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

March 31, 2009

EMORY E. GIBSON, JR., PLAINTIFF,
v.
SUPERINTENDENT OF NEW JERSEY DEPARTMENT OF LAW & PUBLIC SAFETY-DIVISION OF STATE POLICE, NEW JERSEY TURNPIKE AUTHORITY, SEAN REILLY, J.W. PENNYPACKER, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Kugler, District Judge

(Docket Nos. 173, 175)

OPINION

Presently before the Court are motions by Defendant New Jersey Turnpike Authority ("NJTA") and Defendants New Jersey State Troopers Sean Reilly and J. W. Pennypacker ("Trooper Defendants") (collectively, "Defendants") for summary judgment on the Complaint of Plaintiff Emory Gibson ("Plaintiff") alleging violations of his rights as guaranteed by the United States and New Jersey Constitutions. For the reasons set forth below, this Court will grant the NJTA's motion and deny the Trooper Defendants' motion.

I. BACKGROUND*fn1

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 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 vacated Plaintiff's conviction on April 19, 2002 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." Gibson I, at 10.

Plaintiff filed the above-captioned civil action on November 14, 2002, against Defendant Troopers 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 dismissed as time-barred Plaintiff's claims for unreasonable stop and search under the Fourth Amendment; Plaintiff's claims against the New Jersey State Police for failure to train, supervise, or remedy discrimination; and Plaintiff's claims for selective enforcement under the Fourteenth Amendment. The Court also dismissed Plaintiff's claims for malicious prosecution and for mistaken imprisonment against the Treasurer of New Jersey. The Court declined to dismiss Plaintiff's access to courts claim, requesting oral argument and further briefing on the issue of qualified immunity. In the second opinion in this case, Gibson v. Superintendent of New Jersey Dep't of Law and Public Safety, Docket Nos. 41, 42, Civ. No. 02-5470 (D.N.J. Feb. 24, 2004) ("Gibson II"), 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. Gibson II, at 15. The Court also dismissed as time-barred Plaintiff's conspiracy claim against Reilly and Pennypacker, and the claims against the NJTA for "absence of any facts supporting the allegations against the NJTA." Gibson II, at 16-17. Lastly, the Court dismissed the state law claims in Counts 5 and 7 for lack of jurisdiction, because all federal claims had been terminated.*fn2 Gibson II, at 19.

Plaintiff appealed this Court's decisions in Gibson I and II to the Third Circuit. In an Opinion issued June 14, 2005, the Third Circuit affirmed in part and reversed in part. Gibson v. Superintendent of New Jersey Dep't of Law and Public Safety, 411 F.3d 427 (3d Cir. 2005) ("Gibson III"). 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 III, 411 F.3d at 446. The Court affirmed the "dismissal of all the remaining claims." Id.

On cross-motions for clarification, 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, 1985; and (4) Plaintiff's state law claims against the NJTA, the Attorney General Defendants, and Reilly and Pennypacker." Gibson v. Superintendent of New Jersey Dep't of Law and Public Safety, Docket Nos. 75, 76, Civ. No. 02-5470 (D.N.J. Aug. 16, 2006) ("Gibson IV"). This Court further determined that Plaintiff's access to court claims for failure to provide exculpatory evidence were dismissed.

In response to motions by the various Defendants to dismiss Plaintiff's claim, this Court concluded that the United States Supreme Court's decision in Wallace v. Kato, 549 U.S. 384 (2007) effectively superceded the Third Circuit's decision with regard to Plaintiff's state constitutional claims of false arrest and illegal search. Gibson v. Superintendent of New Jersey Dep't of Law and Public Safety, Docket Nos. 119, 120, Civ. No. 02-5470 (D.N.J. Mar. 29, 2007) ("Gibson V"). This Court found that Wallace v. Kato did not act to bar Plaintiff's state claim for racially selective enforcement of the laws. After the Attorney General and NJTA Defendant filed a motion for reconsideration, this Court dismissed all claims against the Attorney General Defendants and noted that the state law claim of selective enforcement of the laws remained against the NJTA Defendant. Gibson v. Superintendent of New Jersey Dep't of Law and Public Safety, Docket Nos. 130/131, Civ. No. 02-5470 (D.N.J. May 16, 2007) ("Gibson VI"). That order also dismissed Plaintiff's mistaken imprisonment claim as to all Defendants.

The Trooper Defendants and the NJTA then moved to dismiss the claims against them alleged under the New Jersey Constitution. This Court, accepting Plaintiff's concession that his Fourth Amendment claims for illegal search and seizure and false arrest are barred in light of the Wallace decision, dismissed those claims. Gibson v. Superintendent of New Jersey Dep't of Law and Public Safety, Docket Nos. 159, 160, Civ. No. 02-5470 (D.N.J. Feb. 5, 2008) ("Gibson VII"). Considering a wide array of arguments advanced by the Trooper Defendants and the NJTA, the Court determined that Plaintiff's claims of selective enforcement of the law under the Fourteenth Amendment and under New Jersey state law remained. Gibson VII, at 12. The Court also held that Plaintiff may seek damages on those claims. Id.

In the motions now before the Court, the Trooper Defendants and the NJTA move for summary judgment on Plaintiff's Complaint.

II. STANDARD

Summary judgment is appropriate where the Court is satisfied 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." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c); Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 330, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 91 L.Ed. 2d 265 (1986). A genuine issue of material fact exists only if "the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could find for the non-moving party." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc, 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). When the Court weighs the evidence presented by the parties, "[t]he evidence of the non-movant is to be believed, and all justifiable inferences are to be drawn in [his] favor." Id. at 255.

The burden of establishing the nonexistence of a "genuine issue" is on the party moving for summary judgment. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 330. The moving party may satisfy this burden by either (1) submitting affirmative evidence that negates an essential element of the nonmoving party's claim; or (2) demonstrating to the Court that the nonmoving party's evidence is insufficient to establish an essential element of the nonmoving party's case. Id. at 331.

Once the moving party satisfies this initial burden, the nonmoving party "must set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(e). To do so, the nonmoving party must "do more than simply show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to material facts." Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986). Rather, to survive summary judgment, the nonmoving party must "make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of [every] element essential to that party's case, and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial." Celotex, 477 U.S. at 322. Furthermore, "[w]hen opposing summary judgment, the non-movant may not rest upon mere allegations, but rather must 'identify those facts of record which would contradict ...


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