considering a motion for summary judgment, a district court may not make credibility determinations or engage in any weighing of the evidence; instead, the non-moving party's evidence "is to be believed and all justifiable inferences are to be drawn in his favor." Marino v. Industrial Crating Co., 358 F.3d 241, 247 (3d Cir. 2004) (quoting Anderson, 477 U.S. at 255).

Initially, the moving party has the burden of demonstrating the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). 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. 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 party opposing summary judgment must do more than just rest upon mere allegations, general denials, or vague statements. Saldana v. Kmart Corp., 260 F.3d 228, 232 (3d Cir. 2001).

B. Galloway Police Department and Hamilton Police Department

The Court will grant the motions for summary judgment as to Galloway Township Police Department and Hamilton Township Police Department. In New Jersey, a municipal police department is not an entity separate from the municipality. Bonenberger v. Plymouth Twp., 132 F.3d 20, 25 (3d Cir. 1997) (holding police department and municipality same for § 1983); Adams v. City of Camden, 461 F. Supp. 2d 263, 266 (D.N.J. 2006) (holding police departments cannot be sued in conjunction with municipalities because police departments are administrative arms of municipalities, not separate entities); N.J. Stat. Ann. § 40A:14-118 (municipal police department is "an executive and enforcement function of municipal government"). Therefore, summary judgment is granted for Galloway Police Department and Hamilton Police Department.

C. Galloway Township, Hamilton Township, Chief of Police Spencer, and Chief of Police McKeen

Summary judgment is also granted for Galloway Township, Hamilton Township, Chief of Police Spencer, and Chief of Police McKeen. A municipality is not liable under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 on a respondeat superior theory. Monell v. Dept. Soc. Servs. of New York, 436 U.S. 658, 691 (1978). A government entity is only liable for its agent's actions where policy or custom of the entity was the "moving force" behind the agent's deprivation of a constitutional right. Kentucky v. Graham, 473 U.S. 159, 166 (1985) (quoting Polk County v. Dodson, 454 U.S. 312, 326 (1981)).

Plaintiff has failed to prove any allegations of official policies or customs that caused a constitutional violation in this case. Plaintiff agreed as much at oral argument. Moreover, Plaintiff has not asserted that either Chief of Police is liable in a personal capacity, which is further dispositive. See Anela v. City of Wildwood, 595 F. Supp. 511, 514 (D.N.J. 1984) (holding chief of police not liable for false imprisonment where not acting personally). Lastly, Plaintiff failed to assert a claim against Officer Robell in any capacity, which is an independent ground for summary judgment as to Hamilton Township. Therefore, summary judgment is granted for Galloway Township, Hamilton Township, Chief of Police Spencer, and Chief of Police McKeen.

D. Defendants Officers John Does (1-20) and Officers John Does (21-40)

Officers John Does (1-20) and Officers John Does (21-40) are dismissed pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 21, which provides in pertinent part: "parties may be dropped or added by order of the court on motion of any party or of its own initiative at any stage of the action and on such terms as are just." This rule permits the Court to exclude John Doe parties from an action when appropriate. Adams, 461 F. Supp. 2d at 271 (citing Hightower v. Roman, Inc., 190 F. Supp. 2d 740, 754 (D.N.J. 2002); Atlantic Used Auto Parts v. City of Philadelphia, 957 F. Supp. 622, 625 (E.D. Pa. 1997) (holding "fictitious party names may be used 'at least until reasonable discovery permits the actual defendants to assume their places. . . ,' however, . . . '[f]ictitious names must eventually be dismissed, if discovery yields no identities.'")). Plaintiff filed this action on May 18, 2005. Galloway Township filed a notice of removal on July 5, 2005, and on March 24, 2006, the Magistrate Judge ordered completion of discovery by August 30, 2006. Given that the identity of the unnamed Defendants has not ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.