On appeal from Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Special Civil Part, Monmouth County, Docket No. DC-12250-07.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Submitted October 28, 2008
Before Judges Collester and Graves.
Plaintiff Doris Lin alleged in her complaint that defendant Thomas Powers, a former Director of the Monmouth County Board of Chosen Freeholders (Board), violated her First Amendment rights during a public meeting of the Board, and she sought $10,000 in punitive damages. Plaintiff appeals from a summary judgment order dated January 16, 2008, dismissing her complaint. We affirm.
Prior to the Board's meeting on August 25, 2005, plaintiff signed up to speak during the "opportunity for anyone present to be heard" portion of the meeting. When it was plaintiff's turn to speak, she initially spoke in opposition to a deer hunt in the Monmouth County Parks, and she was not interrupted. But when she polled the freeholders on a wholly unrelated matter, involving Harry Larrison, a former freeholder who was charged with corruption but was neither indicted nor convicted prior to his death, plaintiff was not allowed to continue. According to plaintiff's transcription of the meeting,*fn1 the following exchange took place after plaintiff spoke about the deer hunt:
[DORIS LIN]: On May 18th, Monmouth County Republicans issued a press release that stated, "In the wake of the recent indictments of officials of both parties, Republican Freeholders have passed resolution after resolution to make it nearly impossible for corruption to take hold in this County. The County Republican leadership has condemned corrupt officials and praised the U.S. Attorney's Office for their diligent work in rooting it out."
At a Freeholders meeting two months ago, I apologized for previously saying that the Freeholders were taking bribes. After the meeting ended, I privately approached the front and said that I should have specified Harry Larrison in my original remarks. To my astonishment, Freeholders Powers, Narozanick and Barham defended Larrison. Freeholder Narozanick argued that Larrison was never tried and convicted. Freeholder Barham said that Larrison is innocent until proven guilty, so I can't make that accusation against him. . . [sic]
POWERS: Uh, Ms. Lin, excuse me.
POWERS: Mr. Larrison is deceased. It's over with. He never was convicted of anything. I don't believe you should be contentiously putting out his name. It's not necessary.
LIN: Well, I would like to know . . . we know what your party's press release says. So I ask you now, publicly and on the record, Freeholders Barham, Narozanick and Powers, do you condemn corrupt officials and praise the US Attorney's Office, or do you stand by your defense of Harry Larrison?
UNIDENTIFIED AUDIENCE MEMBER: Oh, my God.
POWERS: I'm sorry you're out of line. You're out of line. That's it. You're finished. ...