United States District Court, D. New Jersey, Camden Vicinage
Demetrius J. Parrish, Cherry Hill, NJ, Attorney for
Charles Hegarty, Solicitor's Office for Atlantic City
City Hall, Atlantic City, NJ, Attorney for Defendants.
RENÉE MARIE BUMB, DISTRICT JUDGE
matter comes before the Court on Defendants' motion for
summary judgment. Plaintiff's Second Amended Complaint
contains three claims: Count I is a federal constitutional
claim alleging unlawful arrest, Count II is a state
constitutional claim alleging unlawful arrest, and Count III
is a state claim alleging tortious interference with economic
advantage. Defendants have moved for summary judgment as to
all three counts.
matter arises out of an incident that occurred on May 14,
2004 in the emergency room of the Atlantic City Medical
Center ("ACMC") in Atlantic City, New Jersey. (Def.
Motion at 8). After a street fight had broken out among a
group of females, Defendant Officer Scott Fenton
("Officer Fenton") accompanied the victims to ACMC
to ensure the fighting did not continue. However, while at
ACMC, the fight broke out again and Officer Fenton physically
intervened in an attempt to stop the fight. (Id. at
1-2). During the struggle, he was pulled to the floor and
struck in the eye. (Id. at 2). Officer Fenton
testified that while he was wrestling with one of the women
involved in the fight, he heard a voice behind him say,
"Get him, get that cop." (Fenton Dep. at
23:1-8). Officer Fenton feared that the crowd
in the emergency room was going to overtake him.
(Id. at 23:6-19). However, backup officers arrived
and the woman struggling with Officer Fenton was handcuffed.
(Def. Motion at 2).
the fighting ceased, Officer Fenton identified Plaintiff
Norman Maples as the individual who had made the comment,
"Get him, get that cop." (Id.). Plaintiff
denied making that particular comment, but stated that he had
told Officer Fenton to stop beating the woman because
"there's no sense in [him] hitting somebody
who's already subdued." (Pl. Dep. at 37:9-12).
Plaintiff did not give his name when asked by Officer Fenton
but just replied that he worked at ACMC and was going to
report Officer Fenton. (Pl. Dep. at 39:6-22). However, later
on, when Plaintiff was asked for his name by another officer,
he gave his name and showed his hospital employee badge.
(Id. at 40:17-21).
was then arrested at the direction of another officer - a
Captain, who presumably learned of the events from Officer
Fenton. (Id. at 41:13-24). During the arrest,
Plaintiff claims he was jerked and thrown on the ground,
although he suffered no physical injury, only "bruised
pride." (Id. at 42:19-43:2). Plaintiff was then
taken to the police station, finger printed, and placed in a
cell, where he remained for several hours. (Pl. Opp. at 6).
Upon his release, he was given tickets for obstruction of
justice and inciting a riot. (Id.; Pl. Dep. at
STANDARD OF REVIEW
judgment shall be granted if there is no genuine issue as to
any material fact and the moving party is entitled to a
judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c); Hersh v.
Allen Products Co., 789 F.2d 230, 232 (3d Cir. 1986). A
dispute is "genuine" if "the evidence is such
that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the
non-moving party." See Anderson v. Liberty Lobby,
Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). A fact is
"material" only if it might affect the outcome of
the suit under the applicable rule of law. See id.
Disputes over irrelevant or unnecessary facts will not
preclude a grant of summary judgment. See id.
"In making this determination, a court must make all
reasonable inferences in favor of the non-movant."
Oscar Mayer Corp. v. Mincing Trading Corp., 744
F.Supp. 79, 81 (D.N.J. 1990) (citing Meyer v. Riegel
Prods. Corp., 720 F.2d 303, 307 n. 2 (3d Cir. 1983)).
"At the summary judgment stage the judge's function
is not... to weigh the evidence and determine the truth of
the matter but to determine whether there is a genuine issue
for trial." Anderson, 477 U.S. at 249.
Federal Claim (§ 1983) - Unlawful Arrest (Count I)
Count I, Plaintiff brings a claim pursuant to 42 U.S.C.
§ 1983, alleging that Defendants violated his civil
rights. When bringing an action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983,
a plaintiff must satisfy a two-prong test by showing that: 1)
the conduct complained of was committed by a person acting
under color of state law, and 2) the conduct deprived that
person of rights guaranteed by the United States
Constitution. West v. Atkins, 487 U.S. 42, 48
alleges that Defendants unlawfully arrested him in violation
of his Fourteenth Amendment rights. As an initial matter, the
Court notes that a claim of unlawful arrest should be brought
under the Fourth Amendment, which ensures citizens the right
to be free from unreasonable seizures. Reading the Complaint
in the light most favorable to Plaintiff, the Court will
presume that Plaintiff intended to bring this claim of
unlawful arrest under the Fourth Amendment.
individuals and municipal governments are treated differently
under § 1983, the Court will address this claim against
Officer Fenton separately from the claim against Atlantic
brings this § 1983 claim against Officer Fenton in both
his individual and official capacities. However, absent
consent by a state, the Eleventh Amendment bars federal court
suits for money damages against state officers in their
official capacities. See Kentucky v. Graham, 473
U.S. 159, 169 (1985). Thus, Plaintiff's claim against
Officer Fenton in his official capacity is barred and the
Court will consider the claim against Officer Fenton only in
his individual capacity.
Officer Fenton was not the officer who actually effectuated
the arrest of Plaintiff, he was the officer who identified
Plaintiff as the hospital employee who made the comment.
Because Officer Fenton was the only officer present during
the hospital scuffle and exchange with Plaintiff, the record
supports the conclusion that Officer Fenton must have relayed
the events to the Captain, who then ordered another officer
to arrest Plaintiff. Moreover, it is undisputed that Officer
Fenton was the officer who charged Plaintiff with violations
of two New Jersey statutes - Obstructing the Administration
of Law and Disorderly Conduct. Thus, the record shows that
Officer Fenton was instrumental in the arrest of Plaintiff.
For the sake of simplicity, the Court will refer to Officer
Fenton's conduct as arresting Plaintiff.
alleges that Officer Fenton committed a constitutional
violation by unlawfully arresting him. An arrest is unlawful
and, thus, actionable if it is effectuated without probable
cause. Patzig v. O'Neil, 577 F.2d 841, 848 (3d
Cir. 1978). Probable cause exists when the facts are such
that a reasonably prudent person ...